Warm smoked mackerel is best if you can self smoke it.

Warm smoked mackerel while slightly cured, is delicately cooked with a wonderful smoky aroma. It can be eaten for dinner or mixed with some sour cream or walnut cream into a wonderful ‘salad’ . That makes for a special appetizer on toast or blini.

the art of making warm smoked mackerel

To smoke mackerel, one needs a smoker, a smoke generator, some temperature probes and mackerel. In this post we do not cover the details of the smoker, which can be purchased or made yourself. Essential is only that the smoker has a vent on top and a vent below, so that air comes in, can produce the smoke and excess smoke can escape.

Also essential is that the fish gets first cured for a while. This will help to extract moist from the fish (quite a bit!), and act as a preservative for the fish. Also it will impair a nice taste.  Since the smoke contains aromatics, fatty fish is more suitable for smoking than lean fish.  We also do not want to use very large lumps of fish, as otherwise salt and smoke penetration to the inside is ineffective. Although whole gutted mackerels can be smoked, I usually use mackerel halves.

The curing mixture is a brine that contains salt and sugar with lemon zest and fresh dill herbs. During the warm smoking period bast the fish a few times with honey or maple syrup. The smoking process usually ends after 4 hours, of which the last hour the fish is kept around 57 C.

Special equipment

a smoker with temperature probes

a stainless steel container with holes that contains wood pellets for smoking

flat plastic, stainless steel or glass curing container

basting brush

A refrigerator or cold place with sufficient space for a rack with fish.

warm smoked mackerel ©️ Nel Brouwer-van den Bergh

warm smoked mackerel from the smoker

Prep Time 1 day
Cook Time 4 hours
Total Time 1 day 4 hours
Course Appetizer
Cuisine North European
Servings 18


  • smoker
  • smoking 'capsule'
  • curing container (plastic, stainless steel, glass)
  • refrigerator large enough for a tray of fish


preparing the fish

  • 8 mackerel halves
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 bunch dille
  • 1.1 quart (1 L) water

Smoking the fish

  • 1.5 oz (40 g) maple syrup or honey
  • hickory and/or apple wood pellets/dust

Keeping the fish

  • vacuum bags or plastic wrap


Curing the mackerel

  • Prepare the zest from the lemon using a grater; wash the dille
  • Dissolve the sugar and salt in the water and add the zest and dille
  • Rinse the mackerel halves with water and optionally weigh them
  • Submerse the mackerel halves in the curing mixture, cover with a lid or wrap and place at the least 14 h in the fridge. Make sure the pieces are all submerged
  • Thereafter, rinse the mackerel pieces under running water; dry them with a kitchen towel and let them dry on a tray low in the fridge for at the least 4 h. A shiny layer (pinnacle) will form on the fish. Weight loss (due to water extraction during the curing) can be up to 15%

smoking and storage

  • Prepare the smoker for smoking. Bring the fish into the smoker, place one temperature probe in the middle of a piece of mackerel and let the temperature very gradually rise. Do this by adjusting the air flow and/or by adding some apple or hickory wood coals low in the smoker
  • Bast the fish in the last 3 hours each hour with maple syrup or honey
  • Ensure the end-temperature of between 55-60 C is not exceeded and maintained for at the least 40 min to ensure the fish pieces are cooked in the right manner
  • After 3.5 -4 h take out the fish pieces from the smoker and let them cool down, away from insects
  • Then place in the fridge to further dry and cool for 4 h
  • Finally remove the remaining bones and wrap the mackerel halves or vacuum seal them. The latter will enable a longer storage time. Store in the fridge for over a week or in the freezer for months.


Method: warm smoking
Food allergy & intolerance information: none
  1. The smoked mackerel can be made into a salad just using creme freche or walnut paste.  Mix the fish meat thoroughly and let the taste develop in the fridge for several hours or overnight.

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