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Are smoked fish he althy? Although fish have a positive effect on he alth, the smoking process means that fish contain many different chemicals that are undesirable to he alth, including those that are allergic, toxic and carcinogenic. Check what these substances are.

Smoked fishare very popular. Fish is as good for smoking as meat. Smoking changes the taste, smell and color of the fish. A secondary skin forms on its surface, which prevents the penetration of microorganisms into the interior of the product and ensures juiciness.

The smoke that permeates the entire product has a bactericidal and bacteriostatic effect. Smoked fish are more resistant to the rancidity of their fats, because the smoke components have an antioxidant effect. The greater durability of smoked fish is also due to their drying, and thus to a lower water activity in the product.

Smoked fish - what does smoking fish look like?

You can smoke fatty and lean fish. Oily fish absorbs more smoke and therefore has a more intense flavor and aroma. Lean fish are easy to dry. You can smoke the fish whole, in bells or fillets with skin. Whole fish and bluebells are smoked on hooks, and fillets on the grill with skin side down.

The most popular types of fish used for smoking are mackerel, salmon, trout and eel. However, they are not the only ones. The cold method usually smokes herring flaps, trout, sea trout and salmon, and the hot method - whole herring, eels, sprats and flatfish. Fish to be smoked must be absolutely fresh.

You have to clean them thoroughly, remove the insides, gills and eyes, which, even after smoking, significantly accelerate the deterioration of the fish. Before smoking, the fish must be s alted. This can be done dry, rubbing the surface, or wet, soaking in brine. The wet method is preferable as it allows the s alt to spread evenly in the fish. The brine concentration should be 10: 1.

Soaking takes from 30 minutes to 3-4 hours depending on the size of the fish and should be done in a shaded place at a temperature not higher than 12 degrees C. For brine, use non-iodized s alt and non-chlorinated water. Part of the water in the brine can be replaced with a decoction of root vegetables or white wine.

After s alting the fish you have torinse and dry thoroughly. Untreated fish will boil during smoking. A fish is considered dry when its surface is dry to the touch and the tail becomes light and firm.

Fish are smoked by burning wood from deciduous trees, without bark. It is not used for smoking conifers because it is very smoky and gives the food a turpentine flavor. The type of wood used affects the color and aroma of the finished product. The types of wood recommended for smoking fish are:

  • sugar maple - gives smoked meats a mild and slightly sweet taste and a golden yellow color
  • grapevine - gives a lot of smoke with a deep, rich flavor and fruity aroma
  • without - has a very light smoke, with floral aromas and flavors, especially recommended for seafood
  • white oak - gives a honey flavor and dark yellow color
  • beech - gives a golden yellow color
  • alder - universal wood, also for fish, gives a dark yellow color
  • walnut - gives a specific aroma and dark yellow color

Hot and cold smoked fish

Depending on the temperature of the smoke used, a distinction is made between cold and hot smoking.

Cold smoking takes place at a low temperature of 20 to 28 degrees C, with very thin smoke. Depending on the size of the fish, it lasts from several hours to even several days. Before smoking, the fish is dried for 20-50 minutes at the temperature of 18-23 degrees C. This method allows for obtaining products that are more durable, less susceptible to spoilage, more saturated with smoke, aromatic, juicy and with a firm consistency.

Hot smoking requires a smoke temperature from 70 to 85 degrees C. The fish have a slightly smoky smell, the consistency of the meat is not very firm - it is tender and juicy. A two-step heat treatment is often used. The first stage of smoking takes 30 minutes. The temperature inside the fish reaches the value of 60-70 degrees C, while for the next 30-45 minutes it is higher and amounts to 82-85 degrees C.

The weight loss of fish during hot smoking is lower than in cold-prepared products. Hot smoked fish is tastiest right after cooking. To save them for later, cool them down in a ventilated place. They are much less durable and more prone to deterioration than cold-smoked fish.

Worth knowing

Smoke preparations for smoking fish

Fish can be smoked not only with traditional methods, but also with the use of smoke preparations - coloring and flavoring. Smoking takes place by spraying the preparations in the smoking chambers or by sprinkling or dipping inthem fish.

Smoke preparations are obtained by condensing smoke components and removing compounds unnecessary in the processes of flavoring and dyeing, mainly PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) that are harmful to he alth.

Less harmful to he alth is the most frequently mentioned advantage of using smoke preparations. Among other things, shorter smoking time and lower weight loss of the smoked product are mentioned.

However, there is no doubt that the taste, smell and consistency of smoked fish using traditional methods and those smoked with the use of smoke preparations differ radically, of course in favor of the former.

Smoked fish - are they he althy?

Smoking is a method of food preservation which, on the one hand, prevents the fat from becoming rancid and has antibacterial and antiseptic properties, but on the other hand, it causes the appearance of many chemical compounds undesirable for he alth in fish and meat. Smoky smoke contains numerous flavor and aroma compounds, but at the same time it is also toxic and pathogenic.

The best known chemical compounds in smoke with a harmful effect on the body are polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). They are formed during the burning of wood. When the temperature of thermal decomposition of wood exceeds 425 degrees C, their amount in the smoke increases dramatically.

It cannot be said that eating smoked fish has a toxic or carcinogenic effect on the body, because in addition to harmful compounds, they contain substances that are beneficial to he alth. So the he alth effect is rather neutral.

A dozen or so of the PAHs identified in smoke are considered to be highly toxic, mutagenic and carcinogenic. The most dangerous of them is benzoapirene. PAHs have low acute toxicity but high chronic toxicity. Other hazardous substances that are present in smoke are:

  • dioxins - they are extremely toxic, cause food poisoning, chlorine acne, and in high concentrations cause fatal poisoning
  • nitrosamines - these compounds are formed mainly from nitrites in previously cured products, amines and amides. They are highly detrimental to the body in many respects. Nitrosamines are neurotoxic, nephrotoxic, mutagenic, teratogenic and carcinogenic
  • phenols, cresols, furfurol - are toxic but not carcinogenic
  • formaldehyde - allergic and carcinogenic
  • benzene - found in smoke in small amounts, but is known to cause cancer of the blood
  • acrolein - a mutagenic substancegenerated during the burning of fat, e.g. made from smoked fish

However, you must remember that smoked fish should only be an addition and diversification to the diet, not its frequent element.

It is especially important to limit heavily smoked fish, with dark skin and intensely saturated with smoking smoke, because these contain more substances derived from the smoke and are more harmful.

Fish - which is worth eating and avoiding

Smoked fish - calories, nutritional values ​​

The most popular smoked fish in Poland are salmon, herring, mackerel and eel. The table below shows their nutritional value.

Nutritional value of selected smoked fish per 100 g

Energy [kcal]163200200289
Protein [g]20.932025.5428.95
Fat [g]8,1412,510,418,3
Carbohydrates [g]0000
Worth knowing

Smoking is one of the traditional methods of food processing that have been used for centuries. Originally, its role was to preserve food and extend its shelf life. Currently, in developed countries, smoking is mainly used to obtain products with a characteristic taste and aroma.

Smoking consists in saturating the raw material with wood smoke components, removing a certain amount of moisture and causing such changes in proteins, thanks to which the product becomes edible without additional culinary processing.

Smoke is obtained in the process of incomplete combustion of wood with limited air access. It can contain up to 10,000 different chemical compounds, which differ depending on the type of wood used, humidity, oxygen access or combustion temperature.

About the authorAleksandra Żyłowska-Mharrab, dietician Food technologist, dietitian, educator. A graduate of Biotechnology at the Gdańsk University of Technology and Nutritional Services at the Maritime University. A supporter of simple, he althy cuisine and conscious choices in everyday nutrition. My main interests include building permanent changes in eating habits and individually composing a diet according to the body's needs. Because the same thing is not he althy for everyone! I believe that nutritional education is very important, both for children and adults. I focus my activities on spreading knowledge about nutrition,I analyze new research results, I make my own conclusions. I adhere to the principle that a diet is a lifestyle, not strict adherence to meals on a sheet of paper. There is always room for delicious pleasures in he althy and conscious eating.

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