In days gone by, before refrigeration, drying or smoking fish was one of the few ways available to preserve the fish that could not be eaten immediately. Today, people still dry and smoke fish, but for safety's sake, store the fish in the refrigerator or freezer for additional food safety. Fish can be dried in a dehydrator or can be dried during the smoking process.
To Simply Dry Fish
Cut large, fleshy fish into 1/4 inch slices. Smaller fish fillets, less than a 1/4 inch thick, can be dried whole.
Lay the fish slices or fillets in a single layer on dehydrator trays.
Stack the trays on the base or slide them into the tray slots of the dehydrator. Place the cover on or close the door of the dehydrator, and turn the machine on.
Dry the fish for 12 to 14 hours or until the fish slices are approximately 1/4 their original weigh and feel leathery, yet slightly bendable, when touched.
Place the dried fish, or jerky, in zipper type freezer bags and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Freeze for longer storage.
To Smoke Fish
Brine the fish for 12 hours in the refrigerator before smoking. Create the brine by combining 1 1/2 cups salt and 1 gallon of water. Cover the fish completely in the brine.
Set up your smoker according to manufacturer's instructions. The inside temperature of the smoker should be at least 100 degrees F before you add the fish.
Remove the fish from the brine, rinse under cold water, and pat dry with paper towels.
Place the fish in the smoker, and place a meat thermometer in the thickest portion of the largest fish.
Smoke the fish until the meat thermometer reads 180 degrees F for at least 30 minutes. This will insure that all the fish is sufficiently cooked and smoked.
Store smoked fish in the refrigerator for up to one month. Freeze for longer storage.
When brining and smoking fish, it helps to keep the fish pieces approximately the same size. You can smoke fish pieces, fillets or whole fish.