Smoked fish is a multi-step, multi-day process, but it’s not difficult to do. All you do is brine the filet (like you would a turkey, but for shorter), let it dry in the refrigerator, then bake it at a low temperature with some smoldering wood chips. After you’ve smoked the fish, enjoy it any way you like, or go on to make my creamy Smoked Fish Dip.

By Chef Robynne Maii, Fête, Honolulu, Hawaii

Makes 1 to 2 pounds 

For the Brine

  • 1 quart / 900 g water

  • 2 ounces / 55 g kosher salt

  • 1 ounce / 25 g brown sugar

  • 2 teaspoons / 10 g liquid smoke 

For the Fish

  • 1 to 2 pounds salmon, tuna, swordfish or other thick, meaty fish filets (1” thick)

Special equipment: a few handfuls wood chips for smoking, sheet pan with cooling rack.


In a mixing bowl, combine the ingredients for the brine and stir until dissolved. Add the fish and brine in the refrigerator, 4 to 6 hours.

Rinse the brine off the fish and place the fish on wire rack over sheet pan. Let this rest in the refrigerator for 24 to 36 hours until the surface is dry and tacky; this is called the pellicle and it allows the smoked flavor to adhere to the fish.

To smoke, preheat the oven to 200F. Place the fish on a clean wire rack set on a sheet pan. 

Line a sheet pan with foil and place dry smoking chips on the foil. Place the pan over your stove burners set on medium high and heat until the chips start smoking. 

Place the sheet pan with the smoking chips on the oven floor and place the fish on the oven rack above the smoking chips. Close the oven and let it bake / smoke until the fish is fully cooked, flakes easily, and has absorbed the level of smoke you want. While smoking, check the chips every 20 minutes. If they’ve stopped smoldering, re-heat the chips to the smoking point on top of the stove as needed. Depending upon the thickness of the fish filets, smoking can take 2 to 4 hours. 

Serve right away, or cool and store in the refrigerator and eat within 3 days, or wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freeze.

Smoked Fish Dip

Yields: about 1 pint

  • 7 ounces smoked fish, flaked

  • 5 ounces cream cheese, softened

  • 4 ounces sour cream

  • 6 tablespoons mayonnaise

  • 1 tablespoon roasted garlic (about 3 cloves)

  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice 

Add the fish to a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Paddle until well-broken up. Add the remaining ingredients and paddle until -combined. Chill thoroughly and serve with sliced toasted bread or crackers