by Peter Jung •
The new stainless steel smoker from Wilson Fishing was my first foray into smoking fish and meats. There have been numerous cook-ups at the Fishing Monthly office over the years, involving smoked tailor, mackerel and sausages, but up until now I had never been responsible for the process from go to whoa. I was really looking forward to it.
The Wilson stainless steel fish smoker has a dual burner system and is a little more compact than any I have previously seen out there (height rather than capacity), and most importantly for me it had some basic instructions on the best way to use it.
The first thing that appealed to me was that it had an upper and lower grill. It meant that it had the capacity to hold enough food to comfortably feed my family of four, with a bit left over for me the next day.
Let’s get ready to smoke
Not a lot of assembly is required and any that is, is pretty self explanatory. You will need to buy some smoking sawdust, and in my case I brought wood chips and some fuel for the two burners.
It is then a matter of catching/buying what you are looking to smoke. Any fish can be smoked, but fish that have a higher oil content tend to be better to smoke. When it comes to saltwater species, good choices are tailor, mackerel, tommy ruff (Australian herring), snook and mullet. In the fresh, good options are trout, eel or salmon.
Other meats can certainly be smoked too, with great results. As previously mentioned, sausages are great, but I decided to try smoking some chicken breasts.
The preparation of the meats to be smoked was the first variable I came across. Some people say with fish you need to soak them in a wet brine (generally sugar, salt and water) for a period of time or ‘dry brine’ them with the same products before smoking. Others say, like other meats (chicken and so forth), a spiced rub is all that is needed prior to smoking.
I tried all three methods, and found with fish, a simple salt rub was best and with the chicken a salt rub with a little spice (little being important) added an additional flavour profile. There is a bit of trial and error with this side of it, but I think that is half the fun.
Once your meat or fish is prepared, the next step is to fill the fuel pans, place some sawdust or chips on the bottom of the smoke box and place the drip tray over it. Now you are ready to fire up the smoker.
Time to smoke
Once you have placed the grills with the items to be smoked in the smoker and put the lid on, it is just matter of lighting the fuel pans, placing them in the fuel pan tray and letting the smoking process happen. Remember that it will get very hot, so put it on a non-flammable surface. I would also suggest an outdoor area that is well ventilated.
Here are a few things that I have learnt as I have been testing the Wilson stainless steel smoker. A little bit of wood chip or sawdust goes a long way. It is very easy to use too much of either and have your smoked items take on too much smoke flavour.
I was very surprised at how quickly even a large chicken breast or piece of salmon cooked. I found that 8-10 minutes was more than enough time for them to cook through. I then extinguished the fuel pans and left them in the smoker for another 2-3 minutes. Doing this I found that both the salmon and the chicken didn’t dry out too much. I thinly sliced the chicken and we had it with salad, and I pulled the skin off the salmon and did the same.
Around 3-5 minutes with smaller items did the job, and that resting process also worked really well for them too.
Another tip if using fish fillets is to place them on the grills flesh side down. It reduces the cooking time and ensures a subtle smoky flavour.
Important to clean
It seems like an obvious thing, but it is important to clean the smoker after you use it. The drip tray and grills can be rinsed off and put through the dishwasher, while the rest just needs a good wipe down to ensure any oils, juices and smoking material is removed, otherwise you may be in for a nasty surprise next time you use it.
All up to you now
While doing this Testing Booth, I really enjoyed smoking the fish and meat, and experimenting with different flavours. As mentioned, salmon and chicken are great mixed into a salad, and the mullet I have smoked has been lovely on crackers. I’m looking forward to doing more of this in future.