Best wood for smoking haddock | Infuse this white fish with flavor

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  January 9, 2022

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Smoked fish is one of the healthiest smoked foods to eat.

Haddock is a tasty saltwater fish from the cod family and it has tender white meat which is amazing when smoked.

In Scotland and other parts of the U.K, you probably know cold-smoked haddock as Finnan Haddie. If you’re into smoking fish, you can’t skip out on haddock – whole or fillets.

Best wood for smoking haddock | Infuse this white fish with flavor

Smoked haddock fillets taste best when smoked with mild-flavored wood chips that don’t overpower the natural fishy taste. Mild woods like alder, apple, maple, pecan, and cherry add a slightly sweet smoky flavor that makes this fish taste delicious.

Because most fish has a delicate taste, you don’t need to use a strong smoking wood in the smoker. The goal is to add a pleasant smoky BBQ flavor, not to overpower the fishy taste.

I’m sharing the best woods to use when smoking haddock.

Is haddock good for smoking?

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Haddock has always been hot smoked or cold smoked with mild fruits woods or other lightly smoky woods, just like salmon, trout, and sturgeon.

Similar to its relative the cod, the haddock is an endangered larger fish.

I prefer working with small fillets with the skin exposed. Some people like to smoke the whole fish, but regardless of how you smoke, haddock fillets are a popular choice.

Haddock has a good oil content and it tastes great when smoked. The flesh texture is semi-firm and tender.

It’s a lean white meat fish and has a slightly sweet taste and it’s rather mild so the taste is not very fishy. Even kids like the taste because it’s not nearly as “fishy” as anchovies or mackerel, for example.

Do you need to brine and cure haddock before smoking?

Usually, the haddock is cured before smoking. During the smoking process though you use the flavored woods to give it that tasty smokiness.

Then, haddock fillets are brined in a saltwater solution which gives it a distinct flavor. Brine pairs well with wood smoke flavor.

The wet brine is made by combining water, sugar, salt, and some balsamic vinegar in a large bowl.

For dry brine, use seasonings like herbs, black pepper, and garlic to create a pleasant flavor.

I recommend using wood chips as opposed to wood chunks when smoking fish because these don’t create thick and heavy smoke.

Also read: Can you reuse wood chips? Here’s why better not

Best woods for smoking haddock

You can use a wide variety of smoking woods for this type of fish.

Generally, you can use any of the woods you use to smoke other fish like salmon, trout, tuna, etc.

But, there are some woods that just pair well and complement the haddock’s white meat and I’m sharing them with you here.

How much wood you need to smoke fish depends on how much flavor you want.

Alder

If you’re looking for a universal wood for smoked fish, I recommend alder – it is used to smoke almost any type of fish or seafood.

Therefore, it works well and imparts haddock with a mild smoke flavor. The overall flavor is slightly sweet with a bit of an earthy aroma. Some might even call it a bit musky, but it’s very subtle so it doesn’t ruin the fish’s flavor.

This wood doesn’t overtake the natural flavors of the haddock so you end up with tasty smoked fish.

You can also mix alder wood with a light fruitwood such as apple which makes the smoke sweeter.

Alder is also a great blending wood with other nutty woods like pecan, or stronger woods like maple.

The reason why many people use alder wood chips when smoking fish is that it burns long-lasting smoke without soot.

You can get Cameron’s kiln-dried alder wood chips for your smoker on Amazon.

Pecan

Pecan, a relative of the hickory tree, burns slowly and imparts a medium flavored smoke that is not nearly as strong as hickory wood. It’s suitable for smoking fish because it’s still mild compared to hickory.

Pecan is a bit strong for fish in some cases, but I recommend it for haddock for those people who like a real Southern-style BBQ smoke profile.

Just be sure to use pecan wood chips sparingly, or else it can become a bit pungent and overpower the fish’s natural flavors.

When you use pecan in the smoker, your fish will take on a sweet, slightly fruity taste with a hint of nuttiness.

The Weber pecan smoking chips offer a very rich, nutty, and sweet flavor.

Apple

When it comes to fruitwood, apple is the best and most popular for smoking meats, including fish.

The reason why it works well when smoking haddock is that it imparts the skin and meat with a very. subtle sweet and fruity flavor.

It’s not overpowering at all, yet you can taste the delicate nuanced aromas of applewood.

Applewood chips are a great choice because they burn slowly in the smoker and will last long enough to smoke the haddock, especially if you soak the wood chips in cold water before smoking.

If you want a more intense flavor, you can mix mild apple with a stronger maple or pecan wood to impart a bit of nutty and earthy taste.

Applewood is very popular and also very affordable to buy. You can get Weber smoking wood chips for under $5.

Peach

Peachwood is great for smoking haddock too. It is also a mild-flavored smoke wood but it’s a bit more sweet and fruity.

The flavor profile is quite similar but it’s slightly stronger than other fruit woods like apple.

You can use peach wood chips to smoke the entire fish or just fillets. This wood doesn’t overpower the taste of the fish, so you can use it without worrying about over-smoking.

Peach is an excellent choice for smoking delicate white fish because it doesn’t leave an acidic or tart aftertaste.

If you prefer very sweet smoke, you can blend peach with applewood for the ultimate fruity BBQ aroma.

You can use the Western Premium wood chips in your smoker.

Apricot

Peach and apricot wood are very similar. I just want to mention the apricot because it’s quite prevalent in some areas.

You can use it to smoke haddock and it gives the meat a sweet and fruity flavor, but a bit less sweet than peach.

Maple

If you like naturally sweet smoke woods, you can use maple wood chips. This wood gives a subtle but sweet smoky taste to the meat.

Most pitmasters like to use sugar maple because it burns a clean flavorful smoke. This wood is almost like a fruitwood when it comes to smoke profile.

It’s commonly used as a blending wood for smoking fish and seafood.

The best combinations are maple with apple for a fruity sweet taste, maple with oak wood for a sweet and earthy taste, or mix it with alder for a neutral smoky aroma.

Whiskey barrel chips

The smoke flavor is that of regular oak wood chips but it’s combined with the distinguishable taste of No 7 whiskey. It’s best described as smoky and a bit earthy.

Compared to fruity woods, these chips are quite strong, so use them sparingly for smoked fish.

Don’t worry, the smoke won’t make your haddock taste like strong alcohol, but it adds a tasty and subtle whiskey aroma.

Jack Daniels whiskey barrel chips are made of charred white oak barrels. These aged barrels give the fish an amazing and sophisticated taste.

Although the barrels are made of oak, I still don’t recommend using that wood for smoking fish like haddock.

However, you can use the whiskey barrel wood chips for most smoked fish because the strong earthy oak taste is blended with aged whisky which makes the fish taste quite smoky but delicious.

Since haddock is a bit oily, it absorbs some of that refined whisky aroma.

You can get whiskey barrel wood chips for smoking on Amazon. These are super popular because they burn well.

Rather have your fish done quickly? Here’s How to Grill Fish on a Charcoal Grill the right way

What woods to avoid when smoking haddock

When smoking white fish, strong smoking woods like walnut, mesquite, and hickory should be avoided.

These woods have an intense wood smoke flavor and they overpower the delicate flesh of the fish and can make it taste bitter and unpleasant.

There is some confusion about using birch wood when you want to smoke fish. Most pitmasters agree that this wood is not good for smoking haddock because it burns very quickly and gives off a black sooty smoke which makes the meat bitter.

Even if you smoke skin side down, these woods are too overpowering. Smoked fish and strong woods don’t go together.

For your own health, you should never smoke food with conifers or resinous trees which are full of toxic sap and resin.

Always avoid pine, fir, cypress, and similar woods when smoking all food.

How long to smoke haddock?

Some varieties of fish absorb more smokey flavor and become much less susceptible to drying out when cooked.

The skin on the whole fish helps protect the meat and your fish can retain more water if the skin is preserved.

The longer you smoke fish the stronger the smoke flavor will be so use wood chips sparingly and keep an eye on the smoking temperature as well as the internal temperature of the haddock.

It’s recommended that you hot smoke haddock for about 1.5 to 2 hours. The flesh must reach an internal temperature of 62 C or about 145 F.

It also depends on the recipe you use. Some recipes tell you to cold smoke the haddock.

In this case, you’re not cooking the fish. You need to use low temperatures between 25 and 65 degrees F in your smokers to do this.

In this case, you will need a long smoke time of about 6 hours.

Final thoughts

Now that you know which woods are most suitable for smoking white fish like haddock, you can start serving this as part of your BBQ menu.

It’s going to impress all seafood and fish lovers because this tender meat, combined with a subtle smokiness tastes divine!

Alder gives a subtle taste that doesn’t overtake the typical fishy flavor.

Milder sweet woods such as pecan and apple pair very nicely with fish too.

Whiskey barrel chips leave your fish with a flavor you never had before and it’s worth a try if you’re tired of regular sweet and fruity smoke flavors.

Just be sure to go in light with the wood chips when you smoke fish like haddock so you don’t overpower it.

Also check out my post of the best wood for smoking eel (how to get the best out of this tasty fish)

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Lakeside Smokers is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with BBQ Smoking (& Japanese food!) at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.