How to make smoked fish

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Smoke ’em up

Where there’s smoke... there’s smoked fish! Head of the North Shore International Academy hospitality school Tim Aspinall shows you how to easy it is to have a bit of a smoke up at home.

Most of the popular fish caught around our shores can be smoked . Snapper, blue cod, kingfish, kahawai, trevally, tarakihi, john dory, hapuku are some great choices.

Tim Aspinall, NSIA (North Shore International Academy

Tim Aspinall, NSIA (North Shore International Academy

At home

There are lots of options for making smoked fish. You can smoke the whole fish or individual parts of the fish like the fillets, heads, wings or bones/frames and, at the right time of the year, the roe or eggs.

We’re using a stainless steel smoker, if you don’t have one of these you can use your hooded BBQ at home. Simply lay tin foil and wood chips on a roasting dish, put the fish on a tray above and away you go.

Smoked fish is best still warm, so what better way to cook it up than at home. Learn how to make delicious hot smoked fish with kahawai, snapper, terakihi and kingfish.

Beautiful smoked kahawai


In our example, we’re using a whole kahawai, but you can apply this 'whole smoked' method to other fish of similar size or simply put fillets, steaks or heads and frames on some tin foil on the smoking rack.

Smoked fish ingredients


Our smoked fish demonstration was filmed indoors under controlled conditions. DON’T use your stainless steel smoker indoors at home.

Step 1: Prepare the fish

Make sure the fish is gutted (stomach contents removed) and scaled. If you leave the head on take out the gills of the fish (snapper cheeks are the best!).

Take a sharp knife and slightly left of the backbone (up by the head) slice downwards towards the skin. The idea is to cut the flesh away from the backbone so you can open the fish up, lay it out and expose the flesh. Be careful not to cut through the skin, this will hold the fish together until it’s cooked.

prepared kahawai

Kahawai with heads off, gutted & scaled.

Step 2 Marinade / Cure the fish

Season the fish with salt and pepper. Add extra salt to taste up to approximately 15gms (you can mix this up with the brown sugar if you prefer).

Generously coat the flesh side of the fish with the brown sugar. Cover the flesh entirely and gently pat the brown sugar down, on to the fish. The brown sugar acts as a marinade and curing agent, it will draw out all the delicious juices and lock in the taste of the salt and pepper.

For best results cover the fish and leave in the fridge for two hours.

Smoked fish

Cure the fish ready for smoking.

Step 3: Prepare the smoker/BBQ

Place the fish and tray in the smoker/BBQ on top of the foil and wood chips. Put the lid on the smoker.

Light the burner and put the smoker on top.

Cooking time for a medium sized fish (like this one) is approximately 20 minutes. Check to see if it’s cooked before you remove it from the heat. You’re looking for the fish flesh to be pink/white and moist. Just cooked.

Extinguish the burner(s) once you’ve finished cooking.

Smoked fish

Get the fish & smoker ready then light the burner.

Dig in!

Once you’ve smoked a few fish you’ll learn the amount of heat you need to apply for the right amount of time.

Remember the fish will continue to cook for a few minutes after you take it off the heat - that is, if it hasn’t disappeared already!

Delicious smoked fish

Delicious smoked fish

More on smoked fish

Be adventurous and have a play with cooking with different marinades and parts of the fish. Just between us, the snapper cheeks are a really tasty morsel ;).


Fish pie -
Smoked Fish Dip -