Brining fish destined for the smoker is an important step
Commercial regulations require smoked fish to be brined first.
If the commercial processor intends to smoke fish it is very important and a required step to brine the fish first. After receiving fresh fish, and conducting the first inspection and reviewing documentation from the supplier, the processor must eviscerate the fish, taking care not to damage the intestinal tract of the fish. The processor then must rinse the fish including the body cavity with a vigorous continual flow of potable water or chlorinated water that is at a safe level.
For brining, two methods may be used including dry salt or in a salt solution tank. Whichever method, the result should be an adequate water phase after the fish has been smoked. Time and temperature control is an important aspect of brining. If the process takes less than four hours, brining can be done at a temperature of less than60 degrees Fahrenheit or 16 degrees Celsius. If the brining process takes longer than four hours then the process must be completed at less than 38 F or 3.3 C.
Brining tanks should be properly sanitized prior to use, and the brining solution should be discarded after brining the fish. The Michigan Department of Agriculture Rural Development (MDARD) regulations allow for the reuse of brine in certain circumstances where microbiological levels are brought back to acceptable levels. Most small processors discard brine as their standard procedure. After brining and rinsing, the fish is then ready for the smoker.
Extension Educators at Michigan State University Extension and Innovation Counselors at the Michigan State University Product Center assist food processors in the establishment of good practices and in producing safe food products. For further information and assistance with employee communications please contact your local MSU Extension office.