Brining & Smoking Mackerel

So here’s a little project that you can do in your garden, and it’s proof that barbeques aren’t just for summer! I did this for the first time last summer at a camp site, after spending the day fishing. There’s no meal quite as satisfying as one that you’ve caught and prepared yourself, but this is a very close second: Brining and Smoking fish.

I used mackerel (6 fillets), but only smoked 3 at a time. (You can smoke just about any meat or fish.) You’ll also need 1 cup of salt, 1/2 cup of brown sugar and a litre of water for the brining process of brining the fish, and you’ll need a barbeque, some charcoal, and some smoking chips (I used Apple Chips) which you can get on the internet and at garden centres.

1/2 cup of salt mixed with 1/4 cup of brown sugar

1/2 cup of salt mixed with 1/4 cup of brown sugar

The purpose of brining the fish is to help draw out the moisture prior to smoking. It also conditions the fish so that the smoke is absorbed well. I brine mine in a little lunch box/cooler which has a closeable lid, but is water-tight. You could just use a bowl, to be honest, but if you’re brining outdoors a lid of some kind is advisable.

Empty into about 750ml of water & stir well
Empty into about 750ml of water & stir well

This is the easy part – you want to mix your water, salt and sugar together, stirring until (at least mostly) dissolved. The water should be cold. Then you simply submerge your fillets in the liquid and leave for an hour.

Add mackerel (or whatever fish) fillets
Add mackerel (or whatever fish) fillets

After that time, remove and pat dry with kitchen roll. You’ll see that the look and feel of the flesh of the fish has been changed slightly.

After an hour, remove from brine & pat dry
After an hour, remove from brine & pat dry

Next, start a barbeque, but with coals only on one side (or the edges if it is circular). You are going to want the fish to smoke without being directly over the heat of the fire. Once the coals are nice and hot, take about 2-3 handfuls of smoking chips and scatter them over the coals. Place your prepared fillets on a few layers of tin foil (if the foil is lightly oiled that will help the fish to not stick).

Prepare hot coals in 1/2 of your grill, when ready sprinkle wood chips over them to create smoke. fish should be on foil in the OTHER half of the grill
Prepare hot coals in 1/2 of your grill, when ready sprinkle wood chips over them to create smoke. fish should be on foil in the OTHER half of the grill

Pop the lid on, and open the vents so that the smoke is drawn over the fish. With my barbeque, which is the Weber Go-anywhere, I close the vent over the coals and open the one over the fish, and make sure the base vent is open. Keep an eye on it and make sure you’re getting lots of smoke coming out.

Cover, open vent above or nearest to fish, wait 15 mins
Cover, open vent above or nearest to fish, wait 15 mins

Fifteen minutes later, your fish is ready. I ate this immediately, when it was still hot, but took some home for dinner too (which my hubby made into a really amazing pasta dish). Please let me know if you have a go and how you get on!

Fish is ready when golden and cooked through
Fish is ready when golden and cooked through

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