How to Smoke King Fish

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Kingfish are a fatty fish that live off the coasts of Australia and the islands of the South Pacific. Their fat content makes them a prime candidate for smoking, as they will not dry out from the process. Smoking reduces the moisture content in the fish and slows the growth rate of bacteria, thereby increasing the shelf life. Smoking also adds a distinctive flavor that comes from the ingredients in the brine and the type of firewood used. There are two ways to smoke fish: cold smoking and kippering. Cold smoking requires maintaining a much lower temperature then kippering, usually between 80 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and it takes days to complete instead of hours. The best way to smoke kingfish is to kipper it.

Things You'll Need

  • For Brine (one lb. fish):
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/8 cup salt
  • 1/8 cup brown sugar
  • Pinch of each: mustard seed, cloves, bay leaves and allspice
  • 1 small garlic clove, diced
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • Glass mixing bowl
  • Towel
  • Drying rack
  • Large cardboard box, 30x48 inches
  • Knife
  • 2-2 1/2 ft. wooden dowels
  • Maple, oak or hickory firewood
  • Meat thermometer

Fillet the kingfish immediately after catching it. Kingfish have sharp teeth, so take heed during handling. You can freeze the fish for smoking later, or you can smoke it immediately. (See Resources 2, below, for how to fillet a kingfish.)

Brine the fish. Mix the water, salt, brown sugar, mustard seed, cloves, bay leaf, allspice , garlic and onions in a glass mixing bowl. Place the fish in the bowl, cover the bowl and allow the fish to soak overnight in the refrigerator. Remove the fish, rinse under cold running water for at least 10 minutes. Brine adds flavor to the fish and dries it out.

Lay the fish on a flat surface and soak up the moisture with a towel. Place the fish on a drying rack and allow it to dry for three hours in the refrigerator.

Construct the smokehouse by removing the bottom end of the cardboard box, making sure that the top end flaps face upward and are not tucked down. Designate one side the front of the smokehouse and completely cut the middle of the front out, from top to bottom, leaving three inches on each side for stability. On one of the sides, cut a door measuring 10 by 12 inches in the bottom center. You only need to make two cuts so that it the door will swing outward.

Poke the ends of the dowels through the side of the box near the top of the smokehouse to serve as a rack for the fish.

Build a small fire on the ground where the center of the smokehouse floor will be. Do not put the smokehouse over the fire yet. Keep the fire going strong until you have a nice small hot bed of embers that produces a lot of smoke. Center the smokehouse over the fire, lay the fish fillets across the dowels, making sure the fillets do not touch one another, and make sure the door flap and top flaps are closed.

Test the temperature of your fish. To properly smoke kingfish, the temperature should be around 180 degrees constantly for four to five hours.

Tips & Warnings

  • You can build your fire in a fire pit and, when the embers form and smoke is rising, place your smokehouse on top of the fire pit.
  • Keep smoked fish in the refrigerator to avoid contamination and illness, since not all microorganisms die during smoking.
  • Never use wood with pine pitch or other resins for smoking.
  • Monitor the fire closely, as cardboard is combustible.

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