As with all things around outdoor cooking, there are several different ways–and even a few different reasons–to smoke fish. And the number of techniques and recipes is simply overwhelming, sort of like choosing which Kardashian to take to a cook-out. Anyway, I digress.
While smoked fish is quite flavorful, it has another benefit in that it can extend storage time without refrigeration. In rural Alaska, for example, slow smoking is used to prepare fish for canning–with the canned fish then “put up” for the winter. Canning is often a late summer activity that is done with large quantities of salmon harvested with a fish wheel.
Closer to home, we are headed to northern Maine next week–to the rocky coast, where we are more likely to tie into mackerel than salmon (besides, fish wheels are hard to pack). We’ll be on a sea kayaking trip, so there won’t be room for a bulky smoker…but we thought we might be able to effectively turn our lightweight dutch oven fry-bake into a smoker.
We decided to test it out at home, and it ended up being pretty simple. All we had to do was put some mesquite flavoring chips into the bottom of the fry-bake and then cover the fry-bake with a tin foil “platform” for the fish.
We salted the filets (we used tilapia for our test run) and let them sit for 5-10 minutes, then rinsed off the salt, put the fish on the tin foil platform (with a few holes poked in it), covered it, and put the fry-bake in charcoal (a low fire will work, too). It didn’t take long for the chips to start pouring out thick white smoke. Ten billowing minutes later, we had some very tender smoked fish (and a concerned neighbor with a fire extinguisher).
For our Maine trip, we’ll just need to pack along a few mesquite chips, and then hope that the mackerel cooperate. Alternatively, maybe we can make a fish wheel out of a fry-bake?