Hot smoked reef fish fillet
  |  First Published: June 2014

It is often said that hot smoking may be man’s oldest method of flavouring meat and fish. Not so vintage but time proven nonetheless, I’ve been using a smoke oven for the best part of 20 years.

The following process is the simplest and easiest way to smoke fish. Hot-smoking as discussed here is a cooking process, not a preserving process. I use a Togar Oven in the following steps.

Oily fish (such as salmon, tailor and mullet) can be smoked without any initial preparation, just put them in the hot smoker oven and start smoking. However non-oily fish are typically brined then dried before they are smoked.



Take a skinned fillet of reef fish and just cover it with water in a plastic container. Add 2 tablespoons of salt plus a tablespoon of sugar. Let the fish brine in this solution for a couple of hours. Then take the fish fillets out of the brine and pat them dry.

As an option, rub the fish with your choice of either flavoured oil or herbs, spices, citrus rind or garlic prior to smoking.


To set up the oven, place a dish of about 100ml of methylated spirits into the windbreak ring. Then light with a match. A 100ml of methylated spirits will give you about 10 minutes of cooking time (perfect for an average fillet size).


Place the lower half of the oven and its inner liner onto the windbreak ring. Then sprinkle at least a heaped-tablespoon of food grade sawdust over the liner. This amount will give you a subtle smoked flavour – two tablespoons will give a richer taste.

You can add a favourite herb, spice or tea to the smoke to tweak the taste – popular options include rosemary or star anise or even paprika.


Drop in the grid and place the brined fish on top.


Seal the oven up with its lid. Now let the oven cook and smoke the fish until all the metho is burned up and the flame goes out. The heat generated from below the oven will cause the sawdust to smoulder and this smoke wafts around the fish to flavour it. Meanwhile the heat will slowly cook the fish.

For subsequent fillets of about the same size you can adjust the cooking time that best suits the thickness and quantity of fish. Take care to not overcook the fillets.


Remove the fish from the smoker, then serve.


I complement the smoked fish with thin onion slices, capers and crusty bread.

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