Smoking Fish

Long before the times of freezers and refrigerators, our ancestors learned about different ways to preserve food.

Food preservation has been a primary part of our culture and traditions, and smoking is one of the oldest methods of preserving fish and other foods.

It uses a combination of smoke and salt to prevent fish from spoiling. Nowadays, smoking fish is no longer necessary, but it remains a popular preparation method for fish such as salmon and tuna.

Fish smoking methods may vary, but in this article, I will cite some ways to prepare and smoke fish and how long it takes for you to achieve the flavor you want.

These variations are the most common ways, but it still depends on how you prepare it. Let’s get started!

Fish in a Smoker

Using a smoker to cook fish is the most common method nowadays. Here are the simple steps that you can follow to smoke fish adequately.

Make Brine Solution

First, clean the fish by removing the tail, head, fins, viscera, and blood. Before smoking the fish, it must be brined first. It will protect the fish from spoiling. The brine solution is a combination of water and salt, but they also add a small amount of sugar for others.

You can brine the fish for 6 to 10 hours in the refrigerator. After the brining process, rinse the fish with cold water and then pat it dry so the smoke will stick on the meat.

Prepare the Fish

Prepare the fish of your choice. What makes a delicious smoked fish has the whole fish because while smoking, the skin becomes crispy and separates from the meat.

Choose the Right Wood

There are specific woods that are the best option for smoking fish because they won’t overpower the fish’s savory taste. The best wood options are mild woods such as apple, cherry, or alder. You can always experiment to find the best taste for the smoked fish. Add more wood chips depending on how much smoke you want the fish to have.

Smoke the Fish

Preheat the smoker and start adding wood chips. I would recommend letting the wood preheat for about 45 minutes. After that, add fish and let it smoke for three hours at 175°–200°F

Test the Temperature

Most fish fillets are done when the internal temperature reaches 160°F. To be sure, you may use a digital thermometer to check throughout the smoking process because you want your fish to be crispy and tender, not overcooked or raw.

Cold Smoking

This way of smoking fish requires several days in a maintained temperature.

Salt the Fish

The brining process is also a must to prevent bacterial contamination during smoking.

Place in the Smoker

Once the fish is brined, let it dry for an hour, and cold smoke it where the ambient cooking temperature ranges from 68–86°F for 6–12 hours or until it is firm.

Check the Temperature

Please pay attention to the cooking temperature because it might go up or down to the temperature danger zone of 40–140°F. If this event happens, the fish might acquire microbial bacteria and pathogens that make it unsafe to eat.

Take Out the Fish from the Smoker

Before serving the smoked fish, it should rest and sit in the refrigerator for at least 4–6 hours, but preferably overnight.

Hot Smoking

This method can be done in any grill, which makes it easier and quicker than cold smoking. Hot smoking requires a lot more patience to get the fish equally smoked.

Choose and Prepare the Fish

Feel free to experiment in choosing the fish, but some of the best are those oily and fattier fish such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel.

Assemble the Equipment

You will need heat and a lidded container where the smoke can drift over the fish and a charcoal or gas barbecue.

Start the Cooking

Same with the brining process, salt fish, and add extra flavors by sprinkling some herbs and spices if you’d like.

Watch Out for the Temperature

At 70–80°C temperature, it must take 40–60 minutes to smoke smaller and thinner fish. But for some larger fish, it will take a few hours to make sure the fish is properly cooked and not raw.

Plank Smoking

It is a simple technique of smoking. Just place the fish on a wood plank and let it cook.

Put on the Grill

Prepare the soaked wood plank in the grill of the barbecue with low to medium heat. As the base of the plank starts to heat up, place the fish on the plank. The smoke from the heated plank will cook the fish gently.

Cooking Time

Let the fish rest on the wood plank for 1–2 hours. If the fish’s skin starts to become crispy and the meat is tender, it is time to remove the plank’s fish.


Different ways are used to smoked fish. Some methods require hours of smoking the fish for it to be cooked appropriately, and other methods even take several days to come up with an equally smoked fish.

Whatever the process may be, it is still a special dish, especially when you put so much effort and patiently waited for hours to cook it.