There are several methods for preserving seafood. The practice of preserving and storing seafood has been around for thousands of years. It can be wet or dry cured, fermented, pickled, and smoked. This comes in handy if you have had a successful catch on a fishing excursion and have too much to eat all at once. Smoking fish is often a preferred method for home cooks. You can fit a lot of seafood into a smoker. A Masterbuilt Electric Smoker is an ideal vehicle.
Choose Fresh Seafood
It is really important to select the freshest fish and shellfish for smoking. Actually, that is important for consuming seafood in general. Make sure the eyes are clear and there is no fishy odor. You can use whole fish that has been gutted and scaled, fresh fillets with pin bones removed, or shellfish that has been cleaned and deveined. If you decide to smoke a whole fish, try the whole smoked snapper recipe.
Is Brining Necessary?
A wet or dry brine is often recommended for fish. A wet brine is basically a salt water bath that is best for sturdy fleshed fish. More often, a dry brine is appropriate. A dry brine, or cure, combines, salt, sugar, herbs, and spices that the fillets will sit in for at least 8 hours. This method draws some of the moisture out of the fish making the flesh a bit firmer for smoking. You might notice a pool of liquid in the brining dish that can be discarded. Dry brined and smoked redfish is a good recipe to start with.
Shellfish doesn’t need to be cured or brined. Shrimp, lobster, and crab benefit from extra virgin olive oil, seasonings, fresh herbs, and lemon right before smoking. Shellfish can be smoked/cooked as soon as it comes out of the sea. Shrimp skewers are great because you can add vegetables and these take less than an hour to prepare.
Smoking and Serving Suggestions
Because much seafood is somewhat delicate in both flesh and flavors it is a good idea to choose mild wood chips so as not to overpower the fish. Alder is a mild wood. To fully cook fish, it is best at an internal temperature of 145°F. That said, sushi quality fish can be lightly smoked and eaten semi-raw. This is referred to as kissing the fish with smoke for flavor.
Smoked seafood can be served hot or cold. I enjoy smoked fish sliced with lemon and capers served atop toasted baguette slices. It can also be transformed into pates, dips, and fish cakes. Another popular way to prepare smoked seafood is to make it into a chowder. Smoked fish will keep in the refrigerator for a few days or it can be frozen for several months.