Easy smoked whitefish fillets prepared in a paprika and thyme paste before cooked low and slow over applewood. This simple barbecue fish recipe is sweet, smoky, and ready in just thirty minutes.
Whitefish is a catchall term used to describe a variety of fish species, all distinguished by their flaky white flesh and lower density of oil in the flesh (compared to oily fish like salmon or mackerel).
The exact types of whitefish available to you will depend on where you live (hence why we’ve used the generic term!), but common whitefish species are cod, tilapia, haddock, plaice, hake and snapper – to name just a few! For this recipe we’ve used cod, but any whitefish fillet will work.
Whichever whitefish you choose, buy as fresh as possible and ask for it to be skinless and deboned (this will save you having to fillet the fish yourself!).
Need to buy whitefish online? We don’t all have the luxury of a local fish market or fishmonger to swing by, but luckily there are a number of online sellers who can deliver fresh fish to you quickly and safely. These are our favorites:
How to Smoke Whitefish
Hot smoked fish doesn’t need long on the smoker, and this whitefish is no different. Just follow these 5 basic steps to pull off the best smoked whitefish for your next seafood dinner:
- Dry Brine: Apply salt to the skinless fish fillets and leave in the refrigerator for one hour before cooking. This will help lock in moisture and flavor.
- Preheat: Fire up your charcoal, pellet, or electric smoker to 225°F (107°C)
- Paste: Combine the crushed garlic, salt, olive oil, paprika, thyme, white pepper, and cayenne pepper (full quantities below). Crush and combine to form a paste, before applying it to each fish fillet.
- Smoke: Smoke the fish for 30 minutes, or until the fillets are just flaky to touch with a fork.
- Rest: Yes, even for fish! Pull the whitefish from the smoker and leave to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.
- Applewood chips
- 2 filets whitefish Atlantic cod, haddock, hake; skinless
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- 2 cloves garlic
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika
- 2 tbsp fresh thyme finely chopped
- ½ tsp ground white pepper
- ¼ tsp ground cayenne pepper
- Apply kosher salt to skinless fish fillets, covering evenly and on both sides
- Cover fillets with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour
- Fire up smoker to 225°F (107°C). If using a charcoal grill, ensure you are set up for 2-zone indirect cooking.
- While the smoker preheats, remove fish from the refrigerator. Use paper towels to wipe off excess salt.
- Prepare the Paste: Peel and mince the garlic, and sprinkle with salt. Use a knife or spoon to press the salt into the garlic, crushing and combining to make a paste.
- Transfer the paste to a small bowl and add the remaining ingredients: Olive oil, smoked paprika, chopped fresh thyme, white pepper, and cayenne pepper. Combine well.
- Apply the paste to the fish fillets, spreading evenly on both sides
- Apply a thin layer of oil to your smoker grates to help prevent the fish from sticking. Add wood chips to coals or wood tray.
- Carefully place the fillets on the grates. Close your smoker’s door/lid and smoke at 225°F (107°C) until fish is flaky to the touch with a fork, approximately 20-30 minutes.
- Remove from smoker and leave to rest for 5 minutes before serving
- The measurement here for cayenne pepper is intended to be mild. If you’re like me and prefer extra heat, I recommend doubling it to ½ teaspoon.
- Don’t forget to oil your grates! Whitefish is particularly prone to sticking as it cooks, and oil is the best way to prevent this.