Cold smoking of fish, the subtleties of preparing a delicious dish

During a pre-holiday shopping trip, one of the obligatory items is the purchase of smoked fish. It is always in demand, as it is loved for its taste, nutritional value, and most importantly, for its storehouse of useful elements. We must pay tribute that this product is a universal dish, because it can be used as a cold appetizer, as a side dish, and even as a main product.

Until recently, the wisdom of smoking fish yourself was known only to true amateurs, experienced cooks who have been smoking at home or in the country for a long time.

Today, information has become more accessible, as it is published on the Internet on various resources. Everyone will be able to discover all the nuances of cold smoking and assemble a suitable smokehouse for this with their own hands.

In this case, the procedure for preparing your favorite delicacy will become commonplace. It is possible to master this difficult craft if you understand what stages smoking consists of, what mistakes should not be made, and in what places in the execution of the algorithm you can improvise.

The principle of cold smoking of products

Wood smoke, which is formed during the smoldering of a material, contains substances that have preservative properties. Therefore, cold smoking, which involves long-term treatment of the product with smoke, is considered as a way to extend shelf life. If we add here that unforgettable taste and smell of smoke, which so increases appetite, then it will become clear why smoked fish has earned universal recognition and love.

An undeniable advantage of cold processing is that all the vitamins and microelements that fish is so rich in are preserved in their original form.

In this regard, we can talk about the benefits of the dish for the body; even doctors recognize this benefit. The disadvantage is the high labor intensity of the cooking process, because it is divided into several stages. Completing each one requires not only effort, but also time.

To prepare fish for smoking, it must be salted. Salt and smoke have an antiseptic effect. The fibers get rid of microorganisms, and the fish is not only stored for a long time, but also becomes suitable for consumption. All detailed smoking technology related to the establishment of process standards and conditions is regulated according to GOST. This means that in industrial production all rules are observed at the stages of cutting fish, salting it and directly smoking it.

Unfortunately, regulatory documents are not available to the common man, so he is interested in the opportunity to smoke fish himself at home. At the same time, you will have to consider such topics as suitable types of wood material and fish for smoking.

Preparing fish for hot smoking

The process of preparing fish with tender meat for hot smoking at home is slightly different in technology from cold smoking. The size of the harvested carcasses and its type directly depend on the smoking method.

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Nikolay Osipov

Smoker with 10 years of experience. Knows how to prepare the product and smoke it correctly. You can ask him a question by clicking on the button on the right

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It takes 4 days to hot smoke trout, eel and pike, while salmon takes about 3 weeks.

Herring is considered the fastest in terms of smoking, and if it is well salted, it will only take one day.

It is also very important before smoking, if any, to remove all caviar and milt from the fish. This is done so that the carcass cannot absorb the bitter taste from the insides.

What kind of fish should you smoke?

Even those who have no desire to try smoking fish themselves have probably noticed that each type has a personal taste, and the meat differs in elasticity, fat content and consistency. The question quite logically arises: “Is any fish smoked?”

In principle, cold smoking of fish is available with any type, but there are some preferences. The most delicious will be representatives of the underwater kingdom with elastic, fatty meat, such as butterfish, mackerel, the red fish family, and silver carp. But if you come across, for example, pike, whose meat is quite dry and fibrous, you shouldn’t give up smoking either. It will still be a delicacy.

To summarize, we can say that absolutely any fish can be smoked. The most important thing is when choosing carcasses, try to ensure that they are the same size. Another condition that is desirable to fulfill reflects the degree of freshness. The less time has passed since the catch, the better.

The principle of the smokehouse

We do not set ourselves the goal of providing all the technology for building a smokehouse yourself, because the dominant theme is the smoking process itself. But we also cannot help but touch on some key points.

The smoke temperature in the smokehouse during cold smoking should not exceed 27°C degrees. There is only one way to cool the smoke - make it travel a significant (2-3 meters) distance.

Factory devices are special cabinets into which smoke is injected. A portable analogue of such a device is called a smoke generator. It uses an electric heater to increase the temperature of the wood chips until they begin to smolder. Using a compressor, the resulting smoke is forced into a special chamber.

It is very convenient to use such a device, but not everyone can afford to buy it. In addition, a homemade smokehouse allows you to feel unity with nature, so not everyone will rush to buy a smoke generator, even if possible.

Set up a smokehouse in the ground. To do this, select a hillock so that the smoke rises, and a hole is dug in the lower part, which will serve as a firebox. The smoke channel is laid in the ground in the form of a small trench. A smoking box is installed on its opposite edge. The top of the trench is covered with improvised means that do not allow smoke to pass through. Such a smokehouse is considered temporary, because to build a permanent device it is necessary to ensure its resistance to climate change.

Preparing wood chips

The whole theory of preparing material for smoking is the result of many practical studies. This includes not only the choice of wood species, but also the method of processing it.

It turned out that chips chopped from hardwood are best suited. Sawdust is quite small, and there is little oxygen in it, and a phenomenon such as pyrolysis of toxic gases requires the presence of air.

In simple words, the use of sawdust is fraught with the release of heavy substances and carcinogens. The chips are cut into small pieces with edges ranging from 1 to 3 centimeters. Such a structure will smolder well, maintaining the desired temperature, and pre-soaking the wood chips in water will prevent it from igniting.

As for the type of wood, much depends on your own preference. But you cannot use coniferous trees, as they contain a lot of resins. For the same reason, it is not recommended to use birch chips, and any other wood must be freed from bark before sawing. You also need to pay attention to wormholes, fungi and knots. It is better not to take material with such “surprises”.

Cold smoked fish will have dark colors if the wood chips are wet. Dry material will give a golden color. The taste of the product depends on the material. Some types of wood require the addition of a flavoring agent. Apple, pear and cherry give an excellent “bouquet” of their own. Beech chips will have to be diluted at the end of smoking with juniper branches. The most popular material is considered to be alder chips, which give excellent results and are inexpensive.

Methods for salting fish

Any fish must be cut before you start salting or marinating. Although there are advice not to cut small fish, most often recipes begin with this step. The entrails are removed from the abdominal cavity along with the black film covering the inner walls. The scales or skin of the fish are not removed.

  • Firstly, it retains the juice inside during smoking.
  • Secondly, it serves as an obstacle to the penetration of harmful toxins from smoke into the fibers.

The gills are cut out without fail.

Small carcasses can be smoked whole. It is advisable to divide large fish in half along the spine. Alternatively, incisions may be made in the back. Thanks to them, the area of ​​interaction between the fibers and the marinade increases, and the fish can be cooked in a time-saving manner.

There are several step-by-step algorithms for salting fish. They may differ radically from each other, as well as in terms of some small details. We will present the three most popular ways to properly prepare fish before putting it in a smoking box.

  1. Simple salting involves rubbing the carcasses inside and out with a mixture of salt and pepper. You can include a little more onion in this composition. Then each carcass is placed in a common container, and pressed down with pressure on top. In this state, the fish is salted in the refrigerator for about 12 hours. After this procedure, it is necessary to remove excess salt from the carcasses. The easiest way to do this is by soaking it in water.
  2. Another recipe allows you to cook fish faster. You need to make a strong salt solution in which the fish is soaked for half an hour. The resulting brine can salt fish at any temperature. The situation is somewhat different with fatty species. After salting, they are wrapped in cling film and placed in the refrigerator for a day.
  3. Finally, marinating allows you not only to salt carcasses, but also to add the subtle taste of various spices. Fish smoked after marinating does not acquire extra calories, but is filled with a range of flavors. First, water, as the base of the marinade, is heated to boiling point. After this, salt, lemon juice and spices are added. One liter of water contains no more than 50 grams of salt. Lemon helps break down fibers, which allows the marinade to penetrate quickly. In addition, the specific sour taste suits fish smoked with cold smoke. Do not immediately pour hot marinade over the fish. In order not to disturb the structure of the fibers, it will first have to be cooled. Marinating will take no more than 9 hours, after which you can start drying without removing the salt.

Marinate fish for cold smoking

The cold cooking method does not require many ingredients, because the taste of the fish will already be quite rich. Usually fish is marinated by dry or wet salting.

Dry salting method

First of all, we prepare the product, clean it and wash it. Then put it in a bowl where you previously added salt. Sprinkle salt on top of the fish as well.

If you choose the cold method, then you will need more products, so the fish can be laid in layers - sprinkling the next layer with salt.

The bowl is covered with a lid, which should be slightly smaller in diameter, and pressure is placed on top. Leave the product to salt for 3-7 days. To ensure that the carcasses are salted evenly, they should be turned over periodically.

After the time has passed, place the fish in cold water for 5-6 hours to soak. Afterwards we dry it in a ventilated place for about 24 hours. Now you can start cold smoking.

Wet Ambassador

Salting generally occurs in a similar way, with the only difference being that the fish is filled with brine after placing it in a bowl.

The solution is prepared from salt, sugar, water and spices. That is, in 1 liter of water you need to mix 0.1 kg of salt, 10 grams of sugar and spices to taste. The temperature, which is quite important, should be below room temperature and not exceed +4 degrees.

If you add onion rings or garlic, hot peppers or, for example, juniper berries to a bowl of food, the pickling will be more spicy and aromatic.

We recommend: How to pickle catfish at home

There should be a lot of salt solution in the container, that is, so that the contents “drown” in it. After laying the oppression, the brine may begin to pour out - the excess must be removed.

In terms of time, such salting will last for 10 or even 30 days. Such long periods of time are due to the fact that mostly large carcasses are marinated in this way, and accordingly, it takes many times more time for them to be evenly salted.

When the salting of fish for smoking is finished, the carcasses should be washed thoroughly and taken out into the fresh air to dry. Please note that to protect the product from midges and dust, the pieces should be wrapped in a cloth or towel.

Mixed salting method

This method looks like this:

The carcasses are first rubbed with spices, salt and pepper and left to simmer in a bowl for some time. That is, as with the dry method.

After aging, pour brine into it, close it with a lid and put pressure on top.

There are no specific dates for salting, because everything will depend on what spices were chosen and what size of the carcass. It could be about 5 days, or it could be 4 weeks.

Self-cold smoking

The long shelf life of cold smoked fish under the right conditions (stored in the refrigerator, wrapped in parchment) is explained by the high content of antiseptic substances in the smoke.

When smoking yourself, special attention should be paid to constant temperature and continuity of the process. The first requirement is due to the fact that at low temperatures the humidity will be high and the fish will taste bitter. Regarding the second question, here the error is more fatal. If the process is interrupted in the first 8 hours, there is a possibility that a bacterial outbreak will develop, which will lead to rotting of the fish. The rest of the algorithm is quite simple.

It is necessary to build a fire in the firebox. You should not chase the strength of the flame, you just need to achieve a constant temperature. The fish in the smoking box will be ready when it takes on a golden color. Having assessed the degree of readiness, you should remove the fish from the smokehouse and let it air for 12 hours. After this, the dish is served on the table in any desired form.

Marinade for hot smoked fish

You can saturate the fish with a special aroma not only with the help of spices and seasonings, but also with light notes of grapefruit. This recipe is simple and easy to master. You can reduce or increase the amount of certain components, but only if you add weight to the finished carcasses. The calculation is based on 2 kg. cut fish.


  • grapefruit - 2 pcs.;
  • sugar - 1 table. spoon;
  • salt - 2 table. spoons;
  • cinnamon - 6 pcs.;
  • rosemary - 0.5 teaspoon;
  • chopped cilantro - 1 table. spoon;
  • bay leaf - 10 pcs.


  1. Pour water into a container, bring to a boil and add all the ingredients into it.
  2. Boil the marinade for 10 minutes, let it cool and brew for 2 hours under a closed lid.
  3. Place the fish evenly in the pan and add brine to smoke the fish.

The entire process of complete marinating is designed for 10 hours. After this, remove the fish, dry it and send it to the smokehouse.

By the way, here I tell you how to smoke capelin deliciously, don’t miss it! And about smoking crucian carp it is written in detail here.

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