1 gallon water
3/4 cup salt
1 tsp both black pepper and cayenne pepper
1/2 cup soy sauce
3 cloves peeled and smashed garlic
1 cup brown sugar
Prepare your brine solution in a large non-reactive container (Lexan, plastic, or even a couple plastic zipper bags).
Now take the fillets (the equivalent of 2 to 3 pounds) and place them completely submerged in the brine solution for at least 4 or 5 hours.
After the allotted time, remove them, rinse them well, and allow them to dry on the smoker rack for about an hour at room temperature.
At this point, fire up your stovetop smoker over a 'medium-high' heat, place 2 heaping tablespoons of wood chips on the bottom of the unit, lay the drip pan on top of the chips, close the lid, and allow the smoker to reach 190-200 degrees (the point when the smoke just begins to leak out of the closed lid).
When you reach this level, slide the lid open just enough to place the catfish in position on the rack inside the smoker.
Immediately close the cover again and allow the fish to cook for about 25 to 30 minutes (or until the meat is opaque, flakes easily, and has reached an internal temperature of 140 degrees on an instant-read thermometer).
Once you're there, take the fish (still on the rack) out of the smoker and allow them to cool enough to touch barehanded.
Oh, by the way. . .if you find it necessary to flip the fillets (but you really shouldn't have to), flip them only once. That way, they stay moist and juicy.
Finally, smoked catfish can be eaten hot or cold. Oh, yeah...and this exact recipe can be used to smoke not only catfish, but trout, redfish, flounder, drum, salmon, bass, lemonfish, sheepshead, and a myriad of other species.
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