After catching them with your fishing reel in the lake or river, you might want to try smoking catfish for your meal or to bring home to your family. Smoking the fish may take some time and patience, but it would be worth your while. It would bring some different – a unique addition – to your kitchen table.
Any catfish species – whether big or small, skinned or whole, can be smoked. Smoked catfish can be served in several ways like fillet, and the larger cats would have a lot of meat to offer. Catfish can smoke in several ways on the same grill.
But let’s keep it simple in this post. We are not chefs, but we can do the standard methods well and still served a great dish. We will discuss the most common methods and techniques on how to smoke catfish to help you prepare and serve a unique catfish dish after a nice fishing activity.
II. Smoking Catfish
1. The Art of Preserving a Catch
Preservation is one of the most fundamental elements when it comes to catching and cooking fish. It has been our custom to smoke fish to preserve them. Besides preservation, fish smoking also imparts a unique taste and flavour because of the smoking procedure.
There is an art to the salting, drying and smoking of fish. A fisherman’s catch that is well preserved will always be a good addition to the family’s meals. A well-preserved catch can be useful for a long period; it can go for many days to several weeks.
2. Smoking Your Catch
Smoking has been one of the oldest and most effective ways of preserving fish you don’t want to consume at the moment. The fish hangs and dries above the smouldering flames while the smoke infuses a unique flavour and aroma in it.
Aside from flavour and aroma, the wood’s smoke will also add some colour to the fish. The brining procedure is done before the smoking proper preserves the distinctive taste of the fish. Both smoking methods are used mainly for the purpose of adding that distinct smoked flavour to the fish.
3. Smoking Methods and Techniques
There are two methods used in smoking fish; cold-smoking and hot-smoking. Both methods require the brining of fish although the frequency of brining and smoking procedure differs from one to the other.
3.1 Hot Smoking
Also called kippering or barbequing, hot-smoking has shorter brining time. Fish is smoked at temperatures of 90°F in the first couple of hours, and the temperature is raised to 150°F for the following 4-8 hours.
Hot-smoking applies light salting and yields smoked fish that is moist and well cooked. After smoking, the hot-smoked fish is stored in the refrigerator for many days for the best results. Hot smoking is a method that is commonly used among anglers, campers and households who love smoke fish.
3.2 Cold Smoking
There are differences in opinion on the temperature ranges used in cold smoking, but they are not the high temperatures used in hot-smoking. The emphasis here is on flavouring the ingredient and fish with smoke. Cold-smoked fish are placed in unheated chambers where smoked is being pumped.
This fish smoking procedure is used for fish that are already cooked because the flavouring is the main purpose here (not cooking). The smoke will add a unique flavour to the cooked fish. The aroma, just like any smoked dish, would also be enticing.
We will discuss mostly hot smoking in this post, but you can check out this resource if you want to know more about cold smoking – Cold Smoking.
4. Getting Rid of Parasites
It is only natural for marine and freshwater organisms to contain parasites. Fish smoking kills these parasites by exposing the fish to temperatures of up to 140°F for a certain period. This is especially applicable to hot smoking.
5. The Smoking Process
Step 1. Bring fresh fish. Use only fish that is fresh or one that underwent freezing.
Step 2. Clean the fish – follow the standard procedure of removing the fins, tail and head. Get rid of damaged or bruised flesh.
Step 3. Wash it thoroughly with clean water.
Step 4. Prepare salt-water brine and mix it with 1 cup of water and 2 ½ tablespoons of table salt. You will need 1 quart of brine for every 1 lb. of fish.
Step 5. Put the fish in the brine at least a quarter of an hour for every ½-inch thickness of the fish.
Step 6. Prepare the smoker. Prepare enough charcoal or material for a three to four hour smoking of fish.
Step 7. Get the brined fish and rinse it with cold water.
Step 8. Set the fish with the skin side down over an oiled and smoking rack.
Step 9. Set the temperature to 150. The temperature should be low in the first couple of hours.
Step 10. Raise the temperature to 200 after two hours.
Step 11. Keep smoking until the fish becomes flaky and is thoroughly cooked.
Step 12. Store the smoked fish inside the refrigerator if you have no plans of eating it at the moment. Wrap it with foil if you’re going to store it for a few days. If you plan on eating it immediately, then it would be best to serve it while it is still hot and the flavour is still fresh.
5.1 Additional Fish Smoking Guidelines
Any species of fish, whether marine or freshwater can be good for smoking. Species that are rich in fatty oils like the catfish are recommended. Oil-rich fish absorb the aroma of smoke are smoother and more textured than leaner fish.
Watch this video if you want to see how other people smoke catfish:
Smoking catfish is an opportunity for you to try something new. If you have tried it before, then you know how delicious it can be, especially when mixed with special seasonings. The flavour, the smoke, and tender meat make the whole thing a special treat.
Again, there are two ways to go about it – hot smoking and cold smoking. Hot smoking is the most commonly used method. You’ll know a well-smoked fish because of its moist, heat, and delicious taste. After eating such a delicious treat, you can take off your fishing boots and rest for the day.
We hope you enjoyed this post. If you have any questions and comments, feel free to address them in the comments. Happy smoking!