Any fish can be smoked, but species high in fat are recommended because they absorb smoke faster and have better texture than lean fish, which tend to be dry and tough after smoking. Our favorite fishes to smoke are Blue fish, Mahi and King Mackerel. Use seasoned non-resinous woods: hickory, oak, apple, maple, birch, beech, or alder. Avoid: pine, fir, spruce, etc. or green woods. If heavier smoke flavor is desired, add moist sawdust to the heat source throughout the smoking process. Control heat by adjusting air flow.
Control temperature: 90°F for the first 2 hours; 150°F for remaining smoking time
Preparing Fish For Smoking:
Use only freshly fish that have been kept clean and cold. Fish that have been handled carelessly or stored under improper conditions will not produce a satisfactory finished product. Do not use bruised, broken, or otherwise damaged flesh.
Different fish species generally require specific preparation methods. Salmon are split (backbone removed); bottom fish filleted; herring headed and gutted, and smelt dressed.
The following preparation steps can be applied to any fish:
- Remove scales by scraping against the grain with the dull edge of a knife.
- Remove head, fins, tail, viscera.
- Wash body cavity with running cold water to remove all traces of blood and kidney tissue (dark red mass along the backbone).
- Split the fish by cutting through the rib bones along the length of one side of the backbone
- For large fish, remove the backbone by cutting along the other side of the backbone to produce two fillets or boneless sides.
- For small fish, the backbone can be left attached to one of the sides.
- Cut the sides of large fish into uniform pieces about 1½ inches thick and 2 inches wide.
- Small fish halves can be brined and smoked in one piece.
Just buy your fish at Sea Eagle and we will clean and prepare them for you!!
- Prepare a brine of 3½ cups table salt in 1 gallon of cold water in a plastic, stainless steel, or crockery container.
- Stir the salt until a saturated solution is formed.
- Spices such as black pepper, bay leaves, seafood seasoning, or garlic, as well as brown sugar, may be added to the brine depending on your preference.
- Use 1 gallon of brine for every 4 pounds of fish.
- Brine fish in the refrigerator, if possible
- Brine ½-inch-thick fillets for about 15 minutes
- 1-inch-thick pieces about 30 minutes
- 1½-inch-thick pieces about 1 hour
- Brining times can be adjusted to give the fish a lighter or heavier cure.
Keep the fish covered with brine throughout the brining period. A heavy bowl can be floated on the brine to keep the fish submersed, but do not pack the fish so tightly that the brine cannot circulate around each piece
After brining, rinse the fish briefly in cold running water.
Place the fish skin-side down on greased racks in a cool, shady, breezy place to dry. The fish should dry for 2 to 3 hours or until a shiny skin or pellicle forms on the surface. The pellicle seals the surface and prevents loss of natural juices during smoking. A fan will speed pellicle formation.
Place the fish in a homemade or commercial smoker. For the first 2 hours, the temperature should not exceed 90°F. This completes the pellicle formation and develops brown coloring.
After the initial 2-hour period, raise the temperature to 150°F and smoke the fish for an additional 4 to 8 hours. The length of time will depend on the thickness of the fish, and on your preference for dry or moist smoked fish.
Generally, ½-inch-thick pieces are smoked for 4 hours, 1-inch-thick pieces for 6 hours, and 1½-inch-thick pieces for 8 hours.
Store hot-smoked fish in the refrigerator.
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