How to Smoke Fish on a BBQ

Updated February 21, 2017

Smoking adds flavour to even the blandest of fish, but if it's improperly done, the fish becomes dry and tough. If you own a barbecue grill, you do not need a large, expensive smoker for your fish.

Whether you're working with gas or charcoal, successful smoked fish begins with food safety. Hot smoking your fish requires cooking it over indirect heat in a barbecue grill with wood smoking chips. This safely cooks the fish while adding a smoky flavour to it.

Bury four cleaned, gutted and deboned fish in a baking pan filled with Kosher salt. Pack the inside of the fish cavities with salt as well, to draw excess moisture from the fish. Refrigerate for up to six hours.

Place 2 cups of wood chips in a bowl and cover with water to soak for one hour.

Drain the wood chips and place into a roasting pan.

Remove the fish from the salt and rinse them inside and out to get rid of the extra salt.

Remove the grill grates from a barbecue grill before lighting the grill. Light a charcoal grill and allow the coals to burn until they look white, or light one side of burners on a gas grill set to low heat.

Move the charcoals to one side of the grill and place the roasting pan with the wood chips on the floor of the grill on the other side; or set the roasting pan with wood chips atop the unlit burner in a gas grill.

Fill a 4-inch loaf pan halfway with water. Move some of the wood chips to the sides in the roasting pan to set the loaf pan of water in the middle of the roasting pan.

Replace the grill grates over the roasting pan in the grill.

Dip a paper towel in oil and hold it with a pair of barbecue tongs. Rub the paper towel across the grill grates over the roasting pan. Discard the oiled paper towel.

Place the fish on the grill grates of the gas or charcoal barbecue directly over the roasting pan, which smokes the fish over indirect heat.

Smoke the fish with the lid of the barbecue grill closed until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the fish reaches at least 60 degrees Celsius.


Try alderwood, applewood or pecan wood chips for smoking fish.

Things You'll Need

  • 4 whole, cleaned, gutted and deboned fish
  • Kosher salt
  • Baking pan
  • 2 cups wood chips
  • Bowl
  • Water
  • Barbecue grill (gas or charcoal)
  • Roasting pan
  • Disposable 4-inch loaf pan
  • Water
  • Paper towels
  • Cooking oil
  • Barbecue tongs
  • Meat thermometer
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