It is a common misconception that smoking fish will ruin your smoker, but some people still swear that it does. Well, the reason that this may be happening or that your smoker is smelling really bad or taking on the smell of fish could be several things. As long as you smoke your meat products correctly, with proper techniques, and a strict regimen of maintenance and cleaning for your smoker regularly, then you should have no problem at all. Most of these are just basic rules to follow when smoking fish and how to properly clean the smoker if needed, which you should already know. But we will go back over them for you.
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Preparing the Smoker
If and when you decide to smoke fish in your smoker, you want to make sure you have the correct tools. Just like anything else, you smoke in a smoker; fish will lose moisture and fats while smoking. So, if you want to protect the smoker and racks from the smell cooked fish leaves, then use a medium and a drip pan. Place the fish on a metal pan or wrap the grill grates with aluminum foil. This will only protect the grates. The best thing to do is to place a pan under the fish while it is smoked. This will catch all the drippings from the fish. Fish will not have a whole lot of moisture in them, so there shouldn’t be a lot of drippings when smoked. Keep the smoker protected to start, and you should be good.
The same rules apply here as before, but also you want to make sure you are smoking fish the correct way. There is cold smoking, and there is hot smoking. Cold smoking is when fish are smoked at very low temperatures of 60 degrees. You need to brine cure your fish first and have to have a proper smoker for this process. Some even use smokehouses for this process. But cold smoking is very dangerous because bacteria can form at those temperatures when left out for long periods of time. So, our recommendation is don’t cold smoke, it is too risky. (FDA cold smoking document)
Note: If you do cold smoke you should use curing salt (aka Prague powder #1 or pink salt) because it contains sodium nitrite to kill bacteria. Link here to Amazon.com.
The more common way to smoke fish is hot smoking at temperatures of 200 degrees and higher. The smoking process also usually only takes an hour or two. If you follow the recipe or the general rule of thumb when smoking fish in a smoker, then you should have a great smoked fish.
Cleaning the Smoker
Some people never clean their smokers. This could be because they are lazy or because they say the smoker gets better, kind of like a cast-iron skillet that needs to be seasoned. If you have an old smoker that has never been cleaned, then you will have to roll up your sleeves for that job. But if you are looking to keep up with cleaning your smoker regularly, then it is pretty straightforward.
Always read your manual to make sure which parts of the smoker cannot get wet. If you have a pellet smoker, some areas cannot get wet ever for it to continue to work. Other smokers can get completely wet sometimes, though, too. Just know beforehand.
Make sure to clean the inside racks and cook box with warm soapy water and a soft scrub brush or a tougher one depending on the quality of your grates. Rinse the grates with hot water and allow to air dry then place the grill back together. If you want to clean the chimney, try and use a wire scrub brush or soft cloth to clean out the inside. Don’t use water as it won’t help, keep the tube dry, and scrape the edges.
It is best to get a nice burn on the smoker for about an hour after being scrubbed down, just to get a base. Some call this a re-seasoning of the smoker. So, allow the smoker to burn on high or at high temperatures for about 15 to minutes to get a nice burn and knock off any debris leftover from scrapping.
Remember to replace any foil on trays, drip pans, fireboxes, or anything that may need it to prevent flare-ups or fires. Wipe down the outside of the grill with a damp rag, or you could also wash with warm soapy water. Once it has dried, always look for any holes or chipping paint. You could always patch the holes or prevent rust before they get worse.
Click here for our article How to Clean Electric Smokers: A Complete Guide
So, the bottom line is, No, smoking fish will not ruin your smoker. if you want to keep your smoker from smelling like fish, then follow these three rules. Make sure to prep the smoker, use your smoker correctly and clean your smoker regularly.
As long as you are taking care of your smoker, it will take care of you!
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