Once you've tasted smoked bonita, you'll be hooked as surely as the fish on your plate. Smoking this delicious saltwater game fish is a two step process that involves about six hours of curing in a brine, followed by a long smoke over aromatic wood. Experimentation and patience, both with brine solutions and different types of wood, are the keys to producing flavorful smoked bonita.
Things You'll Need
- Bonita filets
- Hardwood chunks
- Coarse sea salt
- Ground cane sugar
- Meat thermometer
- Olive oil
- Silicon basting brush
Prepare a brine of 1 quart water, 1 cup coarse sea salt and 1/2 cup cane sugar. Add seasonings to taste, such as dried dill weed. Avoid any type of acid such as lemon juice or oil and vinegar marinades, as these can chemically cook the bonita before you have a chance to get it in the smoker. The acid breaks down the flesh of the fish, destroying the texture and eliminating much of the flavor. Add lemon juice only when you are ready to eat the smoked fish.
Submerge the bonita fillets in the brine solution and place in the refrigerator for six hours.
Load the firebox of your smoker with hardwood chunks. Apple, cherry and maple produce a mellow smoke that complements the natural flavor of bonita, although you can use almost any wood suitable for a smoker.
Get the fire going and wait for the coals to burn white.
Place a metal bowl filled with water on the grate above or next to the firebox, depending on your smoker. The water adds humidity to the smoke and prevents the fish from drying out. You will smoke the fish at temperatures well below the boiling point of water (212 degrees F), so don't worry about evaporation.
Baste the wire smoker racks with a light coat of olive oil, using the silicon basting brush. This will prevent the fish from sticking.
Remove the bonita fillets from the brine and arrange on the wire smoker racks. Leave space around each piece of fish for the smoke to circulate.
Adjust the top and bottom smoker vents to control the fire and hold the temperature at about 200 degrees F.
Close the smoker and let the bonita smoke for approximately 15 minutes per pound of fish.
Remove the smoked fish from the grill when the fillets reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
Tips & Warnings
- Experiment with different brine solutions to bring out different flavors. For example, a South Pacific-style brine can be made with soy sauce, coarse sea salt, freshly ground ginger and hot peppers.
- Use two to three different types of hardwood to create unique smoke aromas and flavors.
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