Smoking some fish. Yum!

Smoking meat is a great way to preserve it.  It also is extremely tasty.  Today I smoked some sockeye salmon and some black cod (sablefish).  Both are high in those healthy fish oils and are really healthy to eat.  Both are my favorite fish to eat using all sorts of techniques, but today we are smoking to have as an appetizer for a family get together tomorrow.

I’ve had a small electric smoker for many years.  It uses very little wood and makes smoking a breeze.  First I brined the fish using 2 parts brown sugar to one part kosher salt.  I then drizzle on some maple syrup.  I brine for about 5 hours or so, rinse off the fish well, pat dry and place on drying racks in the refrigerator overnight.  Putting in the refrigerator for a few hours allows the pellicle to form.  Pellicle is a thin, sticky film that forms on the surface of the meat.  The sweet smoke sticks to this pellicle and gives a much better smoked flavor than cooking without creating it.  I smoked for about 4 hours until the internal temp of the thickest part reached 140 degrees.  Today I used some alder wood and some apple branches from the orchard.

Brining the fish adds some flavor but it mainly pulls moisture out of the fish.  This way you don’t end up with mushy smoked fish.

fish smoker 2

fish brine

fish refrigerator

fish wood box

fish smoker

fish cooked bothfish cooked platter


  • Comments (3)

    • 2

      Thanks for the how-to. That looks delicious!

    • 1

      That looks great Redneck! So does smoking like that allow you to keep it out on the counter for a few days or does it still need to be refrigerated? 

      • 2

        IMO, it needs to be in the refrigerator.  When I hot smoke my brined salmon to 140-145, I have killed all the pathogens.  But I think, to be able to leave it on the counter you would need to cook to over 160 and probably higher.  You would also brine longer and smoke longer.  I stop at 140-145 to keep the salmon a bit moist but no where near as most if you cold smoke.  I also brine for a relatively short time to keep the fish from getting “too” salty and too dry.

        Three factors kill pathogens and limit their ability to grow on your salmon.  Your temp of cooked salmon will kill the bacteria if it is high enough and will remove moisture from the fish the higher the temp.  My understanding is 140-145 is the minimum for that.  Salt kills the little critters by removing the moisture from both the meat and the critters themselves.  The compounds in the smoke also have an antibacterial effect.

        If you think about how they preserved meat in the old days, the meat was rather dry, heavily smoked and very salty.  Mostly so salty you had to soak the meat.  Think of salt cod and country ham.  Also consider the dryness and smokiness of jerky.

        My technique would certainly allow you to keep it on the counter for a few hours.  But after the meal, I think it needs refrigeration.  My technique or similar provides moister, less salty meat at the expense of requiring refrigeration.  However in a crisis where you have no refrigeration, you can modify the technique to allow for the meat to store without refrigeration, as our ancestors did.