Brines are not just reserved for the family thanksgiving turkey these days, you can use brines for your smoked fish to amp up the meaty nature and enhance its tasty flavor. A smoked fish brine will help you keep the delicate meat of the fish from drying out while smoking.
How to start: Selecting the correct fish to brine?
Technically any fish can be brined before smoked, however, the fattier fish like a mackerel, trout, and sea bass tend to absorb more flavors than a leaner version. The fish with the higher fat content from their natural oils, I find tend to cook better in my smoker.
Steps for The Smoked Fish Brine:
1. Prepare the fish
Fish can be prepared in either into two cuts of either filet or left in the whole form. I suggest that the larger form works best while brining the fish, this way it won’t break down.
2. Make the Brine
In a large saucepan, mix the ingredients until completely combined over medium heat. Let the brine cool completely. You can mix up the seasonings in the brine to truly make this brine your own.
3. Let it Rest
So, brining isn’t a fast process. Allow the fish to soak in the brine for at least 6 hours, for the best results, I find it is best to brine in the fridge overnight. The basic premise is, the longer it sits the more flavor will soak into it. The fish tends to break down too much if you go over 12 hours.
4. Preheat your smoker
Set the smoker temperature at 150 degrees F. This will be the cooking temp for the first two hours of cooking time. Add your wood pellets or chips to the smoker box to allow them to warm up. The best chips for smoking fish are apple, cherry or alder wood. Increase the temp to 200 degrees F for the last hour of cooking.
5. The Smoke
If you read step 4, you have done the math and the fish will cook for a total of three hours. The fish needs to reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. I highly recommend using a digital meat thermometer.
- 4-5 pound fillets, skin on (descaled)
- 4 cups water
- 1 cup soy sauce
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup kosher salt
- 3/4 tablespoon granulated garlic
- In a large bowl mix the above ingredients, pour the mixture over the fillets and and make sure they are covered.
- Cover and and allow to brine for about 6 to 10 hours in the refrigerator.
- Remove the fillets from the brine mixture, pat dry with kitchen paper. Preheat your smoker.
- While the smoker is preheating, arrange the fish on racks and let dry for about an hour or so to allow a glaze to form on the surface of the fish.
- Smoke the fish until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.