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Claire's tip: How to smoke fish

Claire's tip of the week: Any fish can be smoked. But when you're using the hot smoked process, good choices are fish with a high fat content such as salmon and trout. Fatty fish are less likely to dry out and tend to absorb more flavor when smoked. There is no need to buy a commercial fish smoker to smoke your fish — a simple charcoal barbecue grill will do. There are recipes for oven-smoked fish that use liquid smoke, but I don't recommend them.

Before smoking, you'll need to soak the fish in a brining solution overnight. Brining imparts flavor and adds moisture. As a general rule, use 2 cups salt and 2 cups sugar to 1 gallon water for 4 pounds fish. Season brine to taste with herbs and spices.

Hardwoods used for smoking are usually from fruit-bearing or nut-bearing trees. Fruit woods produce a lighter smoke flavor compared with a stronger smoke flavor from a nut wood. Different woods impart different flavors. It's a matter of personal preference. The more commonly available hardwoods are alder, apple, cherry, hickory, maple, pecan, mesquite and oak. Soak hardwood chips in water until they are fully saturated before using.

To smoke the fish, prepare and ignite charcoal briquettes according to the grill's manufacturer instructions. Allow briquettes to burn down to a low heat and push them to one side of the grill. Place soaked hardwood chips on top of briquettes. Keep the briquettes covered adding wet chips during the process. Adjust the grill's top air holes to prevent flames, while maintaining a constant smoldering low temperature.

Place the fish, skin side down, on an oiled grill rack, about 6 inches from the heat. Cover the grill and allow fish to smoke and cook 1 ½ - 2 hours, or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Cover fish loosely with aluminum foil and let rest 10 minutes before serving.

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