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Dec 3, 2011 06:20 AM

Making Smoked Fish

NOTE : We've moved this discussion from the thread at -- THE CHOWHOUND TEAM)

Hot smoking cooks the fish. Cold smoking smokes cured fish at a low temperature.

Hot smoked fish is cooked fish but via a method that produces smoke. Think smoked barbecue, but not as much smoke. I generally use a stovetop smoker, and alder sawdust, to do this as you get a nice smokey flavor and the fish essentially poaches in its own juices. Delicious.

The majority of smoked salmon is cold or "low" smoked. This is the traditional method. The temperature stays below about 80 degrees. Any more and it cooks. It smokes for a long time so the fish needs to be cured before the smoking, usually with salt. So cold smoking does not cook the fish, it is cured and then smoked.

There are many resources for cold smoking on the web. Recipes and techniques vary by culture and chef. Its hard to do right without experience and frankly a proper smokehouse designed for cold smoking. Thats why I buy it instead of doing it myself.

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  1. Another method you might want to try is cedar planked. Soak the cedar in H20 for a few hours so it doesn't burn and put over a grill, just hot enough to get the wood smoking. Works real well with bluefish, or mackeral too. Smoked bluefish, I usually make into a pate, salmon, serve whole. Bluefish, cook through, salmon which I reregularly eat raw, I usually smoke to MR.

    Cold smoking is a more complex process which needs different equipment and I haven't attempted,

    Gravlax is the perfect dish to serve at a dinner ez to make; but everyone is so impressed. Never tried th JG version that CambridgeDr recommends.

    11 Replies
      1. re: 9lives

        I find the Blue Hill Bay brand in Costco to be VG.

        PS: The plank tastes better than the bluefish.

        1. re: ipsofatso

          I'll save you the plank next time..Little crunchy with a burnt flavor..:)

          Most of the people who've had the bluefish pate seem to enjoy it, or were polite enough to choke it down.

          1. re: 9lives

            9, from your photos on your member pg., it looks like you catch and eat alot of beautiful raw fish. does bluefish not taste good raw or ceviche? i wonder how it would be if treated like gravlax....Just curious. I've never seen it in a Boston sushi bar; you?
            Recently i've learned a little from the Sushi Island sushi chef about certain fish that taste better torched or cooked through rather than raw- in his opinion (or maybe it's the collective opinion of Japanese sushi chefs.)

            1. re: opinionatedchef

              OP, I don't care it raw, A ceviche with heavy lemon is very good. Blue fish is very oily and many people don't enjoy it. When I catch a blue, I slit behind the gills and let in bleed out. Flesh is cod haddock.Commercial guys cab'y affod that cause theyre dealin with more fish..
              Never tried a gravlax....interesting ifea..nest season.

          2. re: ipsofatso

            Couldn't disagree more. I LOVE bluefish both fresh, and smoked, and in pate.

            1. re: StriperGuy

              I agree completely StriperGuy. I've had the luxury of personally enjoying 9Lives' pate on more than occasion, and it's delicious. In fact, he once brought it to a Chowhound potluck at my house and it was a hit with everyone.

              1. re: Rubee

                Bluefish pate is good stuff. I've had the 9lives version in addition to the (oh the horror!) Legal Harborside version which B and I both liked.

                1. re: Rubee

                  It sure was a hit with me! In fact nine... I still need your recipe!

                  1. re: yumyum

                    Ditto on the recipe request 9lives!

                  2. re: Rubee

                    As you'd expect from a name like 9lives, the man knows from fish and his smoked bluefish pate is fantastic. There are posters that stand out for their uncommon knowledge, and especially regarding fish I consider 9lives (and StriperGuy, funny coincidence the names they've picked) to be top ranked, in fact many times I've printed out their posts for future reference.

            2. joe, hats off to you, per usual. thnx for taking the time to help everyone understand this curing/smoking thing.

              ( fwiw, i use my wok for tea smoked salmon, chicken, duck.)

              1 Reply
              1. re: opinionatedchef

                Thanks opinionatedchef,

                Wok smoking is a great way to hot smoke!

                I was lucky to be given a stovetop smoker ( link below) years ago by a foodie buddy. Basically its a hotel pan with an insert rack and a sliding lid. Works Great!


              2. thank you. I really appreciate the information and the time you took to provide it.

                1 Reply
                1. Cold smoking is actually quite easy to do yourself. I have buds who do it all the time. You just have to let the smoke out of your standard smoker cool a bit before directing it to the fish usually via some kind of chimney or cooling tube.

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: StriperGuy

                    I'd have to respectfully disagree.

                    1) You have to absolutely maintain the temperature below 80 degrees or you are cooking the fish

                    2) You have to make sure everything is meticulously clean because...

                    3) 80 degrees is right in the range where food born bacteria thrive.

                    4) Because of reasons 2 and 3 you need to make damn sure that your cure is right before you start cold smoking.

                    The method you describe will most likely result in cooked fish, albeit cooked at a low temperature.

                    1. re: aregularjoe

                      Uuuuuuh no. Not cooked fish.

                      I regularly cure fish myself, both salmon, and, my personal fav, fresh caught local mackerel from the winter run when they are fatty and delicious.

                      Of course you cure the salmon first and that part is typically done in the fridge for 1-3 days. At that point your fish is semi-preserved and a bit safer to handle.

                      Then, you put it into your jerry-rigged smoker where cool smoke (below 80 degrees) wafts over it. Duration of cold smoke depends on how smokey you like your fish.

                      It works, I've seen it, I've et it. It's cold smoked, it's good.

                      1. re: StriperGuy

                        Sounds like you've got all the bases covered... Bravo!

                        1. re: StriperGuy

                          StriperGuy- where are you getting your mackerel to smoke? Catching them, or buying them? I just discovered the smoked peppered mackerel at Shaw's; can't remember the brand right now, but I LOVE it!

                          1. re: rockdoc

                            I catch it, but I am sure if you get some really fresh from say New Deal here in Boston it would be great.

                            Problem with mackerel is that it does not travel well so it has to be super fresh.

                        2. re: aregularjoe

                          Just FYI, this is more or less the type of rig my buddies use, drier hosing and a "cooling box" works pretty darn well.

                        3. re: StriperGuy

                          as you can see; cold recommends freezing the fish prior to smoking to kill parasites. still, i sometimes eat the salmon from New Deal brined.


                          1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                            I think the parasites are kinda tasty, they also burn quite a few calories once established in your GI tract so you can eat more. ;-)

                            Seriously though, can't imagine any parasite could survive the brine and then the smoke, but I guess it's possible.

                              1. re: Science Chick

                                Yah between a 1-2 day salt cure and a cold smoke you are essentially getting the same effect or more.

                                1. re: StriperGuy

                                  And according to the UC/Davis folks, it's only the tapeworms you have to really worry about.......the other critters can't survive in our GI tracts......