Food smoking has always been a way to turn meat into a delicacy. You don’t just have to smoke the usual suspects like red meat, pork, and chicken; you can smoke fish too. This method was earlier used to preserve seafood, but now, it’s a way to prepare gourmet fish at home. Try smoked fish if you are tired of smoking steak and want to try something different yet succulently yummy.
Is smoking fish different from smoking steak?
Of course, it is. From seasonings to temperature, everything varies. You can’t use the same rub for a fish as you would for other meat. A fish’s flesh is more tender than red meat, so cooking time also varies. But don’t worry. With modern food smokers like the Bradley Smokers, you can adjust the temperature and cooking time to create smoked perfection.
Whether you want to cook a whole fish or a fillet is up to you. We will guide you here on the process, which is pretty much the same for both. This fish smoking tutorial is for beginners, so we have paid special attention to detail. Don’t miss any of the steps we have mentioned and see the magic happening. You will get a juicy, tender, melt-in-your-mouth fish with crispy skin on top, just like you dreamt it. So let’s get started.
Ingredients for smoking fish
When it comes to the ingredients, we have used a certain quantity of ingredients that complement the quantity of fish we smoked. If your quantity of fish is higher or lower, don’t forget to adjust the ingredients. So here is the list of what you need:
- 4 to 5 pounds of fish fillets with skin. Preferably trout, salmon, mackerel, sea bass, sailfish, or tuna for smoking.
- 1/2 cup of granulated white or light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup of table salt or kosher salt
- 1-quart water
- Paprika is preferred for a spicy flavor, but you can go with any seasoning, spice, or rub of your choice.
- Fresh herbs for garnishing. Preferably parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme, or dill.
- Lemon wedges to serve
Ingredients to prepare a Cajun dry rub
Here is another list of ingredients to make a rub for those who like their fish to be spicier when smoked. This rub works well with the different fish we mentioned above. But don’t forget to balance the quantity if you’re not using the same amount of fish as mentioned in this guide.
- 1/2 tablespoon cayenne
- 1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 3 tablespoons paprika
- 3 tablespoons softened butter or margarine. Keep it aside; don’t mix it with the rub.
Tools for smoking fish
As mentioned earlier, we don’t want to miss out on any of the details when smoking fish, so we have sorted out a list of things you will need. Have them ready before you start cooking.
1. A quality food smoker with advanced controls for temperature and cooking time. The Bradley Smoker is our choice here.
2. A large bowl
3. Plastic wrap
4. A meat thermometer
5. Flavored Bisquettes. This is a way to enhance the taste of the fish with flavored smoke. Bradley Bisquettes are our choice here. These sawdust chips produce clean, flavored smoke and extinguish themselves before turning to ash.
Preparing the fish for smoking
Yes, this is a separate step because you have to be really careful about the choice of fish here. Go for a fatty fish rather than a leaner one. Big pieces of fatty fish will stay tender and succulent after smoking. Leaner fish tends to turn dry and hard after being smoked. You can talk to your butcher about this to get the perfect one. Also, keep the skin on. This will help hold the flesh in place. After smoking, it will also give it a flaky, crispy outer layer, while the inside will be juicy and tender. The entire fish should be descaled. Remove the backbone for large fish. For smaller fish, keep the backbone attached to one side.
Prepare the marinade
Mix the salt, sugar, and paprika with the water and simmer it over low heat until everything dissolves. Let it come down to room temperature, and then leave the fish to soak in it for at least 6 to 10 hours.
After the brine, you can use the dry rub as a marinade to get that extra spicy kick on your smoked fish. Don’t forget to wash the fish once you’ve taken it out of the brine and pat it dry.
Check out our entire catalog of articles on brining and curing here:
What’s the Difference Between Pickling, Brining, Marinating, and Curing?
Curing and Smoking Meats for Home Food Preservation
Directions On Brining And Curing Your Meat For Food Smoking
Smoking the fish
Switch on the smoker and let it preheat. We have used a Bradley Smoker here with automatic preheating and cooking temperature controls. You can refer to the user manual for any other brand you are using.
To smoke a whole trout, set the temperature between 145 to 200 °F (63 to 93 °C) and cook until the skin starts to turn flaky, which will be close to an hour. The temperature and timing will be similar to a whole trout when you smoke salmon fillets.
Always use a meat thermometer to prevent over-smoking your fish. Once done, serve it hot and sizzling with lemon wedges and garnished with herbs of your choice.
We hope this guide for smoking fish was helpful for beginners to experiment with something new with their food smoker. Don’t skip the Bradley tips & tricks we have shared here to add that extra zing to your smoked fish.