Smoked fish
Smoked fish are fish that have been cured by smoking.

Foods have been smoked by humans throughout history. Originally this was done as a preservative
Food preservation
Food preservation is the process of treating and handling food to stop or slow down spoilage and thus allow for longer storage....

. In more recent times fish is readily preserved by refrigeration
Refrigeration is a process in which work is done to move heat from one location to another. This work is traditionally done by mechanical work, but can also be done by magnetism, laser or other means...

 and freezing
Freezing or solidification is a phase change in which a liquid turns into a solid when its temperature is lowered below its freezing point. The reverse process is melting....

 and the smoking of fish is generally done for the unique taste and flavour imparted by the smoking process.

The smoking process

According to Jeffrey J Rozum "The process of smoking fish occurs through the use of fire. Wood contains three major components that are broken down in the burning process to form smoke. The burning process is called pyrolysis
Pyrolysis is a thermochemical decomposition of organic material at elevated temperatures without the participation of oxygen. It involves the simultaneous change of chemical composition and physical phase, and is irreversible...

, which is simply defined as the chemical decomposition by heat. The major wood components are cellulose
Cellulose is an organic compound with the formula , a polysaccharide consisting of a linear chain of several hundred to over ten thousand β linked D-glucose units....

, hemicellulose
A hemicellulose is any of several heteropolymers , such as arabinoxylans, present along with cellulose in almost all plant cell walls. While cellulose is crystalline, strong, and resistant to hydrolysis, hemicellulose has a random, amorphous structure with little strength...

 and lignin
Lignin or lignen is a complex chemical compound most commonly derived from wood, and an integral part of the secondary cell walls of plants and some algae. The term was introduced in 1819 by de Candolle and is derived from the Latin word lignum, meaning wood...



A smokehouse
A smokehouse is a building where meat or fish is cured with smoke. The finished product might be stored in the building, sometimes for a year or more.-History:...

 is a building where fish or meat is cured with smoke. In traditional fishing villages, a smokehouse was often attached to the cottages the fishermen lived in. The smoked products might be stored in the building, sometimes for a year or more. Traditional smokehouses served both as smokers and to store the smoked fish Food preservation
Food preservation
Food preservation is the process of treating and handling food to stop or slow down spoilage and thus allow for longer storage....

 occurred by salt curing and extended cold smoking for two weeks or longer. Smokehouses were often secured to prevent animals and thieves from accessing the food.

Traditional versus mechanical

Today there are two main methods of smoking fish: The traditional method and the mechanical method.
The traditional method involves the fish being suspended in smokehouses over slowly smouldering wood shavings. The fish are left overnight to be naturally infused with smoke.

In the mechanical method smoke is generated through the use of smoke condensates, which are created by the industrial process of turning smoke into a solid or liquid form. The flow of smoke in the mechanical kiln is computer controlled and the fish generally spend less time being smoked than in a traditional kiln.

Laminar air-flow technology allows mechanical kilns to achieve a higher production rate, while the use of micro-processors has allowed mechanical kiln smokers increased sensor coverage within the kiln. However, traditional smokers argue that this removes the human element from production. They feel that a computer is no substitute for many years of hands on experience. Most traditional smokehouses have developed their method across generations.

Mechanical kiln smoked fish represents a quantitative approach where supermarkets represent the main market. Traditional fish smoking is a qualitative process. Traditional smoked fish is a high end product sought after by restaurants.


The most common types of smoked fish in the US are salmon
Salmon is the common name for several species of fish in the family Salmonidae. Several other fish in the same family are called trout; the difference is often said to be that salmon migrate and trout are resident, but this distinction does not strictly hold true...

, mackerel
Mackerel is a common name applied to a number of different species of fish, mostly, but not exclusively, from the family Scombridae. They may be found in all tropical and temperate seas. Most live offshore in the oceanic environment but a few, like the Spanish mackerel , enter bays and can be...

, whitefish
Freshwater whitefish
The freshwater whitefish are fish of the subfamily Coregoninae in the salmon family Salmonidae. Along with the freshwater whitefish, the Salmonidae includes the freshwater and anadromous trout and salmon species as well as graylings...

 and trout
Trout is the name for a number of species of freshwater and saltwater fish belonging to the Salmoninae subfamily of the family Salmonidae. Salmon belong to the same family as trout. Most salmon species spend almost all their lives in salt water...

, although other smoked fish is also available regionally or from many ethnic stores. Salmon, mackerel and herring
Herring is an oily fish of the genus Clupea, found in the shallow, temperate waters of the North Pacific and the North Atlantic oceans, including the Baltic Sea. Three species of Clupea are recognized. The main taxa, the Atlantic herring and the Pacific herring may each be divided into subspecies...

 are universally available both hot-smoked and cold-smoked, while most other fish is traditionally preserved by only one of the smoking methods.

A common name for cold-smoked salmon is lox
Lox is salmon fillet that has been cured. In its most popular form, it is thinly sliced—less than in thickness—and, typically, served on a bagel, often with cream cheese, onion, tomato, cucumber and capers...

, of which many different types are available, usually identified by point of origin (e.g., from Scotland, Norway, Holland, the Pacific, and Nova Scotia, Canada--the latter usually identified as Nova lox or just Nova). Traditionally, lox designates brined rather than smoked salmon, but the linguistic boundary between the two types of products has long been erased. Gravad lax or gravlax
Gravlax or gravad lax , gravet laks , gravlaks , graavilohi , graavilõhe , graflax is a Nordic dish consisting of raw salmon, cured in salt, sugar, and dill...

remains the only type that is unmistakably not smoked fish. However, commercial labels still identify most smoked products as "smoked salmon" rather than "lox".

Most other smoked fish in the US is hot-smoked, although cold-smoked mackerel is always available in East-European delis, along with cold-smoked sturgeon
Sturgeon is the common name used for some 26 species of fish in the family Acipenseridae, including the genera Acipenser, Huso, Scaphirhynchus and Pseudoscaphirhynchus. The term includes over 20 species commonly referred to as sturgeon and several closely related species that have distinct common...

, sea bass
Sea bass
-Family Serranidae:* Barred sand bass , lives mainly off the coast of California* Black sea bass , whose range is the eastern coast of the United States...

, halibut
Halibut is a flatfish, genus Hippoglossus, from the family of the right-eye flounders . Other flatfish are also called halibut. The name is derived from haly and butt , for its popularity on Catholic holy days...

 or turbot
The turbot is a species of flatfish in the family Scophthalmidae. It is native to marine or brackish waters of the North Atlantic, Baltic Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.-Etymology:...

 and many other varieties. Jewish delis
Delicatessen is a term meaning "delicacies" or "fine foods". The word entered English via German,with the old German spelling , plural of Delikatesse "delicacy", ultimately from Latin delicatus....

 often sell, in addition to lox, hot-smoked whitefish, mackerel, trout, and sablefish
The sablefish, Anoplopoma fimbria, is one of two members of the fish family Anoplopomatidae and the only species in the Anoplopoma genus...

 (also sometimes referred to as black cod
Black cod
The black cod or smallscaled cod, Notothenia microlepidota, is a marine cod icefish in the genus Notothenia with distribution ranging from southern New Zealand to sub-Antarctic seas, although they have also been fished off the Great Australian Bight, Chile, and round the Falkland Islands, on rocky...

 in its fresh state). Along the Mississippi River
Mississippi River
The Mississippi River is the largest river system in North America. Flowing entirely in the United States, this river rises in western Minnesota and meanders slowly southwards for to the Mississippi River Delta at the Gulf of Mexico. With its many tributaries, the Mississippi's watershed drains...

, hot-smoked locally-caught sturgeon
Shovelnose sturgeon
The shovelnose sturgeon, Scaphirhynchus platorynchus, is the smallest species of freshwater sturgeon native to the United States of America. It is often called "hackleback", "sand sturgeon", or "switchtail." Switchtail refers to the long filament found on the upper lobe of the caudal fin...

 is also available. Traditionally, in the US, cold-smoked fish, other than salmon, is considered "raw" and thus unsafe to consume without cooking. For this reason, in the US, cold-smoked fish is largely confined to specialty and ethnic shops.

In the Netherlands, commonly available varieties include both hot- and cold-smoked mackerel, herring and Baltic sprats
European sprat
The European sprat, Sprattus sprattus, also known as bristling, brisling or skipper, is a small, herring-like, marine fish. Found in European waters, it has silver grey scales and white-grey flesh. Specific seas in which the species occurs include the Irish Sea, Baltic Sea and Sea of the Hebrides...

. Hot-smoked eel
Eels are an order of fish, which consists of four suborders, 20 families, 111 genera and approximately 800 species. Most eels are predators...

 is a specialty in the Northern provinces, but is a popular deli item throughout the country.

Smoked fish is a prominent item in Russian cuisine
Russian cuisine
Russian cuisine is diverse, as Russia is the largest country in the world. Russian cuisine derives its varied character from the vast and multi-cultural expanse of Russia. Its foundations were laid by the peasant food of the rural population in an often harsh climate, with a combination of...

, Ashkenazi Jewish Cuisine
Jewish cuisine
Jewish Cuisine is a collection of the different cooking traditions of the Jewish people worldwide. It is a diverse cuisine that has evolved over many centuries, shaped by Jewish dietary laws and Jewish Festival and Sabbath traditions...

, and Scandinavian cuisine, as well as several Eastern and Central European cuisines and the Pacific Northwest cuisine
Pacific Northwest cuisine
Pacific Northwest cuisine is an North American cuisine of the states of Oregon, Washington and Alaska, and the provinces of British Columbia and the southern Yukon...


English, Scottish
Scottish cuisine
Scottish cuisine is the specific set of cooking traditions and practices associated with Scotland. It has distinctive attributes and recipes of its own, but shares much with wider European cuisine as a result of foreign and local influences both ancient and modern...

 and Canadian cuisine incorporate a variety of strongly brined
In cooking, brining is a process similar to marination in which meat is soaked in brine before cooking.Brining makes cooked meat moister by hydrating the cells of its muscle tissue before cooking, via the process of osmosis, and by allowing the cells to hold on to the water while they are cooked,...

, smoked herring that used to be known as "red herring". With the increased use of idiomatic expression "red herring
Red herring
A red herring is a deliberate attempt to divert attention.Red herring may refer to:* Red herring , the informal fallacy of presenting an argument that may in itself be valid, but does not address the issue in question....

", references to the smoked fish product in this manner declined. A more common contemporary name for it is kippers
KIPPERS is a term to describe individuals in their late twenties or early thirties that are living in their parent's homes. They may or may not be earning an income. Similar terms include Parasite single and Boomerang Generation.The term has been used by a variety of news groups such as BBC News...

, or kippered herring. Kippered herring traditionally undergoes further processing (soaking and cooking) before consumption.
Arbroath Smokie
Arbroath Smokie
Arbroath Smokies are a type of smoked haddock – a speciality of the town of Arbroath in Angus, Scotland.-History:The Arbroath Smokie originated in the small fishing village of Auchmithie, three miles northeast of Arbroath. Local legend has it a store caught fire one night, destroying barrels...

s (haddock) and Traditional Grimsby smoked fish (haddock and cod) have both received Protected Geographical Indication
Protected Geographical Status
Protected Geographical Status is a legal framework defined in European Union law to protect the names of regional foods. Protected Designation of Origin , Protected Geographical Indication and Traditional Speciality Guaranteed are distinct regimes of geographical indications within the framework...

 status from the European Commission
European Commission
The European Commission is the executive body of the European Union. The body is responsible for proposing legislation, implementing decisions, upholding the Union's treaties and the general day-to-day running of the Union....

which restricts use of the name to fish that is processed using specific methods within a defined geographical area. Other smoked fish products from the UK include Finnan Haddie
Finnan Haddie
Finnan haddie is smoked haddock. Its origin is Findon near Aberdeen, Scotland. It has been a popular dish in Aberdeenshire since at least the 1640s.Finnan haddie is often served poached in milk for breakfast....

 and Bloater
Bloater (herring)
Bloaters are a type of smoked herring. They are different from the kippers as they are smoked whole, with its innards intact which gives it its unique gamey flavour. The bloater is associated with Great Yarmouth, England; the kipper with Scotland and the Isle of Man...


External links

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