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How to Smoke Fish

Learn how to smoke fish with these simple steps.

You see it all the time, whether you are shopping the butcher block at the local grocery store or perusing a menu at a seafood or sushi restaurant: "smoked salmon" or some type of similarly prepared fish. There's a reason: the smoky flavor can add greatly to the appeal of a fish meal as it is prepared, especially for people who don't traditionally consider themselves seafood eaters. Just as with smoked ham or smoked turkey, smoking fish can bring a bit of extra flavor and zest to your most recent catch.

Check out another great recipe idea: Venison Tenderloin.

However, smoking a fish isn't generally as easy as grilling it or pan searing it. On the contrary, the process of smoking a fish takes time, patience, and a specialized arsenal of gear - among other things. If you are serious about becoming a master of smoking the fish you catch, follow the steps below to achieve greatness.

1. Buy a smoker: This probably goes without saying, but if not, here it is: if you are hoping to add an exotic, smoky taste to your fish, you are going to need to invest in a smoker or a smokehouse. These products essentially behave a lot like your grill - and might look like your grill too. If you are looking to buy a new smoker, you can find them in all manner of shapes, sizes, and types, from electric to charcoal and from grill-like designs to oven-like designs. Prices will also run a wide range, with some smokers going for only a couple hundred bucks and others costing a couple thousand. Read product specifications and review to make sure that you are picking a smoker that will perform the tasks you have in mind in the way you want them performed.

2. Clean the fish: As with any other process for preparing fish for eating, you will need to clean your catch before smoking it. Depending on the process you are using, remove the fins, head, and tail, then wash the fish in clean water. If you are smoking the entire fish, still gut it, but keep the body intact.

3. Prepare a salt water brine: A salt water brine is literally just water and salt. Use 2.5 tablespoons to every cup of water, and use one quart of water for every pound of fish you are preparing. Finally, soak the fish in the brine for 15 minutes for every half-inch of added thickness. So if your fish is an inch and a half thick, you need to brine it for 45 minutes.

4. Place fish in smoker: Remove the fish from the brine, rinse it with cold water, and then place it into the smoker. Just as you would if you were grilling, place the fish on the smoking rack with the skin side down. Follow the directions to your specific smoker.

5. Monitor the temperature: When smoking, you want to start off at a relatively low temperature - around 150 degrees - and then increase to 200 or more after two hours of smoking. Your fish will need to smoke for at least three hours, and most experts say that you should leave it in the smoker for an extra 30 minutes for every additional pound.

6. Serve: Once the smoking steps are completed, the fish should be flaky and cooked all the way to the center. Do the same things to check this as you would if you were grilling, whether you prefer cutting into the fish and eyeballing it or inserting a thermometer to get the internal temperature. Once the fish meets your standard of "cooked," it should be served and enjoyed or preserved in a vacuum pack.

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How to Smoke Fish