In the summertime, there is nothing better than a barbecue in the backyard on a mild summer day. Many people look forward to these days of burgers and hot dogs, but what if you could cook something more elegant for your guests? Fish provides a tasty alternative to the traditional foods that you cook outdoors. Smoking fish in an electric smoker gives it a unique flavor that will leave you craving more and more.

Before you dive right into using your new electric smoker, there are a few things you should know about how to smoke fish in an electric smoker. With these helpful tips in mind, you can create a delicious dish that will leave guests satisfied.

Smoking Fish in an Electric Smoker: Choosing Your Fish

Part of the fun of smoking fish in an electric smoker is heading out to your local grocery store to secure an excellent cut of fish to smoke. Alternatively, you might be more self-sufficient and head out to your favorite lake for a long afternoon of fishing. No matter how you get your seafood, choosing the right types makes a big difference in the overall success of your meal.

The truth is that you can use any fish that you have on hand. However, most people prefer the taste of fattier fish because it absorbs more flavor. This leads many people to choose salmon because it is readily available at most grocery stores. If salmon does not appeal to you, then you still have plenty of options including:

  • Butterfish
  • Carp
  • Sea bass
  • Herring
  • Tuna
  • Catfish
  • Sailfish

The fish itself can be done as simply as possible. Pan-dressed fish is all that is required. This means that the piece has been gutted and the head removed. If you feel like doing a bit more work, you can also do simple fillets of fish or pieces of boneless fish with the skin left on one side.

The benefit of smoking whole fish is that the skin becomes crispy and separates from the actual meat of the fish fillet underneath. Fillets with skin tend to be the more popular preference because they are a bit easier to eat. Both options are ideal for smoking fish in an electric smoker.

Smoked Fish Brine

Before you can dive right into smoking fish in an electric smoker, you need to learn how to create the best smoked fish brine. This can take some serious time, so be sure to prepare your fish the day before you plan to smoke it. It is ideal if you can whip up this solution at night and allow your fish to soak in it while you sleep. Then, in the morning, you are free to begin the process of making your fish for dinner that night.

Here are the ingredients that you will need for your smoked fish brine:

  • ½ cup of non-iodized salt
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • 1 quart of water

Combine all ingredients in a large dish until they have thoroughly dissolved in the water. Add the fish, making sure that all pieces are completely covered by the brine. Refrigerate them while you allow them to soak up this salty solution.

Thick pieces of fish will need to soak in the brine longer than thinner pieces. For fish pieces that are thicker than an inch, you should plan to let them chill in the brine for eight to twelve hours. Thinner pieces can move on to being soaked after just six to eight hours if you are in a hurry.

Once you finish with the smoke fish brine, you can remove the fillets and rinse them under cold water. Dry them off by patting them with clean paper towels and set them on a piece of wax paper to dry out for an hour or so. This gives them exactly what they need to be smoked.

What Temperature Do You Smoke Fish In An Electric Smoker?

Smoked Fish On A Plate

Part of the magic of smoking fish in an electric smoker is knowing exactly what temperature to use and how long to smoke the fish. The good news is that there are firm answers on the smoking fish temperature. Here is everything you need to know about selecting the right temperature for smoking fish in the electric smoker.

To begin, you need to maintain a relatively low cooking temperature. Most experienced professionals recommend selecting a temperature close to 150 degrees Fahrenheit when smoking fish in an electric smoker. This should last for the first hour or two because it gives the fish enough time to absorb the smoke flavor from your wood chips.

Once you give the fish enough time to soak up the smoke, you can raise the temperature of the electric fish smoker until the fish is finished. Bumping the smoker’s temperature up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit should be sufficient to help you finish the fish.

No matter what temperature you use, you need to ensure that your fish has reached an appropriate internal temperature. Make sure that it reads at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit on the thermometer before you pull it out of the smoker. If you have any hesitation about whether your fish is done, it is okay to leave it in the smoker for longer. This will simply give your fish more time to absorb the flavor of the wood chips.

Process for Smoking Fish in an Electric Smoker

Once you know how to brine the fish and what temperatures to use, it is time to learn the actual process of smoking fish in an electric smoker. Keep in mind that there is more than one way to enjoy smoked fish. While many people enjoy eating it plain, straight from the smoker, there are other creative uses for it. For example, many people enjoy making dips and other recipes with their smoked fish.

No matter how you intend to use the finished product, you should know the basic steps that must be followed to cook your fish sufficiently.

First, you must brine and prepare the fish as discussed earlier. Allowing it to completely air dry on a piece of wax paper is a must. While this process is relatively time-consuming, it cannot be skipped if you want a tasty morsel at the end of the process.

Next, you should choose the right wood chips. Most people prefer sweet and mild woods including alder wood, Applewood, or cherry. We will cover the specific flavor profiles in the next section. Insert the wood chips into the smoker and preheat them for about 45 minutes to get the flavor going.

Last, you should place the fish inside the smoker at a lower temperature for two hours. Boost the temperature for the last hour and then take the internal temperature of the fish. If it reads 165 to 175 degrees Fahrenheit, then you can pull it out and enjoy it!

Choosing the Right Wood Chips

Smoker Wood Chips For Smoking Fish

When it comes to smoking fish in an electric smoker, you need to choose the right wood chips to ensure proper flavoring. The different types of woods give your fish a variety of different flavor profiles. This is great for experimenting with what types of woods you want. You can smoke the same type of fish in multiple ways and come up with a different result each time.

If you aren’t sure what wood chips to use, here is a quick guide to all of the favorites.

Trager Grills Alder Hardwood Pellets 

Cooks who love seafood will want to go with alder wood for their first several batches. Typically used for smoking salmon, this still pairs beautifully with almost any type of fish. You can even use it with other types of meat like poultry and pork. The flavor profile of alder wood is usually light, with a sweet yet mild taste that naturally enhances seafood flavors.

This option from Trager Grills (from Amazon) is a high-quality bag of 100 percent natural hardwood without binding agents or fillers. It ensures a pure hardwood taste and beautiful blue smoke flavoring added to your food. They advertise its use on a wide variety of dishes including pork, chicken, fish, lamb, and even vegetables.

One of the main draws of these alder wood pellets is that they are sustainably sourced and manufactured right here in the United States. This twenty-pound bag should last you for quite a while, even if you are an avid smoked fish enthusiast.

Weber Wood Apple Chips

Weber Wood Cubic Meter Stephen Products 17138 Apple Chips

Much like alder wood, apple chips offer a light flavor profile for sweeter fish with a slightly fruity flavor. Many people enjoy Applewood with their seafood, but most know it for smoking bacon and ham products across the world. If you want a more complex flavor for your fish, try mixing alder wood and Applewood for a winning combination.

The Weber apple chips allow you to experiment with this particular type of wood chip without making a major commitment. It comes in just a two-pound bag for a few dollars. The chip size pieces are perfect for smaller smokers that may not be able to handle large bricks of wood.

Weber promises nothing more than a delicate hint of apple added to your fish fillet. Make sure to sample this offering for a sweeter smoked fish.

Western BBQ Smoking Wood Chips Variety Pack

Western BBQ Smoking Wood Chips Variety Pack Apple, Mesquite, Hickory, and Cherry Flavors

If you are struggling to decide what type of wood you want to use when smoking fish in an electric smoker, then you may want to try a variety pack. This option from Western BBQ gives you the best of four different worlds. It contains the light and fruity flavor of Applewood, along with mesquite, hickory, and cherry.

Mesquite

Mesquite is a very strong yet sweet flavor that is unlike any other wood you can smoke with. Most people prefer this type of smoking wood when making beef and pork dishes, but it can be equally delicious on seafood. It can be an overwhelming flavor though, so you will need to take a bit of caution while smoking fish with it.

Hickory

Hickory is a sweet flavor that really packs a punch. You probably recognize the hickory flavor behind an excellent sampling of bacon. It is a relatively strong flavor that can also overwhelm seafood, so you may consider mixing it with another type of wood until you have more experience working with it.

Cherry

Cherry is very similar to Applewood because it produces a sweet and mild flavor profile. Unlike the relatively sweet apple, cherry gives your fish a slightly tart flavor. It works best with meals that pair with fruit as a side dish, such as cranberry sauce. In addition to smoking fish, cherry wood is an excellent option for pork, poultry, beef, and venison.

With the Western BBQ variety pack, you can get all of these flavors and then some. There are 180 cubic inches of wood chips in each bag. You pay a reasonable price and they can be a great way for you to sample different flavors if you are just starting to smoke fish in an electric smoker.

The benefit of this selection is that they are small chips, ensuring that they can fit nicely inside of a small smoker. If you have a larger smoker and need larger sizes, then you may want to purchase chunks instead of wood chips.

Smoking Fish in an Electric Smoker Is Not Hard

Whether you want to enjoy a backyard party or just create a tasty meal for your family, smoking fish in an electric smoker is a great way to do so. All you have to do is prep the fish, prepare your smoker, and settle on the right type of wood chips. It takes quite a bit of time and patience to get the job done right. However, the result is a delicious meal that you can enjoy in a variety of creative ways. Start experimenting with your electric smoker today!

FAQ

How long does it take to smoke fish?

In an electric smoker, it takes approximately three hours of smoking.

How long do you have to brine fish before smoking?

It can take anywhere from six to twelve hours to brine fish before smoking, depending on the thickness of the fish.

What is the best type of fish to smoke?

Most people prefer fatty fishes like salmon or tuna because they absorb the smoky flavor better.

What temperature do you use to smoke fish?

For the first two hours, smoke them at 150 degrees Fahrenheit followed by one hour at 200 degrees Fahrenheit.