Can you eat smoked fish without cooking?

In this brief blog, we will answer the question, “Can you eat smoked fish without cooking?” We will explain how to hot smoke fish and the risks associated with consuming cold smoked fish.

Can you eat smoked fish without cooking?

You can eat  hot smoked fish because it is fully cooked and requires no further cooking. On the other hand you should never consume cold smoked fish because it is still raw. Some popular hot smoked fish are Smoked Mackerel and Hot Smoked Mackerel. They usually turn out very well when hot smoked.

Smoked salmon is usually hot smoked and thus ready-to-eat and is one of the most familiar types of smoked fish. Some examples of fish that are usually cold smoked are Haddock and Herring (Kippers).

How do you hot smoke fish?

Let us look at a step wise guide on how to hot smoke fish so that it is fully internally cooked and is thus ready to eat.

Choose your fish and ensure it is fresh

Any fish can go onto the smoker but for hot smoking you want to use oily fish because the oil is infused with the smokiness of the wood chips beautifully. As earlier mentioned some good fish recommended for hot smoking are the classic salmon and mackerel. 

Some other recommended fish are striped mullet, scallops, clams, trout  and blue fish, the rule of the thumb is that you use fattier fish since they will absorb more of the smoke flavor.

Assemble your kits

You will then need to gather your smoking gear which includes a container with a lid which can drift the smoke over the fish and your heat source. 

A charcoal or gas barbeque should work just fine, ensure that the temperature is kept low and the lid is on. You can as well poke a bread tin to make a few holes for use.

Prepare your cure

You can cure your fish in two ways; you can use a dry cure which is a mixture of salt, sugar and some seasonings. You can as well use a water cure mostly referred to as brine which utilizes all the above ingredients and water. 

Curing fish is important in order to infuse some flavors into the meat and also firm up the fish meat texture. A simple and good cure can be a 50:50 mix of granulated brown sugar and some rock salt. For the seasonings you can use some lemon, fresh herbs and spices.

Sprinkle your cure on both sides of the fish. A handful of cure should be more than sufficient, proceed to wrap the fish and cure up, refrigerate it overnight. Then remove your fish from the refrigerator, wash off the cure and dry it up then refrigerate again for six to eight hours. 

This serves to allow a salty and sticky film of salt to form which will enable the smoke particles to be absorbed by the fish.

Select your wood chips and smoke

Wood chips selection is important because the wood assists in infusing the smoke flavor into the fish. Always ensure you use wood chips from hardwood since softwood ends up being too smoky. Some good woods for smoking fish are oak, beech and apple.

Oak infuses a bold flavor which is perfect for salmon and mackerel. Apple is mild and fruit while beech is subtle and fragrant. 

Now light up your smoker and have it warm up for about 20 minutes or so. Let the internal temperature get to about 105 degrees celsius. Once the internal temperature is stable, place in your wood chips and place your fish on the grill to smoke.

Avoid opening the lid as this makes you lose smoke and heat. Keep an eye for the temperatures as too much heat will dry out the fish and maintain your temperatures around 70 degrees celsius to 80 degrees celsius.It should take anywhere between 40 to 60 minutes to smoke small fish types such as mackerel and a few hours to smoke larger fish.

Place your smoked fish in the fridge for about 6-8 hours for the smoke to mellow and permeate the fish well enough. You can then take it out, reheat and serve with some pasta or any dish of your choice.

What are the risks of eating cold smoked fish?

You should not eat cold smoked fish because as earlier mentioned it can put you at risk of getting food borne infections. Bacteria that cause these infections are E.coli and Listeria among others.


Consuming cold smoked fish can result in getting food borne infection from E.coli. E.coli causes symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps which begin 2-8 days after consuming contaminated cold smoked fish.


Listeria is another food borne infection that can be caused by eating cold smoked fish. Listeria results in a food borne infection known as listeriosis which has symptoms which include muscle aches, fever, diarrhea and nausea.

Other FAQs about Fish that you may be interested in.

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In this brief blog, we have answered the question, “Can you eat smoked fish without cooking?” We have explained how to hot smoke fish and risks associated with consuming cold smoked fish.