How to Hot Smoke Fish

The legacy of smoking meats over low indirect heat owes a large portion of that to fish. Smoked fish has been a part of human diet and survival almost since the beginning of learning how to start and manage fire. You can imagine early man burning a few fish over its new discovery before learning how to smoke fish over indirect heat to avoid burning his catch into a charred, bitter mess. Smoking fish was also a method of preservation as early indigenous tribes figured out that they could preserve their catch by first brining it in salt and drying it over smoke with little heat (about room temperature). This method is more commonly known as “cold smoking” . For the purposes of this article though, we will only be discussing how to hot smoke.

As smoking meats has exploded in popularity recently with the pellet grilling boom, many wonder not only how to properly smoke fish, but also what are the best types of fish to smoke as well as which types of hardwood or wood pellets to use? In this article, we will answer these questions and more so you can begin to enjoy the delicious flavors that exude from this delicate meat after it has been smoked on your pellet grill.

The Best Types of Fish to Hot Smoke

As with all meats that are smoked, it is best to use fatty types of fish as the fat in the meat can absorb more smoke that leaner fish can.

The following are examples of fish that have the right amount of fat to render delicious smoke flavor:

  • Salmon
  • Trout
  • Chilean Sea Bass
  • Anchovies
  • Sardines
  • Whitefish

Choosing the Best Wood for Smoking Fish

When it comes to smoking a delicate meat like Fish, not all hardwood is created equal. Woods with strong aromas, such as Hickory, Pecan, or Mesquite might overpower the fish. If you are insistent on using these woods, it would be best to blend them with woods that have more neutral or lighter, fruity flavors like Apple, Maple, Oak, or Cherry. Of course, these lighter woods can also be used on their own.

The Best Louisiana Grills Wood Pellets for Smoking Fish

Our wood pellets are made from 100% hardwood with no artificial flavors or oils added. The following Louisiana Grills wood pellets are all an excellent choice for hot smoking fish. We recommend experimenting with a few of them and trying different pellets with different fish.

Competition Blend

Our Competition Blend Pellets combine Hickory, Maple, and Cherry hardwoods delivering the perfect balance of savory, sweet, and tart aromas flavors that really enhance the flavor of fish.

Pennsylvania Cherry

These cherry hardwood pellets deliver 100% natural tart flavors that infuse nicely in whitefish, trout, and Chilean sea bass.

New England Apple

The New England Apple pellets unleash a subtle yet sweet aroma that is delicate enough to handle fish.

How to Prepare Fish for Smoking on the Grill

Whether whole or in filets and steaks, you can smoke fish in any form. No matter which method you use, if you caught the fish yourself, be sure to clean, descale, and gut the fish properly.

The next thing we recommend, is to brine your fish in a mixture of salt and water for at least 15 minutes. You can also add in more seasonings to the brine if you prefer. Brining not only adds a little flavor to the fish but helps keep it moist during the smoking process.

Finally, you will want to brush the skin side with olive oil to prevent the skin from sticking to the grill grates and season side with the exposed meat if you are not smoking a whole fish. You can also smoke the fish on a cedar wood plank to impart more wood flavor and prevent the skin from sticking.

Recommended Temperature Range for Hot Smoking Fish

Since fish meat is so thin and delicate (compared to a brisket, for instance) ideal temperatures for hot smoking are around 160°F to 200°F. It is suggested to remove fish from the grill once the meat has started to flake and the albumin (white fat) is melting and oozing out.

How Long Does it Take to Smoke Fish?

Depending on the size of the fish and the cut, at 200°F it can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours to smoke fish.

Delicate Fish Need Precise Temperature Control

Louisiana Grills Wood Pellet Grills are designed to hold in heat longer, preventing wild temperature swings and reducing pellet consumption. Smoke fish at low temperatures for long periods of time rendering deliciously flaky and tender meat and enjoy that coveted wood flavor that has made Louisiana Grills a master in pellet grill manufacturing.

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