smoking fish question

mike doughty

Honorary Member
#1
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?
 
#4
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
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
 

Zen Piscator

Supporting wild steelhead, gravel to gravel.
#6
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.
 
#8
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
 
#10
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
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
 

Jeff Dodd

Active Member
#12
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
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
Jim Jones said:
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
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
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