Sunday 23 January 2011

hot smoked mackerel

As I browsed aimlessly through the shops yesterday, I noticed that the fishmonger was almost giving away bright, shiny mackerel at a mere A$2.50 per kilo! Outrageously cheap!

I snapped up two with the intention of bonding over the smoker with Jonas, whose loves mackerel as all good Swedes should.

My first ever experience with fresh mackerel was in June 2008 during our sailing adventure along the Swedish west coast. Jonas and his mum threw baitless hooks into the sea to test the line, then pulled it up with five fat fish already attached! We didn’t even need to fish after that!

This recipe was our first real attempt at smoking anything, part of my 2011 Food Challenges, and it was an absolute success. We now have four (oh Jonas!) three fillets of sweet, smoky, juicy fish to eat throughout the week.

If you’re thinking about smoking yourself, I highly recommend our compact Nipper Kipper smoker which is the perfect size and allow us to smoke food on our inner city apartment balcony. It’s very small and tidy, so doesn’t take up any space on our balcony, and yet each shelf is big enough for four fillets of fish. Frankly, I couldn’t be happier with it.

The Nipper Kipper is made from galvanised steel, cost us about A$50 and came with a burner, two internal shelves and some wood dust to start us off. We paid an extra A$14 for a stand to keep the hot elements off the balcony tiles. You can get a slightly more expensive version in stainless steel too.

Hot Smoked Mackerel

Recipe based on this and this. Makes 4 fillets.

1kg blue mackerel (about 2 fish)
50g (⅓ cup) brown sugar
50g (¼ cup) fine salt
1 litre water

Smoking dust
Metholated spirits


1. Wash the mackerel then fillet. Pull out the more obvious bones with tweezers but don’t worry too much because after they cook it’s easier to debone.

2. Prepare the brine mix by stirring the sugar, salt and water. You can also add other ingredients at this stage, like garlic or onion powder, pepper, bay leaves, spices etc. Mix until the sugar and salt are dissolved.

3. Lay the fillets skin side up in a ceramic dish then cover with brine and allow to rest in a cool place for 2 hours.

4. Remove the fillets and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Some people even go as far as to give them some time under a cold fan to make sure they’re extra dry as you want as little moisture in the smoker as possible.

5. Prepare your smoker as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Cook for 20 minutes. Things to note:
- We used 1 tablespoon each (so that’s 3 tablespoons in total) of Australian native woods, American hickory and a rum drenched dust. If you’re not sure, I’d stick to pure hickory and only use 1 tablespoon.
- Oil the grill racks to prevent sticking (we used cooking spray).
- Cook the fish skin side down on the racks.
- Don't try to pack the smoker with too many fillets or it will generate too much moisture which prevents proper cooking. Better to do them in batches if you want to make a lot.

6. Cool the fish, wrap tightly and refrigerate.

Storage: Lasts up to a week in fridge or a few months in the freezer (where I’m told the texture won’t change upon defrosting).

Note: Blue mackerel is also sold as "slimy mackerel".


  1. This looks really amazing; I love smoked fish!. Wondering if I should get that smoker - how often would you use it?

  2. I just joked to my husband yesterday that he should smoke some fish....but now i'm thinking maybe we should really smoke some fish! Not mackeral though, i tried it hard to convince me to try it again.

  3. You're such a good shopper Anna! I love finding bargains like this :) And smoking it is such a great way to undertake a challenge but also preserve. Win win! :D

  4. OohLookBel - we used it only once before (since we bought it 1yr ago) because we've been too scared. but now we feel like we could smoke anything so it's going to get a good workout.

    Muppy - home smoked fish (when it's done right) tastes a zillion times better than store bought. so don't give up on the mackerel too quickly.

    lorraine - thanx. it was such a bargain and the results tasted spectacular. now i'm thinking about smoked almonds....

  5. Hi Anna!
    Have u ever tried to smoke fish with tea? Would u like to try with some of our teas? Check our web:
    We could send u some samples. My grandma used to coat the mackeral in flour and then pan fry it in butter and dill and a pich of salt. Sooo yummy!

  6. Anna, I am grateful for your knowledge. I bought the stainless steel smoker on your recommendation (through Suzy) and have used it thrice in about one week :) Trout is great, salmon is divine, mackerel is next! Look forward to checking out the links in this post too.

    I have a real fondness for smoked chicken. My first try was overcooked. Second try is tomorrow :)

    Photos at

    @Lorraine: you can't preserve food with this oven because it really is an oven (very high temperatures). To preserve food you smoke it at about 100C for several hours. I don't know what equipment you use for that; maybe a Weber smoker (large and expensive, but probably flexible with temperature). [Apologies if you meant "preserve for a week".]

  7. This post is so interesting. I have never smoke fish before. Now looks like I might go look for a compact smoker like yours.

  8. gavin - how exciting! yes suzy asking me this question actually triggered me to remember to get cracking on my smoking, so i actually have you to thank for this post :) let me know how the smoked chicken goes, i am very keen to try it myself.

    quay - smoking fish is so easy and if you can find a small smoker they are fine on balconies. go for it!

  9. I've now overcooked chicken twice in the smoker oven, but on a happier note: whole rainbox trout is inexpensive and delicious!


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