Smoked Chilean Sea Bass

Discussion in 'Fish' started by bocaboy, Mar 1, 2013.

  1. bocaboy

    bocaboy Fire Starter

    I just wanted to pass on that I tried smoking a Chilean sea bass today to see how it would work. I smoke fish all the time, and prefer those that are oilier than those that are delicate. As an example, mackerel and blue fish are great for smoking, Dover sole not so much. I thought that since Chilean sea bass is so full of oil, and I know from experience that it is great on the grill, that it would smoke beautifully. I was right, and I'd recommend it to anyone who finds this usually expensive fish on sale, as I did the other day. 

    First, and foremost, the fish MUST be fresh. No frozen fish for this recipe. Sea bass is already packed in ice when it is fished, and you don't want it refrozen. Find a good fish store that a) carries good fresh fish, and b) has it on sale! 

    I started with a one pound piece of fish that I left whole. I would normally have bought more, but this was an experiment and Chilean sea bass is expensive, even when it's on sale. I used a rub of sea salt, pepper, paprika and onion powder in order to give it a nice crust. The crust is one thing I like about grilling sea bass and I wanted to give the outside a bit of a crunch. I smoked it using alder chips in a Big Green Egg (BGE) at 170-180°. It took a couple hours to reach 140° at which point I removed it from the grill and served it. Everyone loved it. 

    It came out with a texture very similar to smoked sable, although not quite as buttery. The fish was juicy and moist and the rub on the outside offered a salty, crunchy bite. The smoke flavor was mild and just strong enough to differentiate it from plain grilling. This is definitely a recipe I will cook again, especially for smoked fish lovers. 

    I'll pass on one other tip I picked up from Melissa Cookston of Memphis BBQ. She was lecturing at the recent NBBQA conference in Mobile and suggested that it was better to add the rub to the protein before applying yellow mustard or oil. Her reasoning is that applying the rub first allows it to permeate the meat or fish pores, and then the mustard or oil helps lock it in. Reversing the process fills the pores with the oil or mustard first and blocks the rub from getting into the meat or fish. I don't know how true this is or isn't, but I've tried it on two different fish cooks I've done on the BGE, and both came out really, really well. I'm just sayin'... 
  2. bbq bill

    bbq bill Smoke Blower

    I have been told you should apply the rub directly to the meat and not even use mustard for the very same reason.  

    I smoke alot of mackerel, mullet, and bluefish... I am gonna "steal" your fish rub recipe. Usually I brine my fish overnight, put them on a cookie rack till they feel sticky/tacky and then smoke them. I brush them with a baste recipe I got from a friend 3-4 times during the smoke.  It is good on chicken and pork too, but people seem to really like it on me smoked fish!

    1     Cup      honey
    2     tbsp.    finely chopped/minced onion 
    2     tbsp.    red wine vinegar 
    4     tsp.      cider vinegar 
    2     tsp.      balsamic vinegar
    2     tsp.      brown sugar 
    2     tsp.      corn starch 
    1/2  tsp.      lemon juice 
    1/4  tsp.      salt 
    1/4  tsp.      black pepper 

    1/4  tsp.       garlic powder
  3. bocaboy

    bocaboy Fire Starter

    Boy, that sounds like an awfully good baste. I'll have to give it a try! I also recently tried smoking kingfish, and it came out great. I took the leftovers and made a bit of fish salad with it. Just add mayonaise, a tad of finely minced onion and celery, and you will have a smoked fish dip that is fit for, uh, kings. (OK, bad joke, but I couldn't help myself.) 

    The other good news about kingfish, along with mackeral and bluefish is that they are very inexpensive!

    Thanks for the tip!
  4. bbq bill

    bbq bill Smoke Blower

    Not such a bad joke!  haha    I have never paid for a king!  I catch all of my fish.    Let me know what you thin k of the baste.
  5. Just did some chilean sea bass on an XL Big Green Egg.  Two steaks, about an inch thick and a good 12" long.  

    I added a bit of light brown sugar to the rub (paprika, onion powder, salt, pepper) to give the crust a bit of sweetness and color.  I let it rest in the rub for around 40 minutes.  I used pecan wood for the smoke, along with a few small chunks of cherry.  There wasn't anywhere local to buy alder.  I've had good success with pecan and figured adding some cherry would be interesting.  I was right.

    Lit the BGE using a MAPP torch.  Got the coals up to red, put in the wood, put in the plate setter (ceramic insert for offset cooking), closed down the bottom vent to about 2" left open and put left the top daisy vent open about half-way.  Connected the Maverick remote thermometer air temp sensor.  Let the temp settle to around 250F.  Put on the fish and inserted the meat thermometer.  After around 20 minutes on the grate (as the smoke started to wane) I opened the bottom and top vents to let the air temp creep up.  Finally rose to around 365F as the fish hit 145F.   On the plate the Thermopen on the other piece read 165F.  I was worried it was overcooked, I was pleased to be wrong. 

    The astounding thing is this took, literally, just ONE HOUR, total, from start to plate.  Anyone with a BGE will tell you speed is not necessarily a common occurrence when expecting to use smoke... 

    I started a bit late for dinner, so the temp rise at the end was more to getting things on the plate before our child's bedtime. 

    It was incredibly good.  

    I may back off the sugar a little as it sort of leaned a bit toward barbeque for my taste.  But, perhaps more importantly, my wife and 6 year old ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT exactly as it was.

    So if you're considering smoking some chilean sea bass.... GO FOR IT.
  6. Fantastic! I adore smoked sea bass! Good call!

    Here's mine from last winter!!! Enjoy! 

    Meanwhile, make today so delicious and fantastic that even your neighbors dance the samba and light a bonfire!!!!!!

    Cheers! - Leah
  7. atomicsmoke

    atomicsmoke Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    This is all made up...without pictures.
  8. Yeah, well, when you have a kid that, like clockwork, nods off to sleep at 8:30, and you started the grill at 7:15, you tend to not have time to futz around taking pictures.
  9. bocaboy

    bocaboy Fire Starter


    I, too, have smoked Chilean sea bass in my BGE and like you, it was scrumptious. I think the reason it smokes so well is that it's as an extremely oily fish, so it stands up to the drying effect of smoke very well. The final texture reminded me of smoked sable, which I love. If Chilean sea bass was less expensive, I'd make this all the time!!

    For those who want to know temps (like using a Maverick thermometer or a DigiQ II), I heated the BGE to 225º and cooked the fish to 140º internal temperature. I used hickory for my wood, but pecan sounds good as well. My rub was very simple, just paprika, salt, pepper, and a touch of garlic and onion powders. The fish has such a distinctive flavor that all I wanted to do was flavor it lightly and then infuse it with a smokey flavor.

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