Smoked Fish - Gourmet Guide

June 12, 2019 | By Dave Mattingly

Fish and other meats have been preserved for thousands of years by using a combination of salt and smoke in order to prevent fish from spoiling. Due to the advent of refrigeration and freezing, Smoked Fish is popular today more for flavor rather than preservation obtained by the smoking process.

While there are different methods to producing Smoked Fish, fish that is smoked is usually salted through the use of a brine or by coating the surface of the fish with a dry salt. Much of the moisture in the fish is removed during the curing process which helps prevent the growth of bacteria. The salt curing of the fish may last from hours to days. Some fish are cured for a second time to add additional flavors through the use of sugar, herbs, spices or even alcohol. Once the curing process is complete the fish is rinsed and allowed to dry. A shiny thin skin or coating, called pellicle, will form on the fish which allows the flavor of the smoke to sink into the skin. Pellicle also seals moisture into the fish and prevents fat from reaching the surface of the fish and causing spoilage.

Smoked Fish may be either hot-smoked or cold-smoked. The difference between these two processes is the temperature inside the smoking device. Cold-smoking temperatures typically range from 60 to 100 degrees often for a day or longer. This process will flavor the fish without cooking it, allowing the fish to remain tender and moist. Haddock, cod and lox, (a typed of smoked salmon) are popular cold-smoked fish. Hot-smoking temperatures may reach 180 degrees, and fish are smoked for a shorter period of time, which creates a firm and flaky fish. Trout, tuna and black cod are commonly hot-smoked.

Hard woods are preferred for preparing Smoked Fish, although soft wood may be added to add more color to fish. The wood smoke should come from a smoldering saw-dust fire, which will impart distinct woody flavors into the fish.

Types of Smoked Fish

  • Smoked Salmon is salmon which may be smoked in a variety of processes.
  • Lox is a salmon that is cured in a salty brine, while Nova refers to a mildly cured and smoked salmon.
  • Gravlax is salmon that is not hot smoked but rather dry-cured with dill, peppercorns, sugar and salt.
  • Smoked Trout is cured, cooked and smoked and may be sold whole or in fillets, or seasoned with such spices as peppercorns.
  • Smoked Sardines are usually tinned and packed in oil, often sold whole but can be found in fillets as well. Smoked Sardines may be seasoned with tomato, hot pepper, garlic other other savory spices.
  • Smoked Mackerel is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, known for supporting heart health. Mackerel is an ideal fish for smoking.
  • Smoked Herring, also called Kippers, are small oily fish that are salted or pickled and then cold-smoked.
Smoked Fish is available in innumerable styles, from lox to smoked salmon, gravlax to peppered trout. Delicious as a hors d'oeurve, smoked fish is commonly found throughout Russia, Scandinavia, and England. Find your perfect smoked fish here. To find the best gourmet foods and gift baskets online, begin your search at