Served hot off the grill (or stovetop), flavorful smoked bluefish can be ready in under an hour — no fancy smoker required.
My first time eating smoked mackerel is one of those Proustian memories: It was Father’s Day, and we were in Cornwall, England, for a family trip. The village we were staying in had one of those classic, large, white plastered buildings with a big smokestack, right on the water’s edge. My brother and I decided that buying our dad some smoked mackerel would be the perfect Father’s Day present — one that we would benefit from. I can remember that first bite so vividly. The mackerel was still warm from the smoker, and the oak smoke balanced perfectly with the briny oil of the fish, with the delicate flesh flaking apart and melting in my mouth. When people ask me about my love of smoked food, this memory looms large.
Smoking doesn’t always have to be a long, laborious process. There are many great, quick, and simple ways of producing smoked foods. Sometimes I’ll come home after a long day of work, grab a beer, get my Weber kettle grill going, put a handful of woodchips on the charcoal, and throw on some pork chops (or a steak) and 15 minutes later, I have delicious smoked meat for dinner. Seafood is another great option when you’re looking for a quick smoked meal.
I will never be able to replicate that first smoked mackerel, but that won’t stop me from trying. This recipe for smoked bluefish works equally well with mackerel, trout, or salmon. It’s perfect for stove-top smoking but also works beautifully on a kettle grill, on a grill table, or in a hot-smoke drum smoker.
Serves 2 to 4 people
- 2 large bluefish or mackerel, weighing about 2 pounds each, scaled, filleted, and pin bones removed
- ½ cup fine sea salt or kosher salt
- ¼ cup ground black pepper
- Lay the fish fillets out on your cutting board and sprinkle them with salt, about 2 tablespoons per fillet. Let rest for 15 to 25 minutes. Then wash the salt off the fillets under cold water and pat dry. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of ground pepper over each fillet, evenly coating them.
- Place the fish in the smoker, skin side down, and smoke at 175°F (135°C) for about 20 minutes, until the fish is just cooked through but still moist. (If you are smoking mackerel or trout, smoke for 10 minutes.)
- Serve right away or refrigerate. I love smoked fish when it is served cold with some bread and butter or mayo.