When folks think about the meat from a fish, they usually picture fillets. But, when it comes to big blue and flathead catfish, there’s another cut that deserves your attention. Once a catfish hits 20 to 25 pounds, they have a big slab of belly meat. Catfish belly meat, particularly from a flathead, has a completely different texture than from most fish. It’s much denser than the steaks or fillets from the same fish. Chunks of belly meat make the perfect addition to a crawfish boil and, once cooked, feel more like lobster than fish in texture. Eat it dipped in melted butter.
For this recipe, we cut the belly meat into strips, marinate them overnight, then smoke them on our Traeger Grill. The finished product isn’t jerky exactly, but the dried and slightly chewy fish strips are the perfect snack food. The recipe idea came from Catfish Noodling Guru and buddy Will Brantley, who is fond of a similar preparation for his catfish bellies.
2 to 3 pounds flathead or blue cat belly meat
Marinade 1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon hot sauce
2-3 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
Trim all skin and inner membrane from the belly meat. Cut the meat into slices roughly an inch wide, 6 to 8 inches long and 1/2-inch thick. If your catfish is big enough to have thicker belly meat, just pound it flat with a meat mallet to a half-inch thickness.
Place the fish in a glass or other non-reactive bowl. Mix the marinade ingredients and pour over the fish. Cover tightly and refrigerate from 8 to 16 hours.
Drain the fish and sprinkle on the Cajun seasoning.
Set your Traeger or other smoker at 225 degrees and smoke the fish for 3 to 4 hours or until the edges are a little crispy and the thickest parts are dry and a bit chewy.
Store the jerky in the refrigerator up to six days, or vacuum seal and freeze for long-term storage.
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