I was taking a friend out to his boat the other day – have I ever mentioned that I am a launch driver at a harbor on Long Island? Anyway, he was talking about making a brine for a bluefish he wanted to smoke. This made me think “Wow, that’s one topic I’ve never written about”. Never having made a brine for anything, especially fish, I had to do some research.
As we already know, fish and seafood are delicate and can easily dry out if overcooked. To brine something means to soak it in saltwater. The process of brining will help keep it moist and flavorful. This is especially critical if you’re cooking fish on the grill, since the high temperature can dry out a piece of fish.
Brines are easy to put together but there are 2 important basics that are important to know. First, never use aluminum or metal bowls if vinegar is an ingredient in your recipe as it will react with the metals. And secondly, allow the brine to cool completely before adding your fish. If it’s warm it could cause a food safety hazard and you don’t want anyone to get sick!
Below are some brine recipes I found that sound very good. I’m sure you will come up you’re your own concoctions with all your favorite herbs and spices. Get creative and enjoy your results!
2 qts. of warm water
3/4 cup of kosher salt
3/4 cup of sugar
Herbs and/or spices
Fish or seafood of your choice
Dissolve the salt and sugar in the warm water in a dish large enough to hold your fish. Add your desired seasonings (garlic, fish seasoning, lemon pepper, lime juice, chili powder, BBQ spice to name a few). Stir to combine and allow the solution to cool.
When cool, add your fish or seafood, cover and refrigerate 2 hours or overnight. When ready to use, remove from the brine, rinse and let air-dry in the fridge for an hour before grilling or pan-searing.
Flavored Fish Brine
4 cups water
1/4 cup kosher salt
2 Tbs. sugar
2 tsp. white wine vinegar
2 Tbs. olive oil
1/4 cup thinly sliced onion
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 cups ice
About 2 lbs. of fresh fish
Combine the water, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Stir to dissolve. Add remaining ingredients, along with ice, and stir so that liquid is fully chilled. This makes about 6 cups of brine.
Pour brine into a large plastic bag or other non-metallic container, cover and refrigerate overnight. When ready to use, rinse with cold water, pat dry and proceed with whatever recipe you are using.
Smoked Fish Brine
2 qt. water
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup apple juice
1/2 cup kosher salt
1 cup soy sauce
3/4 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. onion salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. seasoning salt (Lawry’s is good)
5 dashes Tabasco Sauce
12-15 filets of fish of your choice (bluefish, bass, trout or salmon are good)
Combine all of the ingredients in a large food safe container and stir to dissolve the salts. Add the fish filets and brine in the refrigerator for 6-8 hours or longer if brining a whole fish.
When ready to use, remove the fish from the brine and place on your smoking racks with air circulating around them. This will allow the fish to obtain a glaze. Set your smoker at 200 degrees and let it smoke for 2 hours so the fish reaches an internal temp of 160 degrees F. The fish should hold this temp for at least 30 minutes to ensure the fish will be bacteria free.