How to Smoke Fish at Home
On our last visit to Pinney’s of Orford, we were lucky enough to see their famous smoking in action. It piqued our curiosity - can you smoke fish at home? Inspired by their unique technique, we set about finding out how we could recreate that smokey, woody flavour. Let us know if you try it!
Why do we smoke fish?
For thousands of years, smoking fish and other meats has been a way of preserving food. Initially used to see our ancestors through the leaner months when fresh produce was less readily available, it’s now a way of adding flavour and depth. Just as Richard Pinney passed his methods onto his son Bill, so generation after generation have passed on their techniques for smoking fish to the next. In Medieval Britain, many villages would have had a smokehouse, though the poorer households would have smoked their catch over a fire in their own home.
While smoking fish may have started out life as a necessity, by the 17th century it had become something of a luxury. And in many ways it’s remained a little luxury, albeit an affordable one. Whether it’s a slice of smoked salmon on a blini or a smudge of smoked mackerel pâté on crusty bread, smoked fish can elevate a meal to something more than everyday.
So where do you start?
One technique that can be easily attempted at home is hot smoking. You’ll need to cure the fish first, which can be as simple as covering it in coarse sea salt and brown sugar, but you could experiment with pepper, spices, herbs, or citrus fruit zest. The world’s your oyster! Cover and leave in the fridge overnight for the best results.
The choice of fish is also something you can experiment with, though salmon and trout are ideal for smoking as they’re fattier so absorb more of the flavour. And which type of wood? While Pinney’s of Orford smoke their fish over whole oak logs, you might find something a little smaller is easier to fit in your pot! Smoking wood chips are widely available, and again you can experiment - oak, apple and beech all have delicious results.
While a smoker will make life easier, any lidded container will do. Again, recipes vary, so we’d recommend following one that works for your container. But as you’ve seen, within the recipe there will be plenty of space for experimentation, from the type of fish to the cure to the wood chips. Once you’ve got your equipment in place, you can play around with flavours to find the tastiest combinations.
With so many different ways of smoking fish, this introduction to the process should give you plenty of food for thought. Have you tried smoking fish? Let us know if you’ve found a favourite recipe!
by Dan Smith, Barbury Hill Founder
Dan founded Barbury Hill and he is the man behind our mission to shine a light on the best of British food and drink. He loves wine, cider and small batch cheese. And every producer on Barbury Hill.