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Cooking: How to Smoke Fish

Updated on April 9, 2012

     Today, I was smoking some fish and realized that it took me quite a while to get to where I am in my knowledge of fish smoking and thought, why not share that with others? So I took some pictures and I hope you all enjoy and can learn something from this
     First of all, you need a smoker or a grill, preferable a smoker. I have an electric smoker that a friend gave to me a while back but I have used charcoal smokers as well. This is the one I use. It has worked fine as an electric smoker but the heating element recently broke so I use it as a charcoal smoker now.

Hour 1
Hour 1
Hour 2
Hour 2
Hour 3
Hour 3
Hour 4
Hour 4

Secondly, you need some supplies. Obviously, you need some fish. Oily or "fishy" fish are typically better for smoking such as mackerel, kingfish, amberjack, and mullet. I have heard that jacks work well too but have never tried it myself. When you fillet the fish, try to remove all the bone and leave the skin on. This acts as a "pan" for the fish to sit on so it doesn't burn on the bottom. Also make sure to fill the water tray with water and make sure it has water in it for the duration of the smoking. This water evaporates and the steam and water moisture keeps the fish from drying out too much. For this tutorial, I used some amberjack that I am smoking for a friend.

I also heavily season my fish with a blend of paprika, onion powder, salt, and lemon pepper.

Once your fish is ready to smoke, you need to get the smoker ready. First off, you need wood. There are two options Hickory or Mesquite. I prefer Hickory because the Mesquite can give a bitter taste if that is all that is used but it doesn't matter too much. Also I use wood chunks instead of wood chips because they burn longer and fit beter on my smoker. Before putting the wood on the smoker, soak them in water for around 20 minutes, I don't really know why but it works. If using a charcoal smoker, put some coals on (may want to use Publix GreenWise Charcoal that is chemical free) and let it gray up some then just throw some nice sized pieces directly on the coals and within a minute they should be smoking good.

One your smoker is smoking well, its time to put the fish on! Evenly distribute fish on the trays and close up the smoker aiming to keep the temperature between 150 and 225 degrees. I check on my fish about every hour to make sure its still smoking and I look at how the fish look.

Notice that after Hour 1, the fish may be "done" in terms of internal temperature but it is not done smoking.

After Hour 2, white beads begin to form on the top of the fish and gooey globs start to drip from the bottom. This is the oil coming out of the fish and means the fish is coming along well. If you take the fish off now, it will be too moist, so wait until the white beads are gradually replaced by a golden brown top.

But at Hour 3 they are not quite done yet because there is still some oil at the surface, so they need to smoke for a little longer.

By Hour 4 the oil is mostly gone and fish is a nice dark golden brown and is ready to come off! When the fish are done and reach this state, take them off the smoker and use a spatula to slide between the skin and the meat to remove it and enjoy!

I typically eat some fresh smoked and use the rest to make a fish spread. If you want to do this, take a fork and flake the fish apart and although I cannot give you my secret family recipe I can tell you to combine the fish with cream cheese, some milk, onion, lemon juice, and some parsley and mix thoroughly and enjoy it with a box of crackers, some hot sauce, and a drink of your choice.
I hope you enjoyed this and will use some of the information here.


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