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A recipe for freshly-caught home-smoked mackerel

Freshly caught home-smoked mackerel with sweet and sour pickles delivers a wild summer taste to savour, says keen angler Cai ap Bryn with this recipe for Shooting Times

smoked mackerel recipe

Cai Ap Bryn - Hot Smoked Mackerel

Smoked mackerel recipe

Wild food is wild food and you don’t get much wilder than a summer mackerel straight off the hook.

Mackerel is an oily fish and its quality can deteriorate pretty quickly. I like to eat them on the day or put them straight on ice to be consumed over the following couple of days.

One of my favourite things to do with fresh mackerel is to hot-smoke them with this smoked mackerel recipe. They tend to work very well when hot-smoked with a fresh salad or simply in a bread sandwich with vinegar.


Smoked fish and pickles are extremely tasty and have been around for centuries. The sweet and sour of the pickles really goes well with smoked meats and fish. They complement each other. You only have to look at the Scandinavians with their smorgasbord. They are the masters of smoking fish and making their own pickles.

So let’s look at this simple smoked mackerel recipe. This may seem tricky to do at home if you don’t have the right equipment, but we can adapt and make a smoker with materials at home. To make a quick-fix smoker, follow the instructions below.


  1. First, prepare the mackerel fillets. Before smoking, it’s best to put the fillets in brine. This helps to stop the fish drying out and improves the smoke flavour. For a simple brine, mix a litre of warm water and two tablespoons of salt in a small bowl. Mix until dissolved and place the fillets in for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the fillets and wash thoroughly with clean water before patting dry.
  2. The fish is then ready for the smoker. Add some cracked black pepper over the fillets then quickly place them skin down on the rack and smoke for around 15 minutes or so until the fish are done.
  3. Once cooked, serve the fish on a board with some delicious pickles and fresh leaves. It is a fantastic summer snack that is even better when shared with great company and a glass of crisp, cold white wine.

Preparing the fish

Gut the fish and cut the head from the mackerel behind the fins. Then run a sharp, thin blade along the top spine from the head end down to the tail. Mackerel fillets cut easily, so this shouldn’t be a problem. Once both sides have been done, lay the fillets skin down. The next stage is to cut behind the rib bones, to remove a lot of the bones on the side. Now we are left with some nice fillets. At this stage, the central bones can be removed. Use a sharp knife and cut a ‘V’ down the side of the fish. The bottom of the ‘V’ is where the bones are. Cut out a strip of bones all along the fish. Try to cut to the skin, but not all of the way through.

How to make a smoker

  1. Obtain a deep wok with a lid. Lay a small palm-sized foil tray in the bottom of the wok and place a tablespoon of oak sawdust and a tablespoon of rice mixed together on it.
  2. Put a metal rack in the wok. This could be a microwave grill or something similar, on which to rest the fish.
  3. With the lid on, put the hob heat to low/medium and let the rice toast while the dust generates smoke. Make sure the kitchen extractor fan is on or the windows are open. At this point, you are ready to add the prepared fish (see method).
  4. It is essential that the wok is opened outside to let out the smoke.
  5. If using a fish or barbecue smoker, then smoke for the same amount of time without the rice. I like oak for smoking mackerel as it goes well with the fish and gives a nice flavour.

Shopping list

Argos Home 30cm Hard Anodised Aluminium Double Handled Wok £32.50

Wilko foil trays £1.50 for 10

BBQ Smoking British Wood Chips (Oak)