Smoking fish used to be the only way folks could enjoy their catch a day or two after hauling it in. But now days, it’s just another way to enjoy one of our favorite foods. If you’re interested in learning about fish smoking, read on. If you think it will involve rolling papers, seek another type of blog.
Rule one of fish smoking is that it matters what kind of fish you smoke. If you’re in a survival situation and you are preserving fish for long-term use, don’t feel so picky. But if you’re just looking for a tasty meal, stick to fish with lots of fat and oil. It will keep them from drying out during smoking.
Also, a quick word on how you smoke a fish. You’ve probably had someone say “we’re having smoked salmon” before and then been surprised to see that you were surprised by what was served. You probably got some cold-smoked salmon.
While hot-smoking a fish on a grill is cooked, cold-smoked fish is merely preserved. There’s not much heat getting to it, and in a perfect world it stays cold. But even cold smoke kills surface bacteria and helps to create a protective barrier for the fish.
But most at-home chefs stick to hot smoking. Here’s an easy method to try.
Get a couple of small to medium sized rainbow trout. Clean them and butterfly them so they lie skin down with the meat opened toward the sky. Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper, but don’t over do it. Smoke will provide most of the flavor in this application.
Put the fish on the rack that hangs inside your grill. They won’t need to be close to the flame. They just need to have plenty of room around them for the smoke to circulate.
Build 6 or 7 little wood chip boats out of aluminum foil and fill them each with hardwood chips that have soaked over night in water. Play around with the wood you have available in your area. For trout, I like applewood. But mesquite and hickory are good choices, too.
Turn the heat up until it’s hot enough to get the chips smoking. If one packet burns all the way up, replace it with a fresh one. Repeat until your fish is done.
There are other methods, but this one is easy and tasty. One easy upgrade is to add a glaze for your fish. We can save that for another day.