Of all the fish I've eaten smoked, I think I'm the most obsessed with wahoo. The fillets are really good, but where it's at is the belly and collar...so fatty and moist, it's ridiculous. The recipe below is a very basic bare-bones smoking recipe but you don't need to do much else for 'hoo.
1) Start with a nice chunk, or a piece of belly or collar. I like to leave the skin on for smoking - make sure to rub all the slime off when you fillet it!
2) Trim off the bloodline:
4) Cut the trimmed pieces into ~2 inch wide chunks.
5) Brine the fish for 2-3 hrs in a non-metallic container. I use 1/2 cup of kosher salt for every 6 cups of cold tap water. You can also substitute brown sugar for the salt - a 1/1 ratio works well. You don't really need to brine for any longer than this, and it gets saltier the longer you brine. This concentration/time combination has worked well for me. The brine draws moisture out of the fish and helps preserve it, in addition to the smoke preservation.
6) (If you want to wet marinade to add flavor, do so now, after it's done brining. Wahoo is fatty enough that a simple vegetable oil-garlic-paprika-white wine vinegar marinade works well - 20 minutes is plenty of time. I dry rub mine instead - see step 7.)
Rinse the chunks in cold tap water and pat dry with paper towels. Arrange them on a tray (a wire rack is ideal, but you can use a baking sheet like this in a pinch) and set them in front of a fan for an hour or two to form a pellicle. You want it to be dry and slightly tacky to the touch. This helps the smoke stick to the meat and aids in preservation.
7) Fire up your smoker and get it to a steady ~200-220 degrees. Some guys like to smoke at 180. I don't have a real smoker, so I converted my Weber charcoal grill using some aluminum trays to get the indirect heat source you need to smoke/bbq rather than grill. It smokes a little hot because of this but it works just fine. For fish, especially this wahoo, you want to use mild, sweet wood - I've been using a 50/50 mix of apple and cherry and it turns out amazing.
8) Add any additional seasoning you want to your wahoo chunks. I use a mix of paprika, garlic powder, and black pepper. Maybe a little cayenne if you want some heat. That's it.
9) Rub vegetable oil on the grate on the smoker so the fish doesn't stick. Throw the chunks on skin-side down and be sure to leave a little room between them so that the smoke can get all around each piece. The way my Weber is set up, I have water pans directly over the coals to keep the smoke moist and absorb excess energy (heat) from the coals. This helps me control the temperature and keep it in the 200 degree range. Smoke for around 2 hrs or until the internal temp is at least 140 degrees.
10) This is what it looks like fresh off the smoker. I have to make a conscious effort not to eat it all right away - it's soooo freakin good fresh. This will keep in the fridge for a while, and it freezes really well too. It goes really well on multigrain crackers with honey goat cheese. Enjoy!
- Jeff Barr