Canning Smoked Fish - Salmon, Blue, Mackerel, Trout

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Canning Smoked Fish - Salmon, Blue, Mackerel, Trout

Canning smoked fish starts with the smoking process. And here I get help from Bill at Fish that has been smoked the standard way will end up being very dry after pressure canning, so you will want to shorten the process.

A lightly smoked fish that is appropriate for canning will also need to be processed right away. It is not safe to eat as is. Here is a page if you are preserving fish that is not smoked. The procedures are slightly different.  

First, I'll share Bills suggestions for smoking your fish, then I get into the canning instructions below.  

What about canning smoked fish in a water bath canner? Like all other canning meat projects, smoked fish must be canned in a pressure canner, NOT a water bath canner, in order to be safe.

Smoking Fish for Canning

Guest Post from Bill of Smoker Cooking 

These directions on how to smoke fish for canning are shared by  Check out this page for some smoked salmon recipes. Thanks, SmokerCooking!

How to Smoke Fish

When you are canning smoked fish, the process is different than when you are making ready to eat smoked fish. Fish that are smoked in preparation for the canner are partially cooked. Heat from the canning process brings the fish to the desired stage of doneness.

Use only fresh, good quality fish for the canner. Clean the fish, removing all traces of blood. Remove the scales, or skin the fish if desired.

Fillet the sides of the fish from the backbone. Small bones can be left in or removed as desired.

Using a pint jar as a guide, cut the fillet into pieces that will fit vertically into the canning jars, but about an inch shorter than the jar height. Try to keep the pieces close to the same thickness so they'll cook evenly when smoked.

First, a Brine

Before smoking the fish, it needs to be brined in salt water. Use a concentration of one cup salt in 7 cups of water per each 3 to 4 pounds of fish pieces. Thinner pieces, up to 1/2 inch thick stay in the brine 5 to 10 minutes. Over 1/2 inch get 30 to 45 minute of brining time. The salt water brining is important because it prevents spoilage.

Remove the fish from the brine, pat dry with clean towels, and allow to air dry on a cooling rack until the outer surface dries a bit. When it feels just barely tacky, it's ready for the smoker. courtesy of

Smoking the Fish

The smoker temperature needs to be low enough that the fish can be in the smoker long enough to get the desired flavor, while being minimally cooked. A temperature in the range of 140 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal fish going into the canner.

The popular Big Chief and Little Chief smokers operate at about 170 degrees on a calm day of 70 degrees or so, which would be fine for smoking fish for canning. If it's colder outside and the smoker runs cooler, that's ok too. Smoking time will be a bit longer.

Fill the pan with the desired amount of your favorite wood. Follow the smoker manufacturers' recommendation for amount of wood for best results. A favorite wood for smoking salmon is alder. Smoke the fish until it's ready for the canner.

How do you know when your smoked fish is ready for the canner? Instead of going by internal temperature, as you would for ready to eat smoked fish, it's determined by weight loss.

Weight loss is moisture loss, and as the fish dries, its texture becomes more suitable for canning. For good quality, moist canned smoked fish, a 10% loss of weight is what you're looking for. If a drier fish is preferred, shoot for a weight loss closer to 12.5%.

To determine the percentage of weight loss, start by weighing the fish right before smoking fish. Small kitchen scales are fine to use. Steps to determine weight loss percentage are:

    1. Weigh a piece of fish before it's smoked and record the weight.

    2. After a time in the smoker, remove the piece and weight it again.

    3. Subtract Step 2 weight from Step 1 weight. This is the weight loss.

    4. Divide the lost weight by the starting weight.

    5. Multiply by 100 to get the percentage of weight loss.

Here's an example.

    1. 8 ounces - (pre-smoked fish weight)

    2. 7 ounces - (weight after smoking)

    3. 8 minus 7 = 1 ounce (weight loss)

    4. 1 ounce divided by 8 ounces = 0.125

    5. 0.125 x 100 = 12.5% (total weight loss)

    This smoked fish would be slightly dry after canning.

One thing to remember about canning smoked fish is that the oilier the fish, the more moist it will be. An oily fish, like good salmon, will be more moist when dried to 12.5% weight loss than a less oily fish would be. Fish that have a lower oil content are generally drier in texture after canning.

Smoked courtesy of

Canning Smoked Fish 

These canning smoked fish instructions come from the NCHFP here. 

Fish must be prepared in 1/2 pints or pints. 

Remember, smoked fish must be processed in a Pressure Canner

Gather your canning supplies:


Lightly smoked fish


Cut fish into jar-length pieces.

For this recipe, use more water in your pressure canner than normal. Add 4 quarts water to the pressure canner. This is important according to the USDA recommendations. It changes the heating up and cooling down times.

Pack fish into hot jars, leaving 1-inch headspace. Wipe rims and place your canning lids.

Place lids and process according to pressure canning instructions. (Remember, this recipe uses more water in your canner.)

How long does it take to can smoked fish?


Process pints or half pints 1 hour 50 minutes. Do not can this in quarts. There are no tested methods for quarts. 

Don't forget to adjust your pressure for your altitude.

Smoked courtesy of
Adjustments for Pressure Canner
Altitude in Feet Dial Gauge Canner Weighted Gauge Canner
0-1000 11 10
1001-2000 11 15
2001-4000 12 15
4001-6000 13 15
6001-8000 14 15
8000-10,000 15 15
How to Can Smoked Fish
Smoking & Canning Fish

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Page last updated: 1/10/2020.

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