smoking fish question

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by mike doughty, Mar 26, 2007.

  1. mike doughty Honorary Member

    Posts: 10,184
    the uinta's
    Ratings: +5 / 0
    i just bought a smoker and want to smoke up some steelhead. this may sound like a stupid question since i have never smoked fish but can i assume thatthe skin has to come off or does the skin stay on?
  2. Josh Benjamin Member

    Posts: 988
    duvall, wa
    Ratings: +1 / 0
    leave it on!
    let that get stuck to the racks.
    Itchy Dog likes this.
  3. Jerry Metcalf FishyJere

    Posts: 340
    Enumclaw, WA
    Ratings: +40 / 0
    And, don't inhale too strongly at first. Work up to it. Some feel it is better to start with chums.

    Just kidding....
  4. Jim Jones flytosser

    Posts: 575
    Woodinville, WA
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    Josh is absolutely right. Leave the skin on. Place the skin side down on the rack. Once you have the fished good and smoked the skin will seperate. Makes for some tasty eating!

    Jim Jones
  5. greyghost Member

    Posts: 507
    Coastal Rivers, OR
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    I leave the skin on, but put the flesh side down on the racks. The skin will easily peel off once the fish has smoked for a few hours. I'm pretty new to smoking as well, got one for xmas and have run a dozen or so hatchery zombies through it. Some of the things I have learned is not over - salt the fish in your brine, and only apply wood chips for the first 2-3 hours. Also, if your fish is too soft or undercooked after several hours in the smoker, pop it in the oven at 175 for 15-20 mins to finish it up.

    Pete
  6. Zen Piscator Supporting wild steelhead, gravel to gravel.

    Posts: 3,076
    Missoula, MT
    Ratings: +13 / 0
    Some things I've learned:
    Use non-iodized salt
    Cherry wood is beueno
    Tastse better after 1 day in the fridge
    After you smoke the fish store it in plastic bags lined with paper towls. If you don't use towels the fish will get very oily and loose its firmness.
  7. mike doughty Honorary Member

    Posts: 10,184
    the uinta's
    Ratings: +5 / 0
    thanks for the responses
  8. Jim Jones flytosser

    Posts: 575
    Woodinville, WA
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    Grey Ghost is right on about not over salting. I tried using pickling salt once due to its finer grain thinking it would dissolve quicker, which it does but I think you need to use way less. Zen why do you think non-iodized works better? I am not contesting the statement, just wondering as I can't remember is I have ever used the iodized stuff before. Is it a taste thing? I think the next time I smoke something I am going to try using kosher salt.

    Jim Jones
  9. D3Smartie Active Member

    Posts: 1,987
    WA
    Ratings: +4 / 0
    make a cold smoker and you will never go back
    Jeremy Floyd likes this.
  10. Ryan Nathe Member

    Posts: 836
    Seattle, WA
    Ratings: +7 / 0
    Jim Jones-

    I always burrow a "little chief" smoker from my grandpa that is ancient and the recipe book always says to use non-iodized salt, I am not sure why but it seems like it must be a taste thing.
  11. Les Johnson Les Johnson

    Posts: 1,590
    .Redmond, WA
    Ratings: +6 / 0
    If you are using a Chief series smoker from Luhr Jensen, I recommend that you also purchase the insulating blanket for it. This will boost the heat up to the 160 degree range that you want. Otherwise it may not get hot enough for complete smoking.
    The old tried-and-true A.J. McClane recipe found in his book, "the Encyclopedia of Fishing" is still terrific for nice fresh steelhead or salmon. There are also some excellent recipes on the internet.
    I steer clear of brining recipes that include too many exotic ingredients. If a salmon or steelhead is fresh and firm, a couple of hours in the brine, then dried and put in the smoker is, in my view, the best.
    Cheers,
    Les Johnson
  12. Jeff Dodd Active Member

    Posts: 1,577
    Langley, WA
    Ratings: +356 / 0
    Mike,
    To add to what others have said.
    1. Les' advice about a blanket or a box over the smoker is important, esp. during the cool moths.

    2. Let the smoker get up to temp. before you put anything in it. Next put the chips in, and just when they are about to start smoking, put the fish in. This will expose the fish to more smoke before it the heat seals the flesh up. (This is my theory anyway)

    3. I prefer a dry brine, and while I enjoy experimenting, a simple brown sugar and pickling salt brine is excellent. For fillets off fish in the 5 - 7 pound range, you don't need to leave the fish in the brine very long. Maybe 2 - 3 hours.

    D3: How did you rig up your cold smoker. That's the way my grandpa use to do it, but my wife won't let me have a refrigerator in the yard :)
  13. Dick Ross Member

    Posts: 77
    Sandpoint, ID
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    Cold smoking is just a temperature thing 150-170 degrees for long periods. This also allows for a drier smoke which I prefer. Most people tend to smoke fish/meat at 200+ degrees. Either dry or wet brine make sure you take it out and let it dry before smoking. This will keep that funky white stuff from bubbling up. I also start with the skin up and then after about 5 hrs. pull the skin off and turn it over to dry that side out. After smoking let sit on racks for 1- 2hrs and pat dry. I then vaccum pack the fish, my parents can theirs.
  14. Be Jofus G Banned or Parked

    Posts: 2,051
    Washington
    Ratings: +53 / 0
    You'll like the kosher salt. That's all I use for smoking anymore. Mixes well with some dark brown sugar and fresh pressed garlic. I've never tried it, but have heard that iodized salt leaves a metallic taste and doesn't cure the fish properly. :confused:
  15. greyghost Member

    Posts: 507
    Coastal Rivers, OR
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    Les is right on about fresh, firm fish make the best finished product. If you start with a bad cut of meat and smoke it.... you still have a bad piece of meat at the end. I smoke a lot of chrome hatchery fish because it's a good way to snack on it and I have no problem giving it to coworkers and friends.

    To substitute for an insulating blanket, I've heard that a cheap metal garbage can on 4 bricks over the smoker works well. Anyone have any experience trying this? I had a lot of trouble getting my fish to 160 back in Jan. and Feb when I was doing a lot of smoking.

    I use coarse sea salt, but typically I use about 1/2 of what most recipes call for because I don't like my fish overly salty..... I tend to compensate with extra brown sugar. Also, I avoid things like soy that add lots of extra salt. The last batch I did was a dry brine with brown sugar, salt, garlic, dill, and pepper. Before that I did just brown sugar and salt, but after it smoked for 4 hours, I glazed it in honey, and popped it in the oven for 20 minutes.... it came out like candy. Do you guys have any tried and true dry or wet brines that you wouldn't mind sharing?

    Pete
  16. D3Smartie Active Member

    Posts: 1,987
    WA
    Ratings: +4 / 0
    Jeff D- My dad and i built a smoke house based on one from a lodge in eastern canada where we fish. This smoke house used to do all the smoking of fish on the entire river and it is the best smoked salmon i have ever tried, but it is so damn expensive we decided that we had to do our own. Quillicene fish are fantastic for this :)
    Our smoke house holds 10 fish. About 8-9 paces away we build our fire and cover it with a hood. Out the top of the hood we have a pipe running to the smoke house. I'll post some pictures of it sometime soon.
    Jeff Dodd likes this.
  17. Be Jofus G Banned or Parked

    Posts: 2,051
    Washington
    Ratings: +53 / 0
    a 55 gallon steel drum works nicely and is eaiser to move and hide than a fridge.
  18. ibn Moderator

    Posts: 1,885
    Federal Way
    Ratings: +10 / 0
    I smoke a ton of fish. All good advice so far. I usually use brown sugar and salt for my brine, 1 cup salt and 4 cups brown sugar as the ratio. Sometimes I do a little less salt. One thing that no one has mentioned that I really like is cutting candbar sized chunks in your meat without cutting through the skin. This allows you to pack your dry brine into the slices you've just made.

    Here is a pic of some fish drying after the brine and before the smoke. You can sort of see the cuts I've made into some of the fillets.

    [IMG]

    It's really all in the brine, make sure you're patient in letting it get a good soak.

    As for eating it, it's great on it's own, or get some crackers, cream cheese, and chop up some chives and then you're flavor country.

    Unlike Zen I like to vaccuum seal my fish right away, I don't want a paper towell soaking up all the oils, I like to have that sealed for more flavor.
  19. seanengman Trout have no politics

    Posts: 966
    davenport, wa
    Ratings: +3 / 0
    When it comes to the salt. Kosher is the only way to go. I also like the wet brine. I use Yoshidas marinade, garlic powder, onion powder, anything I can find.
  20. Andy Kaus its only kinky the first time

    Posts: 27
    Moscow, ID
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    we've been doing dry cure on everything lately,steelies,salmon and even some trout. Equal parts salt and brown sugar,cover the meat with a layer,let sit 24 hrs, then brush off the excess and smoke away
    Andy