Freshly caught fish is ideal for smoking. Smoked fish has a distinct flavor, enhanced by the type of wood chip used during the cooking process. Yet, it is possible to smoke fish with just charcoal, without using any wood chips. Smoking involves cooking with indirect, moist heat, in an enclosed environment. Smokers resemble barbeques, and come in a variety of styles, including electric and charcoal versions. Before smoking fish, get familiar with your particular smoker model, learning where to put necessary charcoal or woodchips, how to fill and insert the water tray and proper arrangement of the cooking racks.
Things You'll Need
Container or food bag
Clean the fresh fish, which includes removing scales, head, fins, tail and viscera. Rinse the body inside and out with running water. If it is a large fish, cut in half and remove the backbone.
Prepare 1 gallon of brine for every 4 pounds of fish. Make brine by adding 3 ½ cups of salt to a gallon of water. Add spices, if desired, such as bay leaves, garlic or pepper.
Submerge the fish in brine and place in the refrigerator in a container or large food bag. Allow enough room for the brine to surround the fish.
Remove the fish from the brine after 15 minutes if the fillet is about ½ inch thick. If the fillet is an inch thick, leave in for an additional 15 minutes. Keep the fish in the brine for one hour if the filet is 1 ½ inches thick.
Rinse the fish in cold water.
Arrange the fish, skin side down, on greased racks and set in a dry, cool location. Allow a skin-like membrane, called a pellicle, to form on the surface. The pellicle acts as a protective coating during the smoking and prevents the fish from becoming dry. It should take between two and three hours for the pellicle to form.
Start the smoker, according to the manufacturer's instructions. Place the fish in the smoker when the temperature is about 90 degrees, and leave for two hours.
Increase the temperature to 150 degrees and smoke for another four to eight hours. Thinner pieces might take four hours, while thick pieces can take up to eight hours. Store the smoked fish in the refrigerator.