New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Smoking fish

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
I have a great recipe for a fish "pie/bake" but it requires smoked cod or haddock, I would love any suggestions on how to smoke my own fish. I am not able to buy it ready smoked where I live.

Gear mentioned in this thread:

post #2 of 11
Smoking fish is fairly easy and very rewarding. You can break it down into three steps, if you like. In order they are: Brining; Forming a pellicle; and, Smoking.

Brining helps prevent the fish from drying out during the smoking process. It also does double duty as a way of partly seasoning the fish. A typical fish brine is mostly salt, sugar and seasonings. "Cures" aren't very common, and neither is a lot of acid. Because of the cell structure, you're usually better off brining fish in a stronger brine for a shorter period, than a weaker brine for a longer -- as you might use for chicken or pork.

There are thousands (if not more) recipes for pre-smoking fish brine on the internet. Just use the obvious terms and google will find hundreds of them for you. In the meantime, here's something very basic you might want to use the first couple of times.

A BASIC RECIPE AND TECHNIQUE FOR SMOKING FISH

Ingredients:
Fish
Brine (recipe follows)
Dry rub, if desired.

BRINE

Ingredients:
1 onion
6 cloves garlic
1 gal water
2 cups table salt (non-iodized)
1-1/4 cup brown sugar, or 1 cup sugar and 1/4 cup molasses
2 tsp white pepper
1 lemon

Technique:
Prepare the brine by cutting the onion into eight pieces. Smash the garlic cloves.

Combine the onion, garlic, water, salt, sugar, and pepper in a kettle, and heat to the point where the salt and sugar completely dissolve, and to begin the process of infusing the brine with the other flavors. More simply, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and hold at the simmer for five to ten minutes. While the brine heats, slice the lemon into 5 or 6 slices.

Remove the brine from the heat, and add the lemon slices. Allow to cool completely. The cooling time will complete the infusion.

Meanwhile cut the fish into serving size fillets. (In your case, you'll want to size them for convenient handling -- 6 oz ought to be about right -- you'll be breaking them down later for the pie). It's important to keep your pieces and/or portions fairly consistently sized.

Put the fish in a glass, plastic or ceramic container, and cover with brine so it is completely immersed. Alternatively, you can use a large plastic bag. (You can use stainless steel, but only if you absolutely must. Under no circumstances use any other type of metal.) You may include some or all of the onions, garlic and lemon slices if you wish. Most of their flavor is already in the brine, but "it couldn't hurt."

Cover the fish or seal the bag and brine in the refrigerator. Alternatively, if the fish is very well chilled it may be brined on the counter in a room temperature solution for about three hours. Alternatively, you may use some ice cubes in the brine so that it's cold.

Tip: Make the brine short a couple of ice cube trays worth of water. After it's cooled to room temp, add the cubes.

4 oz pieces will brine in about 45 minutes. 6 oz pieces will take about an hour. Note that brining time is controlled by the weight of the individual piece and not by the total weight of the fish in the solution.

Tip: Add 25% to 33% more time for oily fish (such as the types you suggested).

When the brining period is over, you need to dry the fish and form a pellicle. Remove the fish and set it on a rack elevated above a catch pan (to catch brine which drips off). Do not rinse the fish before drying, and do not blot with a paper towel. Set the pan in a cool palce, and arrange a fan so to blow over the fish to speed drying. Every fifteen minutes, turn and rearrange the pieces so they dry more or less evenly. After about an hour the dried brine should form a "pellicle." (The pellicle is a smooth, slightly tacky surface, which may appear clear but is usually slightly cloudy. It helps "hold" the smoke and any seasoning you may use to the fish, and will form a nice crust on the finished product.) And, at this point the fish may be held in the refrigerator for a convenient smoking time.

If you have the space, and can tolerate, unwrapped raw fish in your refrigerator, you may put the fish on its rack in the refrigerator -- uncovered. The fish will dry more slowly but very thoroughly. Figure a couple of hours to the pellicle.

Prepare your smoker to run at around 200F (cook chamber temp) or a bit lower. If you can get your smoker to produce smoke at a lower temp, you'll have to adjust smoking times accordingly.

Season the fish if you like. Just remember that the fish is already salty.

When the smoker is fully prepped, running at a stable temperature, and making smoke you may add your fish. Ideally, you'll keep both the cook and fire chambers closed during the entire cooking period. If it isn't clear, there's no need to turn or rotate during the cooking period -- unless your pit runs very unevenly. At roughly 200F, pieces in the 4 oz - 8 oz range will take between 1 hour and 1-1/2 hours. The touch test is better than a probe. The fish should be fairly firm and push back. It should not feel mushy (too rare), and it should not be very flakey (too done). If you must use a probe, you're looking for an internal in the 135F to 145F range.

Hope this helps,
BDL
post #3 of 11
I've always wondered that when a recipe calls for brown sugar, is light or dark brown sugar?

Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

Brot und Wein
(1 photos)
 
Reply

Best and I'm a foodie.   I know very little but the little that I know I want to know very well.

 

-T

Brot und Wein
(1 photos)
 
Reply
post #4 of 11
Depends on who's writing the recipe.

The "brown sugar" you buy in the stores is ordinary, refined white sugar with ordinary molasses added, then dried. Light brown sugar is about 4 tbs of molasses/cup sugar, while dark brown sugar is about 6tbs/cup. If you're worried about it, you can make your own and split the difference.

BDL
post #5 of 11
So the method I use is 2 part brown sugar and 1 part kosher salt
that slathered on top of fillets of chum and smoked for 3 or 4 hours.
Have been told by the mongers that chum is the way to go, that coho
kinda falls apart and doesn't flake well when smoked.

The smoker we use is hot, fyi. Not a cold smoke.

opinions or suggestions?
post #6 of 11
If it works for you, it works for you. Delicious and more delicious are all that really count. So, this post is no reflection on your current methods.

Still, you might want to try the method I posted because it's extremely flexible -- especially once you're famliar enough with the brining process to start tweaking it by adding different herbs, aromatics and fruits, and you understand the relationship between the oiliness of the fish, strength of the brine and immersion time.

For coho specifically, try a slightly weaker brine than the one I posted and soak it for slightly longer. I'd go with 1 cup uniodized table salt (1-1/2 cup Morton kosher, 2 cups Diamond kosher), a couple of dill fronds, and 3/4 cup white sugar per gallon of water, and a 2 hour soak for 8 oz portions.

Now if you're doing a whole side of salmon at a time, brining time calculation is a little different. Figure 45 minutes for each half-inch of fish thickness.

After you've brined, dried and have a pellicle, prep your smoker so that it's running stable and producing smoke at its lowest temperature. That temp varies with the smoker and your fire building and management capabilities. Some inexpensive cabinets, pipe smokers and offsets simply will not produce steady smoke below 225. But the ideal "hot smoking" temperature is actually around 190*. Also, you don't want too much smoke -- no billowing white clouds. The ideal is a thin, almost invisible blue stream emerging from your flue. It's fair to say that if you can smell your hardwood from more than a few feet away -- that's enough.

Whole sides of salmon are fragile and difficult to move once they're cooked. So, cut a piece of cardboard the length and width of the fish and wrap it well with several layers of aluminum. Oil it well, put the fish on it (skin side down) and smoke the fish on its own tray. It will smoke just as well on the tray as it would on a crate. You can also use a plank if you like. Alder and cedar are both popular. You don't have to worry about either the cardboard or wood bursting into flame at these low temps.

Finally, just before smoking, baste the top of the salmon well with maple syrup, then cover it generously with freshly, coarsely cracked, black pepper. If you're not cracking it fresh, omit the pepper.

If you're smoking at 200*, figure about 30 - 40 minutes for each half-inch of salmon thickness.

BDL
post #7 of 11
Thread Starter 
Thank you very much BDL and everyonel, Now all I have to do is find an ideal place to do all that, did not realize would be so involved.
post #8 of 11
It doesn't have to be.

When I smoke salmon, I give it a sugar and salt cure first but for many fish, I give it light spice rub and put it straight into the smoker.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Reply
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Reply
post #9 of 11
Lissajane, it's not nearly as involved as it sounds.

90% of it is done on your kitchen counter and in the fridge. And, if you don't have a smoker, just use your grill, with indirect heat and very few coals.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
Reply
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
Reply
post #10 of 11
I agree with the others. There is no reason to make some thing as simple as smoking fish overly complex. This is incredibly simple if you have a ceramic cooker like the BGE as you can set up for indirect heat with a plate setter.
I prefer apple but any fruit wood works nicely for fish.
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
Reply
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
Reply
post #11 of 11
Thread Starter 
Wow, you have all been so helpful, so good to have a place to come when we need help.
Thank you all again
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Food & Cooking

Gear mentioned in this thread: