I actually learned how to make smoked marlin when I was on a holiday with a few of my friends.
Our day seemed to be laying out as if Hemingway himself was dictating our moves. Four friends, in touch since elementary school, fishing together on our own charter boat in the Gulf of Mexico. Captain Pedro was our guide, and he put us on a beautiful fish once we hit the right depth. “Big fish on,” Pedro called out. Joe’s rod whirled as the line spun out. The further that marlin ran the line, the longer the fight it was going to be.
The end game was us taking our time heading back to port, Pedro could find his way back blindfolded. The marlin was on board, cigars were in our hands, and stories were being regaled with much bravado, when Joe popped up, as if he had an epiphany, “Who knows how to smoke a marlin?” “I have a plan Joe, We’re going to smoke a marlin to our hearts delight.” I then proceeded to lay out my full intentions.
How to Make Smoked Marlin
In order to properly smoke a marlin, you first will need a few supplies.
Supplies Needed for Smoking a Marlin
I use an offset smoker, the type that has a fire box attached, but works by giving indirect heat to the meat. If you don't have an offset smoker, you can use other smokers or an electric smoker which can be a good option too.
I prefer using fruit wood. It adds a nice touch without overwhelming the meat with a strong off flavor that bolder woods can give.
This overall cooking time will be about 8-10 hours, plan for 1-2 logs per hour of cooking. Here is a list of all items and products you need, brine ingredients included too:
Required Ingredients & Items
- 3 Qts Water
- 2 Cups of Apple Juice
- 1 Cup of Soy Sauce
- 3/4 Cup of Brown Sugar
- 1/4 Cup of Kosher Salt
- 1 Tbsp. of Whole Peppercorns
- 1 Clove Garlic Minced
- 4-5 Bay Leaves
- Zipper Lock Type Bags
- 15-20 Pieces of Peach Wood
- Knife, Cutting Board and a Serving Tray.
- Quick Kitchen Tip: If your recipe calls for 1 cup kosher salt, it is intended for the kosher salt. If you change to table salt, not only is the compound slightly different, but the overall mass is different as well. Since table salt has smaller granules it packs more weight per cup. The same concept applies if you try to use kosher salt in place of table salt.
Preparing to Smoke a Marlin
Mix your brine ingredients together in a bowl and let it sit while you cut the meat.
Since we have a good smoke source to cook with, we’re going to experiment with three cuts of meat. We’re going to cook it in a jerky style with the first batch.
First we cut about 12 strips into lengths of 6 inches, each strip about 1 inch thick. Dip each strip into the brine and put them together into a 1 gallon zipper lock type bag. Once they are collected together add 1 cup of the brine to the bag and seal it up.
The next batch of smoked marlin is going to be steaks from our fresh catch. These filets will have the skin on, and will weigh about 8-10 ounces each. We cut out four steaks to smoke.
Dip each steak into the brine, and place into a 1 gallon zipper lock style bag. Add an additional 1-2 cups of brine mixture to the bag and set this aside for your smoked marlin meal.
Lastly, we cut a nice chunk, about 4-5 pounds. This is coming from the side of the fish, so the skin is attached. We plan to smoke this piece of marlin whole, as if it were like a roast or brisket.
We suggest you lay the meat out, skin side down and start to make small slice cuts into the top of this fish roast, about 1/4 to a 1/2 inch deep. The goal here is to make a checkerboard on top of this fish, so do not cut all the way through.
Place the meat into a 2 and a half gallon zipper lock style bag, add the remaining brine mixture to the bag, and set this aside.
Your meat is in its brine, and you should let is rest for 8-12 hours. Place each bag into the refrigerator for later.
While waiting, you can get your smoker ready. This same recipe can be used in an Egg style smoker, or an electric smoker. You can smoke a fish marlin equally well on any smoker you like.
When your marlin is marinated in the brine sufficiently you are ready to start smoking, begin to light your fire, and add your wood when the coals have grayed over.
Sufficiently means to your taste, depending on how much brine you want to infuse into this marlin is based on your personal preference. The first time you use a marinade you may find that you want it to sit longer in the brine, or shorter. The time frame is based on your wants. Over time you will definitively learn the precise marinating process that makes you happy every time you cook this recipe.
The temperature goal is going to be 200°F - 225°F. This temperature is at the cooking surface, closest to where the meat is sitting on the grill. Let the temperature get there, then let the cooking cabin fill with smoke.
Now you are ready to deliver your marlin to the smoker. We suggest a perforated sheet that you can prepare your meat on and set it into the smoke to work its magic. This will allow the smoke to work all around the fish.
Start Smoking Marlin
Take all the marlin out of the bags, and dry them off with a paper towel. You will want to try to get as much liquid off the fish as possible. The goal here is to remove the water to allow the smoke to fully penetrate the prepared fish.
You should put your jerky strips furthest away from the fire. Ideally you would smoke marlin jerky at about 125°F - 150°F. We threw an extra dash of pepper on the jerky pieces for an extra zip. Since we are smoking everything else at 225°F, we will smoke this at the same temperature, and we will monitor it as it smokes. Next you should place the steaks on, and then the marlin roast.
Check on your fish about every two hours. As long as the fire doesn’t get out of control there shouldn’t be too much to worry about. If you see that the meat is smoking unevenly, or flare ups are having an impact on the fish then you should rotate the roast and steaks.
After 2 hours, the smoked marlin jerky strips should be ready. The jerky internal temperature should be about 165°F. Once there, you can pull off and begin enjoying while continuing the smoke process.
Your steaks will be ready, as will the roast at an internal temperature of 150°F - 160°F. Time wise, the steaks should be good after 3-5 hours, and the roast will be ready between 8-10 hours.
Smoking marlin can be an unique experience. It is a very delicate fish but very delicious, especially when it is smoked properly. The rarity of this fish, makes it even more special. Most of the people try it when they are on vacation, just like me that I tried at one of my cooking vacations.
We prefer to pair this recipe with grilled vegetable kebobs, and a rice pilaf. Serve along with a Languedoc wine, a bock style beer, or fresh lemonade. Reminisce over the steaks with your fishing team, and celebrate with friends over the roast style smoked marlin and more importantly, enjoy it!