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close this bookLivelihood Options for Coastal Communities (IIRR, 1995, 77 p.)
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View the documentSalted-fish drying
View the documentSalted-smoked-fish processing

Salted-smoked-fish processing

While salted-fish drying is commonly practiced in remote, rich fishing grounds, salted-smoked fish (tinapa) is mostly done in urban centers. Salted-fish drying is done mainly to prevent deterioration, but smoking fish is done to improve taste and flavor. The quality of smoked fish is highly dependent on the degree of freshness of the fish. More and more people are shifting to smokedfish preference and it is fast becoming a delicacy food. Smoked fish may even be more profitable than fresh fish because of demand and preference.

Principle of smoking

The preservative effect of the smoking process is due to the drying and the deposition in the flesh of natural wood smoke chemicals. Smoke from burning wood contains compounds that inhibit bacteria, while heat from fire causes drying. The longer it is smoked, the longer the fish will keep. Avoid resinous types, like pine that imparts unpleasant flavor and taste. Also, do not use poisonous types of fuelwood like Euphorbia. Smoking techniques do not preserve the fish but are merely cosmetic to produce smoky flavor (UNIFEM Food Technology Source Book, No. 4, 1988).

Materials for smoking fish

Processing method

The materials needed are: Baklad (bamboo strips) for drying, dalarayan (tray) for smoking, bamboo baskets, vats or tubs, brine solution, oil drum smoker, smoking trays and fuelwood or smoking materials.

The popular fish species suited for salted smoked fish are: sardines, mackerels and milkfish.

Fish are cleaned by thoroughly washing them with clean water (sea or fresh). Large fish are gutted. Fish are soaked in light brine solution of 2 kg salt to 20 liters of water. Soaking time depends on the size of the fish, ranging from two to four hours. Salted fish are placed in baskets of wood or bamboo strips. They are suspended in aluminum kettles or boilers until the fish is slightly cooked (two to four minutes boiling). The fish are dried in baskets or trays and left to cool overnight.

Arrange the salted cooked fish in smoking fish trays horizontally and place them inside the smoking furnace (oil drum). The furnace is heated below by smouldering with charcoal, sawdust, wooden chips or semi-dried leaves. Smoking time varies depending on the size and taste desired. Common practice is until the fish is thoroughly dried. The position of the trays is alternated frequently to provide an even curing and smoking.

Cool the smoked fish and pack them in woven rattan or bamboo baskets. Storage time can last from four to eight days at ambient temperatures.

Cylindrical ovens, made by joining two opened oil drums, are used by artisanal processors. A stoke hole is cut at the base of the oven in which a fire is made. A perforated metal sheet can be inserted inside the drum just above the fire to act as a smoke spreader. Trays are suspended towards the top of the drum to hold the fish.

The simple version of an Altona oven consists of a brick or cement fire box located below a smoking chamber made of metal. The fish are placed on trays which slide into the smoking chamber. Many other versions of this kiln have been constructed, using less expensive materials, such as mud or fired bricks instead of metal.

Oil-drum smoker

Altona-type oven

Economics of production—smoked fish (milkfish)

Value (in pesos)

Total value (in pesos)

Annual Revenue

Sale of 2,500 kg/month × 18.50/kg × 10 months


Annual Production Cost

30,000 kg of fresh bangus × P12/kg


200 sacks of salt at P50/sack


Water at P4/day × 200 days


Firewood at P20/day × 200 days


400 sacks sawdust × P30/sack


250 kw/mo of electricity × P1.16/kw × 10 months


2 laborers × P30/day × 200 days







Fixed Investment

(1) unit brining tank


(2) units cooking kettles


(20) pcs bamboo trays


(20) pcs bamboo baskets


(2) units concrete stove


(3) units drum smoke house


Knives and utensils



Net return

Annual revenue


Less: Annual production cost



Return on Investment

Net return


Fixed investment



Source: Canning of Smoked Bangus, PCAARD, Vol. Vll.