Bass is an interesting fish category. It is a species that acclimates to both fresh water and saltwater. I have fished for river bass, seacoast bass, and lake bass. I have eaten all varieties of bass. They all taste a little different to me with sea bass being the most buttery and firmer in flesh. For this recipe I am concentrating on Striped Bass smoked in a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker.
Unlike salmon that also navigates through both fresh and salt waters, stripers will spawn many times in their long life spans. Hence, some stripers are much older than others and the meat density may vary. The flesh is generally flaky, but a little less so than cod. It can be brined or cured before smoking, just as you might with Cured Smoked Salmon. In this recipe we will use a wet brine as the cure. This helps the less oily fish to remain moist during the smoking process.
One of the keys to perfectly smoked fish is to do it low and slow so that it doesn’t dry out or become stringy.
This recipe is for 2 pounds of striped bass fillets. Increase the recipe for more fish. Have your fish monger, or yourself, scale and fillet the fish, leaving the skin on. Make sure the red line of meat is removed as this is bitter. Cut the fillets into 8 equal portions.
- 2 Pounds of fresh striped bass fillets, scaled and cleaned
- 1/3 Cup of kosher salt
- 1/4 Cup brown sugar
- 4 Cups filtered water
- 1/2 Cup dry white wine
- 1 TBS cracked black pepper
- 2 Dried bay leaves
- 2 Slices of fresh lemon
- Extra Virgin Olive oil (spray works well) EVOO
Total time:2 hour 45 min – Prep time:45 min – Smoke time:2 hour – Serves:6 people
1. Prepare the fish fillets as described above. In a large pot over high heat, place the water, salt, and sugar. Bring this to a low boil until the dry ingredients melt. Turn off the heat and set aside to thoroughly cool to room temperature.
2. Place the cooled brine into a clean, preferably non-metal, container with a lid. Stir in the pepper, bay leaves, and white wine. Add the lemon slices. Place the fish portions inside the container of brine. Add more water to cover if needed. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 4 to 8 hours or overnight.
3. Place a layer of paper towels or newspaper on your kitchen counter. Place the smoker racks on top of the paper and coat or spray with EVOO. Remove the fish from the brine and gently rinse it off under cool running water. Pat the fillets dry with paper towels and place on the smoker racks. Allow the fish to air dry and come to room temperature for approximately 30 to 45 minutes.
4. While the fish is resting, preheat your smoker to around 180°F. Add wood chips of your choice – alder wood is nice and mild. Fill the water bowl 1/2 way with plain tap water or a combination of water and white wine.
5. Place the racks in the preheated smoker. Crack the vent on top. Smoke the fish for anywhere from 2 to 4 hours, depending on fillet thickness. Keep an eye on the fish and check the internal temperature at 1-1/2 hours. You want the fish to be between 145°F and 160°F. Refill the wood chip tray and water bowl approximately every 60 minutes. When you don’t see any smoke coming through the vent that is a clue that the smoker needs tending to.
6. Remove the racks of fish and allow to rest before serving. This is great served warm. Or, allow to cool thoroughly and seal in air-tight plastic bags for later use.
Ways to Serve Smoked Striped Bass
Smoking fish is an excellent way to preserve it, especially if you had a big catch. I like to serve smoked fish sliced with lemon and capers alongside a basket of crunchy grilled crostini that has been rubbed with a little garlic. It is also excellent when processed into a fish pâté to spread on crackers or toasted baguette slices.
Toss smoked fish pieces into a salad with greens and pickled vegetables. Or, make a batch of fried fish cakes using your leftover smoked bass.
If you are feeling adventurous, I suggest trying your hand at smoked fish chowder. Striped bass is not a very aggressively flavored fish, even when smoked. It works well in soups and casseroles. A thick, creamy, smoked fish stew or chowder is a perfect vehicle for striped bass. The addition of clams and hardy vegetables makes it a perfect one pot meal. Serve with some crusty bread and an amber beer or Sauvignon Blanc.