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The Art of Smoking Whole Fish

People sometimes think we’re a one trick pony here at Aussie BBQs and that all we do is grill at great heat or lovingly linger low n slow style on a juicy cut of beef.  Well prepare to check your prejudices at the door and broaden your horizons as introduce you to the fact that we have one of the premier selections of smokers in Australia!  We’ve got electric smokers, gas smokers, pellet smokers, water smokers and all the smoking accessories you will ever need.

Smoking flavours, cooks and preserves food by direct exposure to smoke.  Human have been smoking meat since Og and Ug hung meat up to dry in their caves up to 130,000 years ago.  Over the ages as modern transportation made it easier to mass transport food longer distances without it spoiling, smoking became more about the flavour and less about the preservation of the food.   In 1939 a device called the Torry Kiln was invented at the Torry Research Station in Scotland.  This set the standard for modern day commercial smoking at scale.

Now we could go on and on about smoking meat for as long as you want to stick around but you’re hooked because we promised to divulge the art of smoking fish so let’s dive in!

First of all let’s make an important distinction.  COLD SMOKING uses pickling with preservatives like salt as a precursor, and then sees the fish smoked away from the direct heat of the fire by way of a pipe from the fire to a separate box which transports what becomes low temperature smoke.

HOT SMOKING is an entirely different kettle of fish (lol), and is definitely a safer bet as a general crowd pleaser.  Though there are a serious amount of cold smoking fans out there, if you’re busting this out at a BBQ with Aunty Julie, cousin Eddie and other smoking novices you are more likely to win them over with a hot smoked fish dish.

So here’s the process for sure fire hot smoked whole fish delish in a kettle style BBQ!  The beautiful thing about this method is it will transform many pretty humdrum flavoured fish into a titillating taste!

  1. Place caught fish on ice and clean immediately.  Fish guts contain an enzyme that starts to decompose the fish as soon as it is dead.Make sure to remove all trace of blood.
  2. Cure the whole fish with a salt crust.  Would you believe sea salt is best!  It is obviously very expensive so bulk buy and store. Then leave in the fridge to cure until you are ready to cook it.  Make sure it is in an airtight container and will keep for weeks if necessary.
  3. An hour before cooking place four handfuls of hickory chips in a saucepan of water.
  4. Forty minutes before smoking light heat beads or similar, usually 20 per side, with three cubes of fire lighters under each group of heat beads to burn down at an even heat.
  5. Ten minutes before cooking remove fish from fridge and wash thoroughly in cold water.
  6. When fire is ready, place fish on the cooking frame off the fire. Do not place any fish directly over the fire area. The fish must be down the middle section of the frame and out to the edge of the fire area.
  7. Place drip tray in the bottom of the kettle.
  8. Add one good handful of soaked hickory chips to the top of each pile of coals, place cooking frame into kettle and cover. Top and bottom air vents are fully open.
  9. After 20 minutes, lift lid, remove the cooking frame and place another handful of soaked hickory chips on the fire on each side. Replace everything and leave until cooked which us usually around an hour depending on the size of the fish.
  10. Remove and allow to stand for five minutes before serving, or allow to cool and place in the fridge for serving cold later.

If you’d like to get deeper into the ancient art of smoking check out some of our smoking products here.