How to Smoke Fish Without a Smoker

Smoking is a great method of extending the shelf life of different meats. Specifically for fish, smoking is considered to be a great method to dry the meat out much faster than the sun can, as well as eliminating any microbes present within the meat. Smoking with different types of wood can also give rich and distinctive flavors to your fish.


In this post, we will cover the many ways of how to smoke fish without a smoker.

Two Methods of Smoking Fish: Hot & Cold Smoking

Hot Smoking

Hot smoking is performed by reaching a certain high temperature that cooks the meat while adding extra flavors to the meat with the smoke produced by the wood dust, pellets, chips or chunks depending on your choice. This method requires curing as well with either dry salt or wet brine, but not as much as cold smoking does.


The Hot Smoking style is still called ‘low and slow’ since the meat is literally cooked at a low temperature very slowly. With Hot Smoking, your fish is smoked by maintaining approximately 210 degrees F to 280 F and cooking for extended periods of time. Going back to the wood you are going to be using, just make sure to stay away from anything sappy. Sappy wood is not recommended for smoking meat due to possible toxins in the smoke.


Regardless, both cold and hot smoking methods still undergo the same curing process by either dry salt cure or wet brine. Always keep that in mind.

Cold Smoking

Cold smoking is performed by setting a certain low temperature which mainly focuses on preserving the meat, prolonging its shelf life—although, it can also be used to add extra flavors to the meat. In this method, the fish needs to be fully cured with either dry salt or a brine in order to properly cold smoke your fish.


Cold smoking is not for first-time meat curers. You need to be proficient at hot smoking first before attempting cold smoking. Its process usually takes longer than you might expect- about 1 to 14 days since it is done at or under 80 degrees F. Even at this temperature, the heat still actually dries the meat and gets rid of any moisture beneath while elevating the flavor.

How to Smoke Fish Without a Smoker

Hot Smoking

In The Oven

  1. Place the fish in a large bowl and add in the appropriate amount of “liquid smoke” of your choice for flavor.
  2. Cover the bowl and store it in the fridge for at least 6-8 hours.
  3. Afterwards, rinse the fish with clean water thoroughly.
  4. Heat up your oven to exactly 160 degrees Fahrenheit, then put your fish on top of a rack inside the oven—making sure the fish is not touching any parts of the oven.
  5. Cook the fish in the oven for 6-8 hours.
  6. After cooking, you can safely take it out once the fish’s temperature is exactly 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a meat thermometer.
  7. Now, your smoked fish is all done.

In A Pan

  1. Cover the pan’s surface with tinfoil, including the sides.
  2. Place all your wood chips in the center of the pan, which is covered with tinfoil.
  3. Place your rack over the wood chips.
  4. Place your fish on the rack—making sure that the wood chips are directly below the fish and nowhere near touching the fish.
  5. Cover the pan and turn it on a high heat. After a couple of minutes, you will notice the wood chips will start to smoke.
  6. After the smoke sets in, give it another couple of minutes and then turn down the heat to medium.
  7. Allow the fish to be smoked until it turns a golden color for several minutes.
  8. Now, your smoked fish is all done.

On A Charcoal Grill

  1. Soak the fish in the brine for at least 8-12 hours.
  2. After 8-12 hours, remove the fish from the brine and rinse the fish with clean water thoroughly.
  3. Light up your coals and place your wood chips on top of them.
  4. Place your fish on the grilling rack indirect to your burning coals and wood chips below- not directly above!
  5. Close your grill using its cover to smoke the fish.
  6. Check the fish from time to time since a regular grill does not have a temperature.
  7. Once you notice its meat is delicate enough, remove the fish from the grill.
  8. Now, your smoked fish is all done.

On a campfire

  1. Soak the fish in the brine for at least 8 to 12 hours.
  2. After 8 to 12 hours, remove the fish from the brine and rinse the fish with clean water thoroughly.
  3. Light up your coals and place a layer of tinfoil on top of it.
  4. Place your wood chips on the tinfoil and wait until the wood chips start to smoke.
  5. Place some rocks, bricks or anything available on each side of the fire to add some elevation.
  6. Skewer the fish and place them on top of the smoking section—making sure that the distance between the fish and the burning coals is about 6 to 8 inches.
  7. Rotate the fish every 15 to 20 minutes.
  8. Add some wood chips to your coals to keep them burning.
  9. Once you notice its meat is delicate enough, remove the fish.
  10. Now, your smoked fish is all done.
Cold Smoking

In The Oven

  1. Cover and line a baking dish with a generous amount of aluminum foil.
  2. Add wood chips to your baking dish covered with aluminum foil.
  3. Fold the aluminum foil closing the wood chips in it—making sure it is as airtight as possible.
  4. Flip it over and create some small holes using a knife.
  5. Place the ice tubes on top of the aluminum foil.
  6. Place a rack on top of the baking dish where underneath it is the ice cubes.
  7. Place the baking dish on your stove and set the burner to medium heat for at least 15 to 20 minutes or until the ice melts. The wood chips will heat up inside the foil, seeping through the ice which converts the smoke to be cold.
  8. Now, your smoked fish is all done.

NOTE: Do not go beyond an hour if your meat has not been cured yet.

Some Final Thoughts on Smoking Fish Without a Smoker

Smoking is a traditional method of preserving and cooking meals that many cultures have adopted throughout history. It’s a tried-and-true method of preserving meat. It also adds additional complementing flavors to the food that can only be attained through smoking. Whether preserving or cooking, smoking is a fun learning experience for anyone. Not only can you add to your culinary skills in the kitchen, smoking fish without a smoker is a skill that can help you get some desperately-needed calories in a survival situation or when SHTF. Just don’t blame us when you start smoking everything you can because it tastes so good!