Smoked fish - History & methods


The history of fish smoking

Smoking has long been practiced as a method of curing and preserving fish and meat to provide sustenance over the winter. It also allowed fish to be transported long distances from the port where it was landed for the purposes of trade.

With the growth of a transport infrastructure in Britain in the 19th Century it became possible to move large quantities of fresh fish from one place to another. As a result, the need to preserve fish by smoking declined.

Smoked fish became less common but the practice of smoking lived on as a tradition. While smoking is still used for preservation in many developing countries, in the developed world it is more commonly used to alter the flavour and texture of fresh fish.

In Scotland, the smoking tradition is as old as the fishing industry itself. Today, Scotland's proud smoking families keep the tradition alive, producing world-famous smoked fish such as Arbroath Smokies, Finnan Haddock and Scottish smoked salmon.

Hot and cold smoking

There are two ways of smoking a fish which produce vastly different results. Hot smoking, as the name suggests, is done over dense smoke from slowly smoldering sawdust or wood chips, usually around 100°C, and is effectively a way of cooking fish. The smoke from the fire imparts a delicious smoky flavour, and the fish can be eaten straight away or kept for about a week or so. Hot smoking does not really have any preservation benefits as the fish is smoked quickly and retains a lot of moisture.

Cold smoking, on the other hand, is a longer, slower process, where the fish is smoked at around 25-30°C, and therefore does not cook. This method gives the fish a wonderfully rich, smoky flavour, and the fish would usually be cooked before consumption (except in the case of Smoked Salmon).