How to Smoke Fish

Learn how to smoke fish from a fed-up corporate executive who left the rat race and built his own country smokehouse.

| July/August 1976

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    A smoker full of fish represents an investment of $500. Thus, a big load like this has got to have waiting buyers!
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    Figure 2: Large fish should be cut into slabs before brining.
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    After seven hours in the oven, your fillets will befit for a banquet: golden brown, flaky, barely moist.

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Can a fed-up corporate executive forfeit his pole position in the rat race, build a $500 smokehouse out in the country ... and rapidly begin earning more than $2,000 a month selling home-cured fish to bars and restaurants? Yep. Buck Taylor, a Florida man, has done just that ... and he insists that others (maybe you) can do it too! 

How to Dress Fish for Smoking

Once you've finished the construction of your smokehouse and gathered together the necessary supplies, you're ready to smoke your first batch of fish. Which really means that you're ready to clean and dress your first fish.

Start by making a brine. It's easy. Just pour eleven pounds of salt into the tank (bathtub) you installed in the smokehouse. Fill the tub half full of water and stir well to dissolve the salt. Then add ice as necessary to keep the temperature of the brine at or below 60° Fahrenheit (check the temperature from time to time).

You can add as many or as few spices to the brine as you like. Just remember, though, that the extra ingredients cost extra money. Those two or three dollars' worth of seasonings must be reflected in the final taste of your product if you expect your customers to pay a premium price for the added touch.

I keep my overhead down by using just two spices—oregano and dried mustard—in my brine, and I find them all I need to give my fish the palate-pleasing aftertaste that my customers want. If you're determined to experiment with something fancier, however, here's some optional—and I repeat, optional —spices and flavorings that some smokers add to their brine: allspice, bay leaf, brown sugar, dill, garlic, ginger, honey, lemon juice, maple flavoring, molasses, onion salt, seasoned pepper, soy sauce, Tabasco, and white pepper.

As soon as your brine is ready and waiting (and remember to add a little ice from time to time to keep the solution at 60° F or lower), you can begin to clean and trim your fish.


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