Easy smoked sea bass cooked low and slow in your backyard smoker. From the best woods to our delicious marinade, discover how to smoke sea bass with our easy barbecue fish recipe.
Sea bass is a fish that has gained popularity with home cooks over recent years and with good reason: It’s a versatile fish that can be used in a wide range of dishes and styles of cuisine.
If you’re looking for a show-stopping dish to serve up, you can’t go far wrong with a lightly seasoned whole smoked sea bass. Not only does it look great presentation-wise, but sea bass’s mild and meaty flavor makes it a great option for the most stubborn of fish skeptics out there.
From filleting and preparing sea bass for smoking to quick smoker tips, discover how to smoke sea bass today.
What is Sea Bass?
Sea bass is a white fish with creamy flesh and slightly oily skin. When cooked, the meat ‘flakes’ off in large chunks, and retains moisture (and any flavors it may have been marinated with) well. For a long time, it was the type of fish that you’d only see served in high-end restaurants due to its higher-than-average price tag when compared to other white fish, but thanks to sustainable farming techniques, it’s now much more affordable and an excellent option for home cooks to experiment with.
What Does Sea Bass Taste Like?
Sea bass is considered a ‘meaty’ fish both in terms of texture and flavor. It’s a firm meat rather than the overly flakey texture you can get with a lot of fish; some people even compare it to chicken. Sea bass has a mild and slightly sweet flavor making it an ideal fish for those who aren’t keen on a fishy taste. Its mild taste means it pairs well with lots of seasonings and dressings that have a strong flavor and are more traditionally used with other meats.
How to Buy Sea Bass
Sea bass is easy to find in the supermarket or from a fishmonger. However, it’s essential to try and buy farmed sea bass where possible, as the current number of wild sea bass is at critically low levels.
When buying fresh sea bass for smoking, there are a few key things to look for:
- Smell: Firstly, fresh fish should never have a fishy smell. That distinct smell of ‘fish’ is actually caused by bacteria and enzymes that break down in the fish once it has been caught. The stronger the smell, the less fresh the fish. Sea bass may have a slight ‘ocean’ smell to it as it’s an ocean-caught/harvested fish, but the smell shouldn’t be unpleasant.
- Flesh: The flesh on a fresh sea bass should feel firm and look pearly white with no noticeable discoloration. The skin should not feel slimy.
- Eyes: Fresh sea bass should have clear and glossy eyes. Avoid any that have cloudy, sunken, or dull-looking eyes.
- Gills: The gills on a fresh sea bass should be bright red and moist.
How to Prepare Sea Bass for Smoking
If you’ve never prepared a fresh and intact fish before it can seem like a daunting task, but as long as you have the right tools and follow some simple steps, it’s a straightforward process.
Sea bass can be bought fully intact (with the guts and head still in situ), trimmed, and as fillets.
We will cover preparing a fish to smoke whole and breaking it down into fillets. You will need a sharp knife and pair of sharp scissors to hand.
- Set your sea bass on a flat work surface. Cut off the fins at the side of the body. If your fish has not been descaled, hold it by the tail and then scrape down the fish with the blunt edge of the knife to remove the scales.
- Once the scales are removed, rinse the fish under cold running water to clean it and then pat dry with a paper towel before moving to the next step.
- Remove the gills by opening the gill flaps and cutting around the back edge (towards the body of the fish and starting from the top down towards the belly) to release them.
- To gut the fish, place the tip of the knife into the vent hole and make a shallow cut along the belly towards the head. Then, open up the belly and scoop out the guts (use a spoon if you want to avoid touching them with bare hands).
- Use the handle of a spoon to then break the bloodline that runs along the underside of the backbone and scrape out the blood.
- Rinse the belly cavity, gill area, and outside of the sea bass well under cold running water to remove any remaining blood.
- Blot the fish dry with a paper towel – it is now ready to season for smoking whole or to prepare it into fillets.
Sea Bass Filleting
- Run your knife down the spine of the seabass going from head to tail. You want to make long shallow cuts as you carefully work the meat away from the bones.
- Sea bass has a curved rib cage, so make sure to use the tip of the knife to feel where the bones are and run across the top of them rather than trying to through them
- Continue slicing until the fillet comes away entirely from the rib cage
- Flip the sea bass over and do the same on the opposite side of the fish
Marinating your fish before smoking is entirely a personal preference. If a fish is being smoked whole, people will often opt to just brush the skin with oil or melted butter and maybe put some seasonings into the belly cavity to infuse some flavor.
If you are smoking sea bass filets (especially skinless fillets), you might want to marinate them beforehand to ensure they stay moist during the smoking process.
Times & Temperatures
Sea bass is smoked over indirect heat to ensure that the fish doesn’t overcook and has a chance to infuse with a lovely smokey taste.
Your smoker should be set to around 250-275℉ (120-135℃), and an average-sized sea bass should take around 60-80 minutes to reach the required internal temperature of 145℉ (62℃).
With fish, the best way to check if it’s finished smoking is by using an instant-read thermometer to check the internal temperature.
Best Wood for Smoking Sea Bass
Sea bass is a meaty fish with a mild and sweet taste, so you want to smoke it with a wood that will complement that flavor and not overpower it. Alder wood produces a sweet, earthy-smelling smoke that perfectly complements fish such as sea bass. If you want a slightly fresher, sweet smokey taste, pecan or applewood are also good options.
How to Stop Sea Bass From Sticking to Smoker Grates
Smoking a whole sea bass or filets with the skin on should prevent it from sticking to the grates of your smoker. If you are smoking filets with the skin off, brushing the smoker grate with a light covering of oil will help to stop the fish from sticking. Alternatively, you can set the filets on a layer of foil or smoke them in a fish basket.