There are a lot of different ways to smoke fish, you can do it with or without a smoker, quick and easy or longer. I will cover everything you need to know about smoking fish in this guide.
Smoked fish is a fish that has been cured by smoking, the process of smoking is happening through the use of fire. Wood contains three different components that are broken down in the burning process to form smoke.
Hot smoking can be done at temperatures of up to 250 F or 120C and it will only take you a few hours to do. You can hot smoke in almost any grill or smoker and it is a much quicker and easier way to do so than cold smoking, which require you to have more patience and more advanced equipments.
The hot smoked fish has a much shorter shelf life and needs to be refrigerated or frozen, and that is because the hot and cold smoked fish isn’t dried or preserved in the same way.
Brine The Fish
For the brine you only need salt and water. Use 1 tablespoon of plain salt per cup of water, and that is salt without iodine. If you only have access to tap water, then let the water sit in a large container without a lid for some time to let the chlorine dissipate.
You can also add whatever seasonings you would like to have to the brine, white wine, peppercorns, brown sugar, garlic or whatever seasonings that you would like to have.
Brine the fish for 15 minutes per 1/2 inch thickness. Then add your wood to the smoker and let it preheat for about 45 minutes, and keep the heat below 150 F. Smoke the fish for about 2 hours, so the fish has plenty of time to absorb the smoke flavor. After that you can heat up the smoker to 200 F, and smoke to fish until it has reached 165 F.
Now you can serve your home made hot smoked fish!
Choose The Right Fish To Smoke
The best fishes to smoke are definitely High Fat Fishes, they are mostly found in cold lakes or in the sea. The fat will insulate the delicate meat and contribute to the natural flavor of the fishes. Some high fat fishes are mackerel, trout, salmon, sea bass, tuna, sailfish, sablefish, sturgeon, herring, mackerel, sardines.
But the good thing is that all the high fat fishes only contain so called ¨good fats¨, containing high concentrations of omega-3 oils, and they will help lower your blood pressure, reduce the chance of abnormal heart rhythm, lower the risk for heart attacks and strokes and so much more.
Cold Smoking Fish
The hot smoke process requires that you reach an internal cooking temperature of about 145 F or higher than that. But the cold smoking technique requires the fish to reach an internal temperature of less than 90 F.
When you are cold smoking a fish your goal is to use a method of preserving the fish where the ambient cooking temperature stays in the range of 68-86 F for about 6-12 hours. Then the flesh will start to lose some of its moisture and it will start to become denser without being cooked.
The obvious problem with cold-smoking is the fact that the fish remains in the temperature danger zone 40-140 F for several hours. The antimicrobial properties of dry-curing and smoking is what makes the fish safe to eat, but this method may be best left to seafood processing experts with strict sanitation and safety measures in place to monitor pH and water activity to ensure the result is pathogen-free. I recommend a hot smoking method because it’s a safer way and yields a moist, flaky result that won’t be disappointing.
How To Smoke Fish In An Oven
Smoking fish at home in the oven is super easy and practical to do, and you will still be able to enjoy the smoked taste without using a steakhouse. Some people don’t have the space or access to use either a smokehouse or a grill then smoking in the oven is perfect for you.
You can get Liquid Smoke, which you can purchase at most grocery shops, it will provide the smoked flavor, and you can also use a cooling rack to allow the fish to be cooked on all sides.
- Place your fish in a bowl, and pour 4 Oz of liquid smoke in the bowl.
- Season the fish with just salt and pepper, and cover the bowl with some plastic wrap and place the fish in the refrigerator for about 8 hours.
- Now heat up the oven to 150 F and remove the fish from the bowl and rinse off all the excess salt and pepper that is left.
- Spray your cooling rack with some nonstick spray and place the fish on the cooling rack and let it sit in the oven, this will allow the air from the oven to circulate around to fish so it will cook evenly.
- Now you will bake the fish in the oven for about 8 hours, and after that you will open the door and keep it cracked to keep the fish from steaming. You can remove the fish safely when it has an internal temperature between 130-145 F.
Choose The Right Wood
Is a relatively soft hardwood of medium density, and it will give you a natural wood smoking flavor. The flavor profile is lightly sweet.
Hickory provides a brownish color, mixes well with cherry to develop a red coloring. The flavor profile is on the moderate side.
The maple will provide a brownish color, and will give you a mild side with a sweet flavor.
Will provide a nice neutral color to the outer skin of the fish, it will also mix easily with other types of woods. The flavor will be really light from this wood.
Red oak will give you a deep coloring of the outer skin layer of the fish, and a very pungent flaver.
Has a very dark to red, brownish heart providing a tan to red hued coloring. The flavor is on the medium side.
Cherry wood will give you a reddish, pink color to the meat, and you want to always use a meat probe with this wood. The flavor is on the mild side with a slight sweet taste.
Will give you a deep coloring on the outer skin layer of the fish and will be very bold in flavor.
Smoke Fish On A Gas Grill
Smoking fish on a gas grill actually works out just great, you can get a good tasty grilled flavor from the wood chips.
You want to preheat the grill to about 300 F, pour in your seasoning in a medium bowl and season both sides of your fish fillets.
Add 4-5 cups of wood chips of your choice in the pan, and fill the pan with some water and let the wood chips soak for about 30 minutes. After that you want to drain and the pan from water and cover it with some aluminium foil.
Cut 8 holes in the top of the aluminium foil to let the smoke escape and place the pan on the preheated grill.
Wait for about 30 minutes, then check to see if the pan is smoking. If not, then check your heating settings and wait until smoke appears before adding the fish.
Place your fish on the opposite side of the grill and close the lid. Cook the fish until it is fully smoked and flaky, it will usually take about 30-35 minutes. The smoke will start to rise and give the fish a delicious smoked flavor.