Serves 4. To serve more or less than 4, figure on 2 teaspoons sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper per pound of fish.
Setting Up a Makeshift Smoker: Line a 10- or 11-inch cast-iron skillet or wok with aluminum foil. Tear a 1 1/2-inch round out of the center so that the wood or chile will lie directly on the bottom of the pan; the foil will prevent dripping fat from burning on the bottom of the pan. Line a heavy lid to fit the skillet or wok with aluminum foil, to make cleanup easier. Place a round wire cake rack with 1-inch-high feet in the skillet. If necessary, roll 5 pieces of foil into tight 1-inch balls and place them under the edges of the rack to elevate it.
At least 1 but no more than 3 hours before smoking, make the curing mixture: Combine the sugar, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Rub the mixture into the fish or shellfish. Place on a platter and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate if curing for more than an hour.
1. Blot the fish or shellfish dry with paper towels and brush lightly with the oil.
2. Set up your smoker, as directed. Heat over high heat for 5 minutes.
3. Add the chips, wood, or chile to the pan and place the metal rack in the skillet. Arrange the fish on the rack. When the wood or chile starts to smoke, after 2 to 3 minutes, cover the pan, placing a weight on the lid to seal it tight. Reduce the heat to medium, or so you just faintly smell smoke and see a little escaping from the pan. Cook the fish according to the guidelines below.
Approximate Cooking Times for Pan-Smoked Fish
Adjust the cooking times as necessary according to the thickness of the fish. If you are unsure, test it early, then continue smoking until done.
Fatty Fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and bluefish: Cook until a two-pronged fork inserted into the fish meets with no resistance, about 10 to 12 minutes.
Rare-Cooked Fish, such as tuna and swordfish: Smoke the fish for 4 minutes. Turn it over and smoke until it is opaque and golden on the outside and springy to the touch, 4 to 8 minutes, depending on the thickness; an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part should read 115°F.
Sea Scallops and Jumbo Shrimp: Cook until opaque throughout, 4 to 5 minutes.
Adam Rapoport, editor in chief of Bon Appetit magazine and the website www.bonappetit.com, knows his way around a grill. He has edited an entire book on the subject: The Grilling Book: The Definitive Guide from Bon Appetit.