Nothing tastes more delicious than smoked fish as an accompaniment to a salad, as the centrepiece of a main meal, or even as part of a platter of tapas or hors d’oeuvres. Smoking fish is much easier than smoking meat, and with a little time, patience and a measure of creativity, you’ll be more than pleased with the delicious results.
There are two ways to smoke fish; cold smoking or hot smoking. Cold smoking uses specialist methods and is quite time consuming, but produces the types of fish you can buy in packets or very thin slices, such as ‘smoked salmon’.
Hot smoked fish is the method most people use at home, and what we’ll describe today.
Firstly, decide what type of fish you will use. Salmon of course is perfect, but you can use bluefish, sturgeon, mackerel, trout, or experiment with whatever type you like – there are lots of recipes out there.
Step 1. Prepare a brine. This is a basic brine mix but feel free to add any other ingredients;
- 4 cups water
- 1/4 cup salt
- 75mL lemon juice
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 stalk celery, finely sliced
- 1/2 cup fennel chopped
- 1/2 onion chopped
- 2 crushed garlic cloves
Step 2. Curing the fish. The curing process is necessary to draw moisture from the fish. Place the brine mixture in a non-metallic dish and marinate the fish for a minimum of two hours, or even up to a couple of days, depending on the thickness of the fish. The longer you leave the fish in the brine, the saltier it will become, and the longer the fish will be preserved.
Step 3. This step is vital to smoking your fish and will ensure that the smoke has something to hold on to by forming a type of coating on the surface, and properly infusing the fish with flavour. Simply place the brined fish on a cake rack for around two hours in a cool place with air circulation.
Step 4. Smoking the fish. If you don’t have a traditional smoker, you can use any deep tin baking tray or box, although using a barbecue with a lid is just as effective. Let’s say you’re using the barbie, as most people have one. Place woodchips or sawdust in a metal container above the burners and under the grill. You can use any hardwood , hickory is the most popular, or use apple, oak or any type of fruit or nut wood chips. (You can buy these from any barbecue retailer, or make them yourself). Adjust your temperature to around 140 degrees before greasing the grills and placing the fish skin-side down on the grills. The amount of time spent in the smoker will vary with the thickness of the fish, but when it starts to flake, you’ll know it’s done. Once smoked, your fish will keep for up to ten days in the fridge. But of course it’ll be so delicious, it won’t last that long!