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Good Friday Tilapia! qview

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
This is my first time for smoked fish, so I thought I’d share this with everyone. My wife told the meat/fish dude last week that she wanted something not-so-fishy for tonight’s dinner. He said he had just the thing: Tilapia.

Have a 4# box of 19 separately wrapped and frozen Tilapia Fillets (3.36oz average weight) finish their thaw in large bowls of water while they waited for some TLC. I kept the seasoning fairly light flavored and simple, with fine ground black pepper, parsley flakes, powdered red bell pepper, kosher salt, powdered light brown sugar and onion powder.

The un-packaged fish had a very mild odor, so I wasn’t concerned about a brine for these little fellas. I heavily dusted one side only with the seasoning, as I was pushing to get these into the Smoke Vault so dinner wouldn’t be excessively late…this is another after work smoke. It should give a nice contrast between the top side and the grate side anyway.

I decided I’d use a jerky grate to reduce the risk of the fish falling apart and dropping through the grate, if I don’t catch it in time when it’s finished cooking.

Just onto my Smoke Vault 24 Jerky Grate…I had to crowd them quite a bit to fit it all on one grate, so I tried to overlap the thinner belly-flap portions as much as possible…this should help even-out the cooking of the thinner pieces with the heavier portions, and reduce the risk of drying it out, I would think:

Some relatively light fat layering...this should be fairly light and flaky:

Seasoned and into the Vault with a small handful of cherry (lightest smoke wood I have on hand), and 1/2" of water in the pan:

I started out cold and cranked the vault on high with the door open for a few minutes, then closed it up and dialed the temps in to ~200* after I started smelling that sweet cherry smoke, then, bumped it to 250* after 40 minutes……..aaaaaaah, this is gonna be a gooooooooood smoke!

More to follow!

Thanks for lookin’ @ my 1st fish burn! (no relation to Lawrence...lol!!!)

post #2 of 17
Now that looks good
post #3 of 17
WOW, good lord that looks good, why didn't I think of that, oh well, we went to our local famous fish fry - "Doug's Fish Fry".
Maybe next year I'll smoke some fish and a cigar.......
cheers & Happy Easter !

post #4 of 17
Thread Starter 

1.25 hr update

Thanks, it's keeping me on my toes, not knowing how long it will take to cook, but that's just part of the learning curve.

Well shux! Ah, you'll have time for a few practice runs by next year!

Happy Easter back atcha!

I've been keeping tabs on shrinkage after the first hour, just so I have an idea when to start checking texture. For some strange reason, I've had a couple pretty good temp spikes (300* +), and the weather is calm this evening. I did start shotting for the 275* mark after 1.25 hours as I didn't see much happening and it's starting to lean towards dark-thirty for dinner already.

Just starting to shrink here, so they have a bit to go yet:

Thanks all!

post #5 of 17
Thread Starter 

Forget the frozen/breaded/battered/chopped fish sticks & fillets!!!!

I didn't know how this would come out so I didn't list the seasoning ratios...here they are for a heavy coat on one side of 4lbs:

1/2 tbls fine ground pepper
2 tbls red bell pepper powder
1 tbls parsley flakes
2 tbls light brown sugar
2 tbls kosher salt
1/2 tbls onion powder

I had to tell my girls what the seasoning blend was just to convince them to give it a taste. When my wife heard the list, she mentioned that she might add just a touch of garlic to this, but I really couldn't see the fit myself...maybe with a heartier flavored fish...that's just me. I think a teaspoon of fresh lemon zest would be a great touch though.

The results are in...my girls aren't fish eaters, but I got them to taste it...one didn't like it at all and the other still has hope for salvation...I didn't get two thumbs down from her, which was a good sign to me.

My wife, boys and myself all loved this stuff! The seasoning seemed to be a very good match for this milder flavored fish, with a distinct spicy sweetness from the red bell pepper, and the light cherry smoke has a nice finishing touch, with just a slight aroma and flavor over the seasonings and fish. Very simple, yet very pleasant flavor.

I checked the texture with a silicone spatula, and when I felt a good firmness, I decided to bring them out to lift a few and see if they were fairly stiff...kind of like the bend test for a slab of ribs. Then I did a slight perforation to check the flakes of the fish, and they were just starting to come apart...don't think I could have timed it better if I tried.

One lesson learned is to use a spray cooking oil on the grate, as some fillets were sticking, not badly, but I did have to be very careful. A few flakes of fish remained, so all things considered, it came out nicely.

Just out of the Vault:

All 19 fillets, after carefully lifting it off the grate with a silicone spatula:

Oh man...I don't know about anyone else, but, I'm hooked!!!

I finished the plate you just looked at, and have since eaten 3 more fillets, so, yeah, I really like this stuff!

Well, I finally got my feet wet with smoking fish...heh, didn't even have to take off my boots. I can tell already that this will not be the last fish my Smoke Vault see's!!!

I don't know which species will be next yet, but I don't really think that I'll have any problem pawning it off on the family...well, might have to work on the girls a bit...they just never had much exposure to the real deal before.

Thanks for peekin', everyone!

post #6 of 17
I'm really glad for you there Eric. I have been having a run of poo poo fish lately but yours looks fabulous and tasty too. Now how long did you have them in the smoker for????
post #7 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks Mark, I ran a total of 2.25 hours. Average temp was in the neighborhood of 265* with peaks and valleys. That was with a very crowded cooking grate and small fillets, so with a loose fit would probably be about 1.5 hours at these temps. Oh, one note here...I'm @ 4,900 ft elevation, which can have an impact on times.

I'm not an avid fish cooker, but these seemed to be moderately lean...not super dry, but I think the higher heat may have helped get them done before drying out.

Though, I may have kind of stumbled into this with overcrowding the pieces so tightly, which is normally a no-no for smoking, it may have helped keep them from drying out, also. That, and the wet smoke seemed to click really well.

Anyway, don't give up brother! If I can have a good first run with a species I hadn't even seen before, you'll do alright. Sometimes, just a slight change in your methods can make a huge difference in the results. I think the main thing to watch for is the texture...like when you're drying jerky. Recognizing when it's ready before it gets overcooked is probably the toughest part.

Hope you get some more fish going soon, Mark! Good luck, brother!

post #8 of 17
Excellent smoke w/ exceptional Q-view! Thank you for teaching...

post #9 of 17
Again you do a job well done. PDT_Armataz_01_37.gif Thank you as usual for the step by step. I want to get some fish under my belt as well. Heck, I want to smoke everything & don't have enough time. icon_wink.gif But the Tilapia looks really good. points.gif
post #10 of 17
Looks great Eric !------->>points.gif

I gotta try that sometime. So far all I've done was "HARDsmoking" Salmon. That stuff you freeze & save for long times, and pick it up & hold in your hands, and pull it apart to eat it.

The stuff you're showing here looks nice a moist & tasty---Kinda "Smoke/Cooked" just to perfection, where you got enough smoke on it to be smokey, but only cooked long enough to be perfect on your plate.

Thanks for showing. I'm saving this one,
post #11 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks, hey brother, it's been a pleasure sharing smoke with ya!

Thanks, just havin' fun in the smoke, my brother! Hey, I know what you mean about a long smoke "to do" list...I still haven't wittled mine down to a reasonable size yet! Too much great stuff keeps turning up here on the forums...heh, I don't think any of us who hang out here regularly will ever have a short list! icon_mrgreen.gif

I decided a few months ago to just kind of take it easy for awhile and do the items I enjoy smoking the most, and we enjoy eating the most. Then, on occasion, I'll toss together something like this Tilapia smoke just for kicks and see where it takes me...it's always a fun ride! A true adventure, not knowing how things will turn out...

I think it's a great thing to have a list of things to look forward to trying, but don't rush it...like any good Bbq, it will happen in due time...that's how most of my best creations come together.

Take care, brother!

Thanks, yeah, this is like the best plate of fish you can buy in a good seafood joint, only better, 'cause you control the entire process and make it happen yourself. And, probably the best part of all, there's no menu to fret over choosing from...you just use your imagination and let it happen!

You know, I didn't even realize it until now, but the outside of this fish had a very slight skinning-over from the wet smoke...just enough to hold it all together. A few of the flap areas had a bit more firmness, and some was actually crisp...man, that was a treat indeed...lots of different textures to enjoy.

I will say, it must not be very difficult to do, or I just got lucky. I did think about it for a few hours at work before getting home to bring it all together, so that probably gave me an edge. I know the last hour or so at work was sheer torture...the anticipation of putting this together was about killin' me! LOL!!!

Anyway, it's been another fun ride through the thin blue smoke, as always!

Happy Easter to all!

post #12 of 17
I will say, it must not be very difficult to do, or I just got lucky. I did think about it for a few hours at work before getting home to bring it all together, so that probably gave me an edge. I know the last hour or so at work was sheer torture...the anticipation of putting this together was about killin' me! LOL!!!

Anyway, it's been another fun ride through the thin blue smoke, as always!

Happy Easter to all!

================================================== ================================================== ====================================

LOL----I know exactly what you mean about thinking about the upcoming smoke---Kinda like "Meat Smoking Foreplay". My wife and I were watching a movie one night, and I was looking right straight at the TV screen, but my mind was on "What to add to brine, How long to brine, Hickory, Apple, Cherry???, How much smoke, how long to smoke at what temp". After about a half hour of that, I had absolutely no idea what was going on in the movie. Thank God for my DVR---Back it up & run it again. "Sorry Honey, I missed a bit".

post #13 of 17
Me, son & wife love this fish. Its real cheap here. My understanding its a farmed fish. Not sure if I understand this, but it doesn't reproduce in the wild (I asked a friend where you can go fish for tilapia & he said they aren't found anywhere, just farm raised.....not sure how that works). They kinda look like a small mouth bass..
My wife just fries them whole...........great eating fish.
I need to try to smoke some fish.........and then try to eat some smoked fish.
Yours looks outstanding...........
post #14 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks, my wife said these were pretty reasonably priced. The box said they were a farm raised product of China. I thought these might be a hybrid species, however...

Oh boy, I just did a bit of research for kicks...check this out:

This link goes to some info about it's origin and native habitat:

This is pretty interesting reading as well:

post #15 of 17
I haven't tried tilapia as of yet, but after seeing yours I think it's time. Excellent looking smoke.
post #16 of 17
I've never been a big tilapia fan, but that really looks good. Never smoked it before. I really think I'm gonna have to try this out. Thanx!
post #17 of 17
Interesting links. I'll try to talk to my friend, he works for Texas Parks/Wildlife. He is a bioligist (sp?) for them. They have "farms" for this fish along with others in San Marcus, Texas.
They may just raise sterial breads for the market.
Anyway, me & family love this fish.
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