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Smoked Red Snapper

1 hours 30 min Cook
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Smoked Red Snapper

Try our easy recipe today and experience the amazing flavors of delicately sweet but-smoky barbecue fish. We bring you an incredible dish of fresh red snapper infused with garlic and thyme, then hot smoked on cedar planks. Learn how to prepare and cook this mouthwatering smoked red snapper and indulge in a truly satisfying meal.

How to make smoked red snapper

If you’re seeking to add variety to your smoker recipes but have been hesitant about cooking fish, this smoked red snapper is the perfect dish, to begin with. It’s designed to help you overcome any apprehensions and embark on a flavorful journey with confidence.

Consider this smoked red snapper as your gateway to exploring the world of seafood smoking. With its mild and slightly sweet white meat, it’s the perfect choice for those who prefer subtle flavors over strong fishy tastes. The versatility of red snapper allows you to pair it with various ingredients and seasonings, resulting in a delightful and satisfying meal every time.

Unlock the secrets of smoking red snapper from start to finish with our comprehensive guide and easy-to-follow recipe. Learn everything from preparing and filleting the fish to selecting the perfect smoking woods. With our step-by-step instructions, you’ll master the art of hot-smoking fish and create a delectable red snapper dish from scratch.

Smoked Red Snapper

Smoked Red Snapper

Red Snapper Explained

Red snapper, a saltwater fish found in oceans worldwide, is primarily harvested from the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and around Indonesia.

Renowned for its versatility, red snapper is a popular choice among both restaurant chefs and home cooks due to its subtly sweet and slightly nutty flavor. Unlike some oilier fish, red snapper offers a lean and firm flesh that lacks an overpowering fishy taste. This makes it an excellent canvas for infusing various flavors and spices, appealing even to individuals who may not prefer strong seafood flavors.

Red snapper lends itself well to various cooking methods, but it truly excels when it comes to smoking. Its lean meat readily absorbs the smoky essence, while the skin, once descaled, contributes a delicious taste and helps maintain the fish’s integrity during the smoking process, whether prepared as fillets or as a whole fish.  

How to Buy Red Snapper

Red snapper is readily available, with fish markets and supermarkets frequently stocking it in the form of pre-packaged frozen or fresh fillets. However, if you prefer to smoke a whole red snapper or fillet it yourself, it’s advisable to seek out the freshest fish possible, which may require a visit to the fish market.

When purchasing red snapper, there are several important factors to consider to ensure optimal freshness:

Smell: Fresh fish should have a mild, oceanic scent. While red snapper may carry a hint of the sea, it should not emit a strong fishy odor.

Skin: The skin of the fish should appear vibrant and metallic. Red snapper naturally exhibits a vibrant blush color, and even when filleted, the skin on the cut pieces should retain its vibrancy. Additionally, the skin should feel firm to the touch.

Eyes: When buying a whole red snapper, inspect the eyes as they serve as a freshness indicator. Clear and bright eyes are signs of a fresh fish, while milky or cloudy eyes suggest otherwise.

Gills: Checking the gills of a whole fish can provide further insights into its freshness. The gills should be slightly red and moist. Avoid purchasing a fish if the gills feel slimy or dry.

How to Prepare Red Snapper for Smoking

Typically, when discussing fish filleting, we focus on the process without delving into the messy task of handling the fish’s internal organs. However, since red snapper is often smoked as a whole fish, we have included instructions on how to clean, gut, and fillet it.

Red snapper is equipped with sturdy scales, so it’s essential to have a sharp filleting knife at your disposal. Wearing protective gloves is also advisable as they provide a secure grip on the fish, reducing the risk of accidents while using the knife.


To begin, we need to remove the scales from the red snapper. Place the fish on your work surface with the head positioned towards your non-dominant hand (performing the descaling and filleting with your dominant hand enhances safety).

Hold the red snapper by the head and, using either your knife or a scaling tool, scrape the scales in the opposite direction of their natural grain. Start at the tail and gradually work your way toward the head. Afterward, rinse the fish under cold running water to eliminate any loose scales.

At this stage, you may also choose to remove the fins. Utilizing a pair of sharp kitchen scissors, grip the fins and pull them away from the body, then make a clean cut as close to the fish’s surface as possible.


To begin gutting the red snapper, make an incision along the belly of the fish, starting from the base of the head and continuing down to the small opening near the tail. There is a section below the fins that may be tougher to cut through using a knife, so kitchen scissors can be used to snip through this portion.

Next, you’ll need to detach the gill filament. Pull the gills forward to expose where they connect to the neck, then use scissors to snip through this attachment point. Continue the cut from the belly to the head.

Insert your fingers or a spoon into the body cavity and gradually pull out the innards, working from the gills towards the back of the fish.

Additionally, it is important to remove the gills, as they can impart a bitter taste to the fish. To do this, cut around the area where the gills are attached. They will come out as a whole piece, along with the gills and tongue.

Ensure that the cavity is thoroughly cleaned of entrails, and then rinse it meticulously under cold running water.

If you plan to smoke the red snapper as a whole fish, you may want to make several cuts or create a criss-cross pattern with your knife through the skin and down to the bones. This allows for the addition of extra spices or flavors to the fish before smoking, depending on the recipe you are following.

Smoked Red Snapper

Smoked Red Snapper


Begin by using a sharp knife to make an angled cut behind the gills, separating the fillet section from the head of the fish.

Next, make a deep cut from the top of the head, following along the backbone to the tail. You should be able to feel the knife gliding along the bones of the spine.

Gently open up the meat from the spine, allowing you to continue making cuts to remove the fillet from the bones. Keep slicing until the fillet is fully separated.

Repeat the same process on the opposite side of the fish to obtain two fillets.

Times & Temperatures

To ensure that the fish is safe to consume, it should reach an internal temperature of 145℉ (62℃). When smoking fish, it is recommended to maintain a smoker temperature between 250-275℉ (120-135℃) for optimal results.

On average, red snapper fillets of medium size will typically take approximately 45 to 60 minutes to reach the desired internal temperature when smoked at this temperature range. It’s important to note that these timings are provided as a general guide, and the most reliable way to determine the doneness of the fish is by measuring its internal temperature.

Smoking Wood

When selecting wood for smoking fish, the general recommendation is to choose a variety that imparts a pleasant smoky flavor without overpowering the taste of the fish.

For smoking red snapper, Alder wood is a popular choice that provides a delightful smoky taste. If the recipe you are following, such as the one below, incorporates lemon or lime as an ingredient, using citrus wood (Orangewood, which is easily available online) to smoke your red snapper can add a unique flavor dimension to the final dish.

Quick Tips

When it comes to enjoying the smoked red snapper, the easiest method is to use a fork to flake the meat away from one side of the fish until the spine becomes exposed. Once one side has been completely cleared of meat, you can lift the tail and the spine (including the head) should easily separate from the fillet on the opposite side. It is important to always be cautious and check for any small pin bones in the fish meat before consuming.

For most smoked fish recipes, we recommend using cedar planks, which are available on platforms like Amazon. Cedar planks prevent the snapper from sticking to the smoker grates, resulting in a smoother cooking process. If cedar planks are not readily available, you can try using a fish basket or lining the smoker grates with a thin layer of canola oil as an alternative.

Stay tuned to our website for updates on simple and high-quality home cooking methods just like the experts! Let us know what kind of recipes you’re looking for by leaving a comment below this article!

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Smoked Red Snapper

Smoked Red Snapper

Incredible fresh whole red snapper prepared in garlic and thyme, and hot smoked on cedar planks for delicately sweet-but-smoky barbecue fish.
prep time
10 min
cooking time
1 hours 30 min
total time
1 hours 40 min


  • Cedar planks


  • 2 whole red snapper (descaled, gutted and cleaned)

  • ½ tbsp olive oil

  • 2 cloves garlic crushed

  • 2 tsp kosher salt

  • 2 tsp ground black pepper

  • 1 lemon thinly sliced

  • 1 lime thinly sliced

  • 1 bunch fresh thyme


Preheat your smoker to a temperature of 250-275°F (120-135°C).
While the smoker is heating up, drizzle olive oil on both sides of the fish and inside the cavity. Sprinkle salt, black pepper, and crushed garlic evenly over the surface of the fish and inside the cavity.
Place lemon and lime slices inside the fish cavity, and insert a few sprigs of thyme.
Arrange the seasoned fish on a cedar plank (you may need multiple planks depending on the size) and carefully place the plank on the smoker grates.
Close the smoker door or lid, and let the fish smoke until it reaches an internal temperature of 145°F (62°C). This typically takes around 60-90 minutes.
Once the red snapper has reached the desired internal temperature, remove it from the smoker and serve immediately.
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About author
As the founder and chief editor of Scills Grill, I'm a self-proclaimed BBQ nut. I love cooking outdoors over live fire and smoke, no matter the weather. I use various grills, smokers, and wood-fired ovens to produce epic food. Peter Cobbetts is the president and founder of Scills Grill, with over 15 years' experience in barbecue. He's an exceptional pitmaster and grill expert who specializes in smoking briskets, pork shoulders - using charcoal, wood or propane grills/smokers - as well as reviewing kitchen appliances such as grills, smokers etc., having tried out almost every model available on the market.
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