You may believe that eating raw fish is safe. After all, individuals eat all-you-can-eat sushi regularly and live to tell the tale!

However, while many types of seafood are safe to eat raw, there are some risks.

After being caught, seafood must be handled with extreme caution because many fish and shellfish begin to quickly deteriorate and can become hosts to parasites and bacteria.

It is best to cook your seafood to an internal temperature of 145 ℉. However, many respectable chefs and cooking resources recommend cooking at lower temperatures for enhanced flavor.

Lower temperatures should be alright if the fish or shellfish were properly packed and stored.

Cold smoke vs. Hot smoke

Cold smoking and hot smoking are just words used to describe how close your fish is to the heat source. Cold smoking is used to flavor the seafood with smoke, but hot smoking gently cooks the ingredients while simultaneously infusing seasoning. Hot smoking happens when the smoker’s body temperature rises above 150°F, with an optimal body temperature of 200°-250°F. Cold smoking is usually done at temperatures below 100°F, and the food is smoked in a separate chamber away from the heat source to prevent it from cooking.

The tips below are all for hot smoking your seafood, the easiest and most successful way of smoking. Even though some of the ingredients have already been cooked to perfection by the wonderful people at Cameron’s Seafood, the smoking will replace the reheating processes. The end result will have a lovely robust flavor… So delicious!

What is the best way to smoke seafood in a smoker?

Seafood can be preserved in a variety of ways. Preserving and storing seafood has been practiced for thousands of years. It can be fermented, pickled, and smoked after being wet or dry-cured. This is useful if you make a successful catch on a fishing trip and have too much food to eat all at once. Smoking fish is a popular approach among home cooks. A smoker can hold a lot of fish. A Masterbuilt Electric Smoker is an excellent choice.

Choose fresh seafood

It is important to choose the freshest fish and shellfish for smoking. Actually, this is important for anyone who consumes seafood in general. Check if the eyes are clear and that there is no fishy odor. You can use whole gutted and scaled fish, fresh fillets with pin bones removed, or cleaned and deveined shellfish.

Is brining necessary?

For fish, wet or dry brine is frequently recommended. A wet brine is essentially a saltwater bath that is great for fish with thick flesh. A dry brine is frequently adequate. A dry brine, often known as a cure, is a mixture of salt, herbs, sugar, and spices that the fillets will soak in for at least 8 hours. This process extracts some moisture from the fish, making the meat harder and more suitable for smoking. You may detect a pool of liquid in the brining dish, which you can discard. A nice place to start is with dry brined and smoked redfish.

Shellfish do not need to be brined or cured. Before smoking, drizzle extra virgin olive oil, fresh herbs, seasonings and lemon, over lobster, shrimp and crab. As soon as it comes out of the sea, shellfish can be smoked or cooked. Shrimp skewers are fantastic since they can be topped with vegetables and require less than an hour to cook.

Smoking and serving tips

Because seafood is usually delicate in both flesh and flavor, it is best to use mild wood chips to avoid overpowering the fish. Alder is a gentle wood. It is recommended to cook fish at an internal temperature of 145°F fully. Sushi-quality fish, on the other hand, can be lightly smoked and eaten semi-raw. This is known as “kissing the fish with smoke for flavor.”

Smoked seafood can be served either warm or cold. Smoked salmon sliced with lemon and capers served atop toasted baguette pieces is one of my favorite dishes. It can also be used to make pates, dips, and fish cakes. Another common way to use smoked fish is to make chowder. Smoked salmon can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days or frozen for several months.

Smoking fish in a smoker

How to prepare fish

There are numerous ways to enjoy smoked fish, and the majority of these differences are determined by how you cook it. Because the skin crisps up and separates from the meat of the fish, whole fish produces a delightful smoked fish delicacy. On the other hand, fish fillets with skin on are our favorites since they are easy to consume and hold up nicely in the smoker’s heat.

Smoke fish

To start things rolling, preheat the smoker and add wood chips. Allow the wood chips to warm for about 45 minutes. Smoke the fish for about 3 hours at 175°F to 200°F.

Test the temperature

Whether your fish is obtained in the wild from a stream or purchased from the meat department, it is critical to smoke it until it reaches a safe internal temperature. When the internal temperature of most fish fillets hit 160°F, they are done. To be sure, use an instant-read digital thermometer to monitor the temperature during the cooking process.

Hot tip: If your fillets aren’t thick enough for the flesh probe to receive an accurate reading, plan on smoking them for 3 hours + 30 minutes for each pound of fish.

Seafood smoking time and temperatures

Whole fish

  • Servings: Plan on 3/4 to 1 pound of raw weight per person for whole fish and 8 – 10 oz for filets.
  • Total smoking time: 1 – 3 hours.
  • Per pound smoking time: 30 minutes.
  • Finished internal temperature: 145°F.

Whole salmon

Salmon loses moisture quickly, so keep an eye on it and don’t overcook it!

When it reaches 145°F and begins to flake, it is done. If you go any higher than that, it can quickly turn dry.

  • Smoker temperature: 225°F
  • Finished internal temperature: 145°F
  • Cooking time: 2–4 hours

Salmon filet

The length of time it takes to smoke varies greatly depending on the thickness of the cut.

And, once again, don’t overcook it, as it will dry up and be less enjoyable to eat than it might and should be.

  • Smoker Temperature: 220°F
  • 1 hour cook time
  • 145°F safe finished meat temperature
  • Finishing temperature recommended by the chef: 137-140°F

Notes: For cold smoked salmon, cook at 160°F. Salmon filet mignon, salmon on a stick, salmon candy, and maple glazed salmon, are all options.

Tilapia filets

Tilapia is a mild-flavored fish that takes well to smoking, but it will benefit from soaking in a flavored brine or marinade for a couple of hours before smoking.

  • Smoker Temperature: 220°F 
  • Cook time: 1 hour 
  • Safe finished meat temperature: 145°F 
  • Chef recommended finish temperature: 140°F 

Lobster tails

Smoked lobster tails are delicious…as long as you don’t overcook them!

If you take them above 145F finished internal temperature, they can get a bit ‘rubbery’ in texture, which is a sin! So keep an eye on your temperatures.

  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Safe Finished Meat Temperature: 145°F
  • Chef Recommended Finish Temperature: 135°F

Oysters

To smoke oysters, shuck them first, then smoke on one side of the shell.

Because oysters (or clams or mussels) are so small, taking their temperature is difficult. So you’ll have to rely on your eyes for this one. When the edges start to curl up, they’re ready.

If you want to try taking an internal temperature, 145F is the minimum to aim for.

  • Smoker Temperature: 225°F
  • Cooking Time: 30-40 minutes
  • Safe Finished Meat Temperature: 145°F
  • Chef Recommendation for Finishing Temperature: N/A 

Scallops

Smoked scallops are delicious, but they are easy to overcook and spoil. So, once again, please keep a close eye on your temperatures, aim for 145F, and do not exceed 150F for finished internal temperature.

  • Smoker Temperature: 225°F
  • Cooking Time: 45-60 minutes
  • Safe Finished Meat Temperature: 145°F
  • Chef’s recommended finishing temperature: 140°F

Shrimp

Shrimps are easy to overcook, and if you do, they dry out.

When the shells turn brilliant pink, the flesh turns white and opaque, and the internal temperature reaches 145F, your shrimps are done.

Keep an eye on the temperature since you don’t want to get too above 150°F, unless you want dry, chewy shrimp.

  • Cook Time: 20-30 minutes
  • Safe Finished Meat Temperature: 145°F
  • Chef Recommend Finish Temperature: N/A