Pollock, a mild whitefish of moderate leanness, holds its form well during smoking and develops an appealing rich, salmon-like orange color to its flesh in the process. Perhaps best of all, you don't need a dedicated smoker to smoke pollock; a basic backyard gas or charcoal grill is all you need. The technique for smoking pollock is the same as other fish, but you have to watch out for parasites that can proliferate during smoking, such as cod worms. The University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service advises keeping pollock frozen for two weeks before smoking to kill the parasites.
Wrap the pollock tightly in aluminum foil and place it in a heavy-duty freezer storage bag. Press as much air as possible from the bag before sealing it and keep it in a freezer set at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or below for two weeks.
Take the pollock out of the freezer and place it on a plate in the refrigerator to thaw. Soak about 1/2 to 1 pound of hardwood chips in a bowl of water for about one hour before firing up the grill.
Trim off any damaged or bruised portions of the pollock with a kitchen knife. Rinse the pollock in cool running water, including inside the cavity, and return it to the plate.
Mix a basic brine for the pollock in a food-storage container consisting of four parts water to one part each kosher salt and granulated sugar. You need about 1 quart of basic brine for each pound of pollock. Basic brines help the fish retain moisture during smoking and help salt it throughout, increasing its storage life.
Submerge the pollock in the brine and cover with the lid. Brine the pollock in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes per half pound.
Remove the pollock from the brine and rinse it with cool running water. Place the pollock in the fridge in a food-storage container of water for about one hour.
Set up your grill for smoking fish. If you use a gas grill, light one side of the grill and set the burners to medium-low. Place an aluminum roasting pan half filled with water on the unlit burners. Moisture from the hot water helps stabilize the temperature in the grill. Close the grill lid while the grill heats to the initial smoking temperature of 150 to 200 F.
If you have a charcoal grill, light a chimney starter filled half full of lump charcoal and dump it one side of the charcoal tray when it ashes over. Scoot the charcoal all the way to the side using a stick or tongs. Place an aluminum roasting tray half full of water on the empty side of the charcoal tray. Close the grill lid while the grill reaches the initial smoking temperature of about 150 to 200 F.
Check the grill temperature after about 20 minutes and adjust the dampers and lid vent so it stays within the 150-to-200 F range. The ideal temperature for smoking fish is around 170 F, but it's nearly impossible to maintain exactly. So you have a bit of leeway when it comes to maintaining grill temperature.
Clean the grill grates with a grill brush. If using a gas grill, fill a metal woodchip smoker box with woodchips and place it on the lit burners.
If you have a charcoal grill, sprinkle the soaked hardwood chips over the coals.
Pat the pollock dry with paper towels and slather it with oil. Place the pollock on the indirect-heat side of the grill, or the side that has the tray of water on it. Close the grill lid.
Smoke the pollock for about one-and-a-half to two hours at 150 to 200 F. Turn the pollock over with a fish spatula every 30 to 45 minutes.
Check the woodchips every 15 to 20 minutes and add woodchips to the coals or the smoker box as needed to keep the smoke rolling at all times.
Set the burners on a gas grill to medium-high after one-and-a-half to two hours and continue smoking the pollock until it flakes easily with a fork, about 30 minutes.
If you have a gas grill, light a chimney starter half filled with lump charcoal and empty it on the burning charcoal after one-and-a-half to two hours. Smoke the pollock for another 30 minutes, or until it flakes easily with a fork.
Remove the pollock from the grill and place it on a tray or in a dish and cover it loosely with aluminum foil. Let the pollock rest for about 15 minutes per pound before serving.
Wrap the pollock in food wrap if you want to store it. Keep it in a refrigerator set no higher than 38 F for up to two weeks.
- Keep the pollock frozen until you're ready to smoke it.
A.J. Andrews' work has appeared in Food and Wine, Fricote and "BBC Good Food." He lives in Europe where he bakes with wild yeast, milks goats for cheese and prepares for the Court of Master Sommeliers level II exam. Andrews received formal training at Le Cordon Bleu.
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