The purpose of smoked fish brine is to flavor the meat and keep it from becoming brittle. When making smoked trout, for example, it sits on trays for many hours on low heat and you need something to keep it from drying out. There are also complementary ingredients, depending on the kind of smoke that you use.
Aside from the smoking process, there are quality concerns as well, including parasite and aluminum contamination. We’re going to show you how to make a fish brine recipe, and prepare the perfect batch of smoked fish, no matter the size.
Smoked fish recipe
This smoked fish brine recipe is actually simple, but you can add to this base later. We use both soy sauce and brown sugar, and you can make a hot smoked salmon with hot sauce, tobacco sauce, red pepper powder, smoked paprika and more.
Other complementary spices might include garlic, ginger, onion and seasoning salt. You might also use red or white wine, beer, apple cider vinegar or fruit juice with citrus to tenderize the meat and add their respective flavors.
- 10 pounds fish fillet (trout or salmon)
- 8 cups water
- 2 cups soy sauce
- 2 cups brown sugar
- ½ cup pink Himalayan, Kosher or sea salt (non-iodized)
- 1 tbsp. garlic powder
- 1 tbsp. ginger powder
Combine all of the fish brine ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Place the fish fillets in sealable containers, submerging them thoroughly in the brine and refrigerate for 12 hours. We recommend this long timeframe because thicker cuts of meat will take longer to marinate.
Finally, place the fish fillets on trays to dry out for about an hour. You can blot out extra moisture with a paper towel to speed up the process as well.
Expert tips for smoked fish
Parasites are a top concern for any smoked fish recipe. One technique you can freeze the whole fish fillets for 24 hours or more to kill off the parasites.
Partial freezing also makes cutting the meat easier. While the trout or salmon fillets are defrosting in your refrigerator and are soft enough, take them out and slice them about ½” thick.
In terms of curing, you can also use an entire fillet and slice it later. Cover a baking sheet with a layer of foil and plastic wrap, then pour part of your brine into the bottom of the tray.
Lay your first fillet skin side down on the tray and cover it with brine. Repeat the process with the second fillet, pouring the rest of your brine on top of that, ensuring that each fillet is thoroughly coated in marinade.
This process is primarily to preserve the essential oils and natural juices of the fish meat. Tightly wrap the top of the meat with plastic wrap and foil, then cover the entire tray with an upside-down baking sheet before marinating it in your refrigerator.
Dry smoked salmon and other techniques
The smoking process is easy, and also offers some options. For example, you could dry rub your salmon with smoked paprika and use hickory, alder wood or mesquite chips for some unique flavors.
The process will change, depending on the kind of smoker you use, whether electric, propane, pellet or charcoal. For pellets, you can start at 100 degrees F for 2 hours, then increase the heat to 140 and 175 degrees for two hours each.
Another option is to use a dehydrator for jerky. The smoked paprika will help produce the authentic flavor of smoked salmon, while allowing you to make large batches of fish jerky in your home kitchen.
A dry food machine should provide temperature controls, and potentially an automatic timer. Place ¼”-thick, marinated fish fillets on the dehydrator trays and dry for 4 hours at 145 degrees. You can produce a dryer, fish jerky meat by dehydrating for 8-12 hours.
A non plastic dehydrator can cost a lot of money up front. You can find plastic models that don’t use BPA and are just as effective as the expensive, metal options.
A jerky dehydrator is cost-effective and allows you to make large batches of smoked fish at home!