Smoked Fish

READY IN: 24hrs
Recipe by Toby Jermain

I learned this up in Kenai, Alaska from an old guy named Swede, who had spent 30-some summers up there salmon fishing (and smoking). It is great for salmon or any other fairly strong, oily fish! I've used it on salmon, tuna, and swordfish. Prep time include setting (drying) time. Double the recipe if budget and smoker size permits.

Top Review by LoverlyLady

Hmmm...I found alder to be overpowering as well. Will definitely give this another shot...but with cherry next time.

Ingredients Nutrition

  • 10 lbs fairly oily fish fillets, scaled,pin-bones pulled,and rinsed (salmon, tuna, or swordfish, or other oily fish)
  • 1 cup kosher salt or 1 cup uniodized table salt (kosher salt works best!)
  • 1 cup sugar or 1 cup brown sugar, packed,dissolved in
  • 1 quart warm water
  • 12 ounce coarse fresh ground black pepper
  • 3 -4 bay leaves, crushed or finely crumbled,not powdered
  • wood chips, of choice soaked in water overnight (alder, apple, cherry, maple, oak; NOT hickory or mesquite)


  1. Mix all brine ingredients thoroughly.
  2. Cut fish in 1-2" pieces, leaving skin on.
  3. If fish is fresh, soak for 1-1/2 hours; if it has been frozen, soak for 45-60 minutes.
  4. Remove fish from marinade and place on smoker-racks skin-side down.
  5. Allow to glaze at room temperature for at least 4 hours, and preferably overnight.
  6. I usually set a fan to blow across the fish and help them get dry to the touch and look very glazed.
  7. Cold-smoke (at 120-140 degrees F) for 8-12 hours to obtain desired flavor.
  8. Then hot smoke (at 180-200 degrees F) for 1-2 hours or finish in a 300 degree F oven for 30-45 minutes to get desired texture.
  9. I do not like a mushy fish, so I cook it until it firms up, though it's hard to tell, though, until after it has cooled down.
  10. Cool to room temperature, freeze on cookie sheets, package, and store in freezer.
  11. Best with stronger flavored, oily fish such as salmon, tuna, or swordfish; in general, mild fish smoke poorly.
  12. Notes: I use a Brinkmann Smok’n Pit water-smoker.
  13. The water helps to keep the temperature low, and the steam in the smoke keeps meat more moist during long cooking.
  14. My smoker is intended for charcoal smoking, but for fish, I place soaked wood chips in a metal (not foil, foil will burn through, use real metal) sitting on top of a cheap hot plate (with a rheostat control, not just an on-off switch), which sits on a brick so the pan is up under the bottom of the smoker, where the charcoal pan normally sets.
  15. Adjust temperature by adjusting hot plate up or down (usually somewhere between low and medium), and throw another handful of wet wood chips into the pie plate every 30-40 minutes, when the smoke stops generating.
  16. Depending on my mood, and what kind of wood chips are available, I usually smoke fish with alder, cherry, oak, maple, orange or lemon wood (on the rare occasion I can find orange or lemon) Alder and cherry are usually the easiest to find, and they both work beautifully for fish.
  17. Do not use hickory or mesquite; they are just too strong and completely overwhelm fish!
  18. I usually double or triple this recipe; I have rigged my double-size smoker to take up to 4 racks to handle the larger amounts.
  19. Since this whole process takes a lot of time, the little extra effort is worth while, and the smoked fish freezes well, lasting a couple years with only a little deterioration in flavor or texture.
  20. SAFETY NOTE: Needless to say, DO THIS OUTDOORS!
  21. Cabon monoxide KILLS!

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