Smoking Fish Properly: This Is How It Works


Freshly smoked fish is absolutely delicious and when it comes out of the smoking oven still steaming warm, it is sometimes a little firm. The best is fish right to

Smoking is not so difficult if you pay attention to a few things. It is also a very uncomplicated way of preparation and filleting is also not necessary. It is even (almost) irrelevant if the fish is bought or if you fish it yourself. You can also smoke meat with the same method. For me one thing is certain: once you have eaten freshly smoked trout while still warm from the oven, you don’t want to eat sweaty trout from the supermarket any more.

Table of Contents What you need for smokingThis is how it works: just smoke the fish1. The brine2. Drying3. Preparing and covering the smoker4. SmokingThe cooking pointDurability of smoked fishSpecial case: smoking eelsSelf-made smoking mixFish that is suitable for smokingFrequently asked questions about smokingCan I also smoke frozen fish? How long is the cooking time when smoking? Can you put several types of fish in the brine at the same time?

What you need for smoking

You don’t need much to get started, it is also important to have a place to smoke. Because you shouldn’t smoke in the house or apartment, even on the balcony can be critical if you don’t want to mess with your neighbors.

Here is the list with everything you need to smoke fish:

  • Fish for smoking
  • Salt
  • A plastic bucket or tub
  • Smoking flour
  • Optional: Spices
  • A smoking oven

This is how it works: simply smoke fish

With this recipe and instructions smoking is always successful.

1. brine

First, the gutted and cleaned fish is put in brine. The salt content of the brine should be between 6 and 8%. An example: if I need 10 l of brine, I add 600 grams of salt to obtain a 6% brine.

It remains to be clarified how much brine is needed at all. For one kilogram of smoked fish you calculate about 1 l of water. To give an example: for 6 portion trout of about 300 grams, which fit in every table smoking oven, you need about 2 liters of water and 120 grams of salt. If you like, you can also add spices such as cloves, bay leaves etc. to the smoked brine.

Afterwards you store the fish for about 10 hours in the brine to achieve an optimal result. Shorter is also possible, but then the quality suffers somewhat and the fish may not be fully salted.

2. drying

Next, the fish must be washed well with fresh cold tap water – the cleaner it becomes and the more slime is removed, the more beautiful the golden brown colour will be.

I like to use some kitchen paper for this, because it is good for removing slime and water from the fish skin. Then leave the fish to dry for another 1-2 hours, e.g. on the grill of the table smoking oven. The skin then becomes parchment-like. Only eels do not need to be dried.

3rd smoking oven Prepare and cover

As the last step before smoking, the fish either goes directly into the table smoking oven or is put on a hook and hung in the smoking barrel. On the bottom of the smoking oven under the fat pan, add one or two tablespoons of smoking flour. Then the burners of the smoking oven are filled with spirit or fuel paste and lit.

4. smoking

Now it goes 15-20 minutes into the hot smoking oven (about a table smoking oven see picture) and the golden brown delicacy is ready. For larger fish (45 cm+ trout as an example) give 4-5 minutes extra. A temperature of 100 °C is perfect for the fish to be well cooked through.

The cooking point

A small test to find out if straight trout are already cooked is simply to pull out the dorsal fin. If this is easy, the fish is cooked.

Post-smokingChris Tip: If the fish isn’t golden yellow enough for me, I usually let the oven smoke for another 10-30 minutes after it has cooled down. This is also called post-smoking.

Shelf life of smoked fish

Freshly smoked fish can be kept for about one week. If you have a vacuum machine the fish can be kept in the fridge for one month, but can also be frozen and defrosted afterwards. Non-vacuum smoked fish can be frozen for 2-3 weeks.

Special case: smoking eels

When smoking eels there are a few special features that must be observed in order for the smoking process to succeed. In principle, however, the first two points also mean labour savings compared to smoking trout.

  • Eels should not be skinned for smoking
  • Eels should not be allowed to dry after the brine, but if it does it is not so bad
  • I take a close look at eels, that they are well cooked, as the blood is toxic in the raw state

Home-made smoking mixture

The basis of a smoking mixture is always sawdust, beech wood being the most suitable. Alternatively, alder and maple flour are also suitable. Fruit tree wood also gives a great result, but is difficult to get. As spices juniper may be missing no matter whether as berry or branch in no smoking mixture. Other great smoking spices for your own smoking mixture for fish are coriander, bay leaves, rosemary and cloves.

Otherwise it does not matter whether you use wood shavings or flour for smoking.

Fish suitable for smoking

Not every fish tastes as good smoked as the classics trout, eel or salmon and even the size of the fish is important. A trout of 55 cm and larger tastes less good when smoked warm than a smaller one. However, large fish are good to use when cold smoking.

The best smoked fish are halibut, trout, eel, salmon, mackerel, sprat, carp and also bream are very good. Very low-fat fish such as roach and rudd should not be smoked.

Frequently asked questions about smoking

Can I also smoke frozen fish?

That’s no problem and I also put the fish in brine when frozen. Especially with eels or trout I like to collect 3-5 pieces together before I smoke them.

How long is the cooking time when smoking?

With the table smoking oven it takes only 15-20 minutes until the fish is ready smoked.

Is it possible to put several kinds of fish in the brine at the same time?

Sure it’s no problem

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