Like brining, pickling, or dehydrating, the art of preserving fish using wood smoke has been around for centuries. Today, chefs and anglers alike use everything from DIY-built smokers to high-end manufactured units.
A variety of techniques are used for carrying on this fine tradition and if you’ve not tried smoked fish yet, consider this a sign that it’s time you did.
Trout, salmon, herring and whitefish are all top choices for the smoker. Though delicious in their own right, walleye, panfish, or pike aren’t typically used due to their low oil and moisture content.
There are two methods you can choose from when smoking fish. You can either hot smoke the fish or cold smoke it. Below is some information to help you choose which way to go:
The most common method, and the one I use, is hot, where temperatures inside the smoker can exceed 300˚F. In these systems, wood can be automatically fed to the smoker in regular intervals using pellets or pucks.
• Can be done in any weather
• Cooks the fish at the same time as adding flavour
• Can dry out or overcook fish if not monitored
• Fish does not need to be brined to be safe to eat.
• Much easier, safer, and faster than cold smoking
Cold smoking involves a much lower temperature, typically under 100˚F. It takes longer and results in delicately flavoured fish that is considered raw. This method is not for the novice smoker, as it doesn’t cook or preserve the fish.
• Fish is only flavoured by the smoke.
• Must be done in cold weather to keep fish from spoiling during smoking
Consuming raw fish may increase your risk of foodborne illness.
If you’re going to consume the fish within a week or two, tightly wrap portions in wax paper and refrigerate it. Vacuum-sealed, smoked fish will keep for more than a year in the freezer. Safety tip: Vacuum packaging does not preserve food, so do not leave fish at room temperature or in the fridge for any length of time.
Just off the racks, warm, smoked fish is to die for, either on its own or as part of a meal.
The fisherman’s breakfast:
Give this recipe a try, as it’s perfect on a cool summer morning before you head to the dock.
Over warm rye toast or half an English muffin, spread cream cheese, add a slice of raw onion and some flaked fish. Top with second slice of toast or muffin top.
You can find our how-to guide for making your own smoked fish in the Nov-Dec 2016 issue of Ontario OUT of DOORS.