Smoked Fish for Summer Meals

Smoked foods add great variety and interest to our cooking.

Smoked foods add great variety and interest to our cooking. It’s origins are very ancient, smoking being a process used centuries ago to preserve foods, especially fish, which was once a mainstay of many diets before meat became popular.

Smoking was used, along with salting and drying, to preserve foods during bountiful times for use when food sources were leaner in colder months and also for trade. Salted and smoked fish would last longer on sea voyages and could be traded for good prices. These days smoking is carried out for flavour and variety rather than for preservation.

The preservation qualities of smoking lie in the tarry substances which are deposited on the foods during smoking. Whether the wood used is beech, oak, hickory or manuka, it will impart its own unique flavour to the foods.

The substances occurring during smoking kill bacteria and form an impermeable layer on the surface of the food, sealing it off from air. This is particularly useful when the foods are high in fat such as salmon or bacon, as fat exposed to air turns rancid and rots.

The change in colour of the fish flesh from white to golden, or even darker, brown is caused by a chemical reaction from the smoke and certain proteins in the fish that come to the surface during salting and drip-drying (before the actual smoking). Colour can also be enhanced by the choice of seasoned rub used before smoking while the golden colour will vary with the variety of fish being smoked.

Cold smoking fish such as salmon is first done by using either a wet or dry brine for 4-6 hours and then smoking it over beech, manuka or other woods of choice for a further 4-6 hours at a temperature between 26-29 degrees Celsius. The New Zealand King Salmon, most commonly farmed, has a wonderfully rich flavour with a deep orange flesh that makes it visually delightful as well as smooth to eat.

Hot smoked fish (my favourite way to enjoy smoked fish) is brushed, soaked or massaged with a spicier salt and sugar brine than cold smoked salmon and then hot smoked at 70 degrees Celsius for 4-6 hours, which results in a product that is both smoked and cooked.

In different countries the temperature for hot smoking will vary, due to regional variations and fish varieties.

If you’re buying smoked fish, the varieties that are available smoked very much depend on your local fishmonger. Some, like my local supplier, go beyond the usual trevally or smoked salmon and venture towards mullet, blue warehou, roe, eel, alfonsino, blue cod, marlin, harpuka and mackerel or whatever comes to market that day. Check out your local fishmonger for a truly regional smoked fish.

Some boutique fish smoke houses like the Coromandel Smoking Company relish smoking locally caught fish and specialise in farming shellfish for smoking, ensuring that the seafood is processed at its optimum. They follow time-honoured smoking skills and use manuka wood in the smoke houses. See their work on

More mainstream companies, such as Regal Marlborough Salmon specialise in fine King Salmon products, in particular cold smoked salmon. Their products are available in most supermarkets nationwide.

Try some of these recipes this month – they’re just delicious. Avocados have been really good this summer so put them together with smoked fish as in Avocado And Smoked Fish Bake.

Lemon And Black Olive Smoked Fish Salad is the perfect supper for a summer night. Smoked fish and pasta go well together in dishes like Smoked Fish And Herb Pasta and Smoked Fish Lasagne.

If you want to be a little ahead, you can make the crisp pastry cases for Smoked Fish Tarts a day or more ahead of filling them. Lime and coconut give this Smoked Fish Kedgeree a tropical flavour. Smoked Fish Roulade  is the answer to a summer lunch – easy to make and they’ll impress the table!

Comments (3)

Please login to submit a comment.

Malcolm Knott | 13 March 2015

Test comment one - Aliquam mattis lacinia libero. Sed ac orci odio. Curabitur eget nulla ut justo interdum dictum vel eu nulla.

Malcolm Knott | 13 March 2015

Test comment two - Aliquam mattis lacinia libero. Sed ac orci odio. Curabitur eget nulla ut justo interdum dictum vel eu nulla.

Malcolm Knott | 19 March 2015

Test comment for article