Fish takes on a deliciously moist texture when slow roasted in a smoker. The meat of the fish easily peels away in tender, flaky chunks as it is infused with all the flavors of sweet smoky wood. When paired with seasonings of fresh herbs and citrus aromatics, smoked fish is a tasty treat that you can feel good about indulging in. There are various methods to make fish in a barbecue smoker, but all are based on a few common principles. The following are very generic steps you can use to smoke your own fish.
Choose the Right Fish.
Fattier fish, such as salmon or sea bass, are better than leaner fish at absorbing smoke. Use
only freshly-caught fish that have been kept clean and cold. Fish that have been handled carelessly or stored under improper conditions will not produce a satisfactory result. Do not use bruised, broken, or otherwise damaged flesh.
Prepare the Fish.
There are a variety of ways to enjoy smoked fish, and these variations mostly depend on its preparation. Different fish species generally require specific preparation methods. Salmon are split, i.e., their backbone removed; herring headed and gutted; bottom fish filleted, and smelt dressed. The skin of whole fish crisps up and separates from the meat, which makes it a delicious smoked fish treat. Fish fillets with skin on are the most convenient, though, because they are easy to eat and hold up well in the heat of the smoker.
Choose the Right Wood Chips.
The best choice for smoked fish is sweet, mild woods like apple, cherry, or alder because they won’t overpower the exquisite, bland flavor of the meat.
Preheat smoker and add wood chips to get things going. Let the wood chips preheat for about 45 minutes. Add fish and let smoke for about 3 hours at 175-200F.
Test the Temperature.
It’s important to smoke your fish until it reaches a safe internal temperature. The majority of the fish fillets will be completed once the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F. You can use a digital meat thermometer to check the temperature throughout the cook time to be sure.
If your fillets aren’t thick enough for the meat probe to get an accurate reading, calculate the smoke time for about three hours plus 30 minutes per pound of fish.
- 4-5 lbs. hearty, skin-on fillets (salmon, mackerel, or sea bass).
- 1-quart water.
- 1/2 cup salt.
- 1/2 cup white granulated sugar.
- Mix brine over low heat until salt and sugar dissolved. Let cool completely.
- Submerge fish in brine. Let rest in the fridge for 6-10 hours, or overnight.
- Remove fillets and lightly rinse before smoking. Pat dry and sprinkle with paprika.
- Preheat smoker and add wood chips. Smoke fish for about 3 hours at 175-200F or until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F.
Now that you know all the secrets to making a delicious fish in a barbecue smoker, enjoy it with your friends and family at any time. Here’s a great video on how you can smoke salmon, by The Consummate Sportsman. Check it out!