Catfish business still remains one of the most viable animal food businesses in Nigeria. Who doesn’t enjoy the delicacies that catfish can produce including catfish pepper-soup and smoked catfish.
It is common for catfish farmers to diversify into smoking catfish also for various beneficial reasons. Smoked catfish requires easy-to-get resources, the major part of which is already available – the Fish!!! Also, it requires basic intermittent monitoring and can be done at scheduled time and convenience. However, it is also important to know that this is a food business, therefore efforts must be made to achieve the best quality as much as possible so that nutrition and health is not lost to consumers.
Smoking catfish requires skill and practice so you must be willing to see it through even when you make a few mistakes.
Note that you don’t have to be a catfish farmer; both fish farmers and non-fish farmers can go into the business.
Just before you start… smoking catfish
The first step in your fish smoking business is to obtain some fresh fish. If it doesn’t look FRESH or smell FRESH or feel FRESH, it probably isn’t, and it will make your finished product taste bad. Use fresh fish. Smoking will not hide old fish because the quality will be reflected.
Also, categorize your catfish by weight and corresponding price. The two common weight categories include “300-600g” and “600g and above”. You can then price your catfish using those weight categories. However, you don’t strictly have to follow this. Understand your market first before pricing.
Processing the Catfish
After harvesting (as a farmer) or purchasing (as a non-farmer) your fresh catfish, you could put them in a container and add a reasonable amount of cooking salt. Cover the container with a lid and place a heavy object on the lid to prevent the fish from getting out of the container. Leave for about 30 minutes after which all the fish must have been dead then you can start the steps mentioned above.
Afterwards, clean the fish by removing the gills and intestines and washing thoroughly in clean water. Then you take the fish through a process called “brine and cure” in which you soak the fish in concentrated salt water. This will firm up the flesh to be less mushy, draw out any old blood, improve the taste and add some desired saltiness and flavoring to the fish, and inhibit the growth of deadly bacteria as this is a relatively low temperature cooking environment.
Smoking and Drying
Next steps for these are listed below;
- Prepare the smoker or oven (There are different types of ovens, most of which are quite affordable – some you can even build yourself! Do not smoke fish with firewood and sawdust, this is because these two generates a lot of smoke that is very toxic to human health.)
- Remove fish from the brine and rinse with cold water.
- Place fish skin side down on oiled smoker rack.
- Keep the fire low, for the first two hours.
- Increase heat after the first two hours. (Note that the length of time will depend on the thickness of the fish, and on your preference for dry or moist smoked fish.
- Continue smoking until fish is flaky and cooked through.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool, then weigh before packaging
Advantages of smoked fish
- It prolongs the “shelf life” of the fish once it has been smoked. A smoked catfish can be stored in the freezer for sixty days
- It enhances the flavor when used in sauces and soup.
- If you harvest a number of fish at a time, you can decide to smoke some to increase your income. .
- Smoked fish is a great way to get omega-3 fatty acids. There are numerous studies showing positive effects of these acids on the prevention of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.