Baked, broiled, roasted, grilled, steamed and fried are great ways to prepare fresh seafood, but have you tried smoking it?
People of all cultures have enjoyed the taste of smoked fish since fire was discovered. Initially, fish was smoked to prevent spoilage and to provide food for the winter. Now we smoke seafood to enjoy the taste.
With the abundance of fish, oysters and shrimp and cooling temperatures, there’s not a better time to delve into the wonderful flavors that smoking seafood produces.
Fish takes on an earthy, salty flavor and a uniformly flaky texture when it’s smoked. There are a couple of approaches to smoking seafood: Cold or Hot.
Cold smoking requires temperatures below 80 degrees F/25 degrees C for several days. Hot smoking, however, can be done at temperatures of up to 250 degrees F/120 degrees C and only takes a few hours.
For simplicity’s sake, we’re only talking about hot smoking.
Hot smoking can be done in most any grill or smoker and is easier and quicker than cold smoking, which requires more specialized equipment and a lot more patience. What we get is equally smoky, but isn’t dried or preserved in the same way.
However, hot smoked fish has a shorter shelf life than cold smoked and needs to be refrigerated or frozen. It can last for months when properly frozen.
Any kind of fish can be smoked, but the oilier and fatter fish such as Salmon, Popeye Mullet, Mackerel and Trout are the best to smoke.
Don’t stop at smoking fish though. Shrimp and oysters are also perfect for smoking. Light smoking brings out the flavors of our plump, salty and delicious North Carolina oysters.
Once the smoking process has been completed, the seafood can be eaten as is or can be placed as an ingredient for other dishes or dips for added flavor and richer texture. Try taking the meat from a smoke trout and blend it together with cream cheese, garlic, salt and pepper for a lick-smacking spread for crackers.
To prepare shrimp or fish for smoking, place it in a saltwater brine for twenty to thirty minutes. A standard brine has salt, water and brown sugar. You can always add seasonings of your choice to enhance the flavor as well.
If you can maintain a low smoking temperature, below 150 degrees F/65 degrees C for the first hour or two, then the fish will have more time to absorb smoke flavor. Turn up the heat after 2 hours to around 200 degrees F/95 degrees C to finish it off. Make sure that the fish is heated all the way through to at least 165 degrees F/75 degrees C Remember when it comes to low temperature cooking it is always better to be safe than sorry.
Shrimp and oysters are quicker to smoke. You will know the shrimp is ready by its pink color and the oysters will open as the smoking process takes effect.