Author Topic: smelt  (Read 3103 times)

Offline cobra6223

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smelt
« on: January 14, 2015, 05:17:21 pm »
never seen or heard  of anybody trying to smoke smelt or if you have please let me know what you did and how they turned out. my questions are: 1) I smoke frog legs and have a brine recipe for them and usually soak them for 2 hours so I was wondering if I could use the same brine but only soak them for an hour or would I need to refigure the salt content or even soak them less than an hour? 2) they wont take long to cook any suggestions about smoking them as I was thinking about an hour of smoke but that may be to long to cook them even at like 120* and with the temp swings it really could make them more like jerky so with that in mind could I cook them and then cold use cold smoke for that hour? As always thanks for all your help an advice in advance.
Tim

Offline pmmpete

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Re: smelt
« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2015, 09:34:00 pm »
How big are the smelt which you want to smoke?  I smoke a lot of small kokanee in the 7"-9" range, which are about the size of many smelt.  Or are you talking about minnow-sized smelt?

To produce safe smoked fish, you should shoot to bring the internal temperature of the fish to 145 degrees for half an hour.  See my posting at http://forum.bradleysmoker.com/index.php?topic=30863.msg364765#msg364765 . So if you only smoke your smelt at 120 degrees for an hour, you risk food poisoning.  Internal temperature can be adequately measured when you're smoking thick fillets or thick slices of fillet, but as a practical matter it's harder to measure internal temperature when the fillets are thin or the fish are small.  It's hard to position the probe in the center of a thin fillet, and the internal temperature and the external temperature of a thin fillet may be pretty close to the same.  But regardless, to produce safe smoked fish, you should bring the internal temperature to 145 degrees for half an hour.

Another goal when smoking fish is to produce a finished product which has just the right dryness and flakiness, and is neither too moist and mushy or too dry and stiff.  This takes a bit of trial and error for each kind and size of fish.  If you smoke thick fillets at too low of a temperature, say 150 degrees, by the time you get the internal temperature up to 145 degrees, the fish may be too dry.  It's better to smoke the fish at a higher temperature so you can get the fish to the internal temperature required for safety fairly quickly, and then can quit smoking as soon as the texture and dryness of the fish reaches a desirable level.

On the other hand, with oily fish like salmon, if you start smoking at too high of a temperature, you'll cook the fat out of the meat and get curds of white fat on the surface of the smoked fish, sometimes referred to as "boogers."  This is only an aesthetic problem, as you can wipe off the curds.  But to avoid developing curds, start smoking at a lower temperature, and crank up the temperature to higher levels in steps.  For example, when smoking kokanee fillets, I start at 100 degrees for half an hour with no smoke to warm up the fish and complete the forming of a pedicle (dry layer) on the outside of the fish.  Then I smoke for one hour at 130 degrees, smoke for a second hour at 150 degrees, and then leave them in the smoker with no smoke at 170 degrees until I like the texture and dryness.  This schedule works well for me with small kokanee fillets, but bigger fillets, such as lake trout, will take more time both to reach the necessary internal temperature and to reach a desirable texture.

With respect to how long to brine the smelt, this is a trial and error process for each recipe and for each kind and thickness of fish.  You may produce a couple of batches of smelt which are too salty or not salty enough before you figure out how long to leave smelt in your particular frog leg brine.  You can reduce the amount of trial and error involved in using different brine recipes by standardizing the salt concentration of your brines.  See my posting at http://forum.bradleysmoker.com/index.php?topic=33157.msg387368#msg387368 .
« Last Edit: January 15, 2015, 12:02:29 am by pmmpete »

Offline cobra6223

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Re: smelt
« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2015, 08:45:25 am »
Pete thank you for the great links looks like you really did a lot home work, thanks again. The size of the smelt I have are the minnow size with no heads or tails and your right it will be hard to put a probe in them for the internal and I also have the concern of getting them to dry but in no way want to put family and friends at risk for sickness. Thanks for your advice so far, any other advice will be greatly appreciated. Thanks Tim.

Offline pmmpete

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Re: smelt
« Reply #3 on: January 15, 2015, 10:32:45 am »
First question: are you going to gut the smelt?  "Smoking Fish at Home - Safely," Pacific Northwest Extension Publication PNW238, which is available athttp://cru.cahe.wsu.edu/cepublications/pnw238/pnw238.pdf , says "Small fish such as herring and smelt should be headed and gutted before brining.  (Columbia River smelt are traditionally smoked whole because they have stopped feeding by the time they are harvested)."

Second question:  do you have a thermostatically controlled smoker, or are you using a more primitive smoker such as the Little Chief or Big Chief smokers?  When I first started smoking, I used a Little Chief Smoker.  I managed to produce a lot of nice smoked fish, but I had no control over the temperature of the smoker and only a vague idea how hot the smoker was, and in cool weather I couldn't get the smoker hot enough. If you don't have a thermostatically-controlled smoker, give your smoker to a friend, and dig out your credit card and buy a thermostatically-controlled smoker. You'll produce good smoked fish much more reliably and safely, and you'll be a happier guy.

I haven't smoked whole minnow-sized smelt, and I'm hoping that somebody who has smoked them frequently will pop up and give you some expert advice.   The internal temperature on minnow-sized fish shouldn't lag too much behind the smoker temperature.  I would suggest that you crank up the smoker temperature pretty quickly to 160 or 170 and hold the temperature there until you think that the smelt are dry enough.  Hopefully that will get the internal temperature high enough by the time the fishies dry out, and will give you enough time in the smoke for good flavor.  Keep in mind that the fish will feel a bit softer when they're hot in the smoker than they will after you cool them down. 
« Last Edit: January 15, 2015, 12:40:51 pm by pmmpete »

Offline MrSlick

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Re: smelt
« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2015, 04:18:01 pm »

Offline cobra6223

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Re: smelt
« Reply #5 on: January 16, 2015, 06:07:46 pm »
thanks guys. mrslick they look to be about twice the size of these minnow sized smelt I have. Pete they already have the guts out and heads off, when I have smoked other fish I take a piece off and let it cool so I know what it's going to be like when finished. My smoker is the Bradley digital 4 rack turned into an 8 rack. maybe since I can't get a probe in them I should do like I do the frog legs which is smoke for the hour then keep an eye on them and just pull a piece out and check for doneness that way. I hate mushy fish but don't want to make jerky out of them ! ;D. Maybe I should just start them at 160-170 and start smoke and at the end of the hour might be pretty close to cooked. Once again thanks for all your time and help. Tim