Haddock is a popular type of hake marine fish used as a food source, and smoked haddock is a method of preserving and preparing it. The smoking of fish to preserve it has been practiced since ancient times, and is distinguished from a different smoking process that is also done to add flavor to fish. Smoking fish to preserve it is still commonly done in countries where refrigeration is not widespread, whereas smoking fish like haddock for flavor alone is also a frequent method used in food preparation.
The process of smoking fish as a preservative measure involves cutting the fish meat into thin strips and then drying them over a fire. The drying of the fish is the most important aspect of the process, and the historical cold-smoking method can take up to five days to complete. By removing water from the fish and adding salt, as well as chemicals produced in the smoke such as phenols, bacteria are eliminated from the fish, which can extend its shelf life for several months. Smoked haddock is not the easiest white fish to preserve, as the species is generally low in fat. Types of fish high in fat such as salmon and trout absorb the smoke faster and retain a softer texture afterwards than haddock, which can become dry or tough in the smoking process.
Hot-smoking fish is a more modern approach, which will only preserve the fish for a few days even if refrigerated, but provides all the flavor of traditional smoking as well. It is similar to the process of barbecuing or kippering of meat, and involves soaking the fish in salt water and then smoking it for around six hours over a fire. This type of smoked haddock requires less salt to preserve and is a moister version of fish when served.
Wood used as a fuel for a smoking fire should not contain resins, as it can impart a bad, pitch-like flavor to the fish. Trees that are high in resin include evergreens such as pine, fir, and spruce trees. Hard woods are generally recommended over soft woods for any meat smoking process, with oak and hickory being popular choices.
Smoked haddock is a widely consumed fish in England and Scotland, where much of it is prepared, and haddock itself is routinely seen as part of the fish and chips dish for which the English are noted. Cooking smoked haddock is often done by poaching it in water with some added milk, which can cut back on the level of saltiness. Another frequent method of preparation is to bake it in a mixture of herbs, lemon juice, and Greek yogurt, which add a creamy, velvet-like sauce to the dish.