Smoked Fish

Recipe by Toby Jermain
READY IN: 24hrs
YIELD: 5-6 pounds


  • 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
  • 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)


  • Mix all brine ingredients thoroughly.
  • Cut fish in 1-2" pieces, leaving skin on.
  • If fish is fresh, soak for 1-1/2 hours; if it has been frozen, soak for 45-60 minutes.
  • Remove fish from marinade and place on smoker-racks skin-side down.
  • Allow to glaze at room temperature for at least 4 hours, and preferably overnight.
  • I usually set a fan to blow across the fish and help them get dry to the touch and look very glazed.
  • Cold-smoke (at 120-140 degrees F) for 8-12 hours to obtain desired flavor.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Cool to room temperature, freeze on cookie sheets, package, and store in freezer.
  • Best with stronger flavored, oily fish such as salmon, tuna, or swordfish; in general, mild fish smoke poorly.
  • Notes: I use a Brinkmann Smok’n Pit water-smoker.
  • The water helps to keep the temperature low, and the steam in the smoke keeps meat more moist during long cooking.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Do not use hickory or mesquite; they are just too strong and completely overwhelm fish!
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • SAFETY NOTE: Needless to say, DO THIS OUTDOORS!
  • Cabon monoxide KILLS!