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smoked shad recipe
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4.75 from 4 votes

Smoked Shad

This recipe works for any small, oily fish and I've used it a lot with mackerel, herring and small bluefish. The reason you have a double brine is that the first one clears out the slime and blood from the fish, and the second one seasons and flavors it. Don't alter the first brine, but you can alter the second as you see fit.
Prep Time4 hrs
Cook Time3 hrs
Total Time7 hrs
Course: Cured Meat
Cuisine: American
Keyword: fish, shad, smoked foods
Servings: 20 fillets
Author: Hank Shaw


  • BRINE 1
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 2 quarts water
  • BRINE 2
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 3 smashed garlic cloves
  • Juice of a lemon
  • 1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 2-3 crushed dried hot chiles
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon crushed coriander seeds


  • Mix the first brine together and soak the shad fillets in it for 30 minutes, then drain.
  • Meanwhile, bring the second brine to a simmer, stir well to combine and turn off the heat. Set this in a drafty or cool place to chill it down fast. When the second brine is cool, pour it over the shad and brine for 1-2 hours.
  • Drain and rinse off the fillets, then pat dry with a towel. Air dry in a drafty place -- use a fan if need be -- for 2-3 hours, or until the meat looks a bit shiny. This is an important step; you are creating a sort of a second skin called a pellicle that is necessary to seal the fillets. If you skip this step, you will have problems with the proteins leaking out from between the flakes of the meat, forming a white icky stuff that will need to be scraped off.
  • Smoke over alder or hardwoods for 1-3 hours, depending on the heat. You want the shad to slowly collect smoke, and cook very slowly. Under no circumstances do you want the heat to get above 180°F. Remove and let cool at room temperature before packing away in the fridge or freezer.


Wood choice is also up to you. For fish, I prefer fruit woods such as apple, or alder, maple or oak.