All About Arbroath Smokies

Arbroath Smokies
Gannet77 / Getty Images

No visit to East Scotland is complete without a visit to Arbroath and the chance to eat "Smokies" in their home. Arbroath is on the east coast on Forfarshire. The small fishing town is not unlike many on the that coastline, but it is their smoking of haddock, known locally and affectionately as Smokies, that makes them unique!

Definition of the Arbroath Smokie

The Arbroath Smokie is haddock, smoked over hardwood, in and around the small fishing town of Arbroath, Angus (Forfarshire) in east Scotland.

Brief History of the Arbroath Smokie

Just precisely how and when the Arbroath Smokie was born is fraught with speculation and myth. One legend has it that following a cottage fire in the town, a burnished, gold haddock was found in the smoldering embers, tasted and declared delicious… as they say, the rest is history. The tale is sweet and like so many, unsubstantiated, I can hardly imagine raking through my burned out house looking for a fish, but who knows.

Whether or not this is the true origin of the Arbroath Smokie is irrelevant; what is true is that the Arbroath Smokies are a famous Scottish food and are renowned throughout the world.

How Is an Arbroath Smokie Produced?

The Smokie is produced by tying the tail end of two, salt dried haddock together, which are then hung over sticks. A "Smokie Pit” is prepared by setting a half whisky barrel into the ground. The base of the barrel is lined with slates to protect it, and a hardwood fire of beech and oak is lit inside. The sticks of haddock are then placed over the smoking "pit" and then with the true art of the smoker, cooked until the golden-copper tones of a true Arbroath Smokie are achieved.

Eating Smokies

An Arbroath Smokie can be eaten just as any smoked fish. Replace a regular breakfast kipper with one of these lovely golden fish. Use the Smokies in any traditional recipes for smoked haddock, such as Scottish Cullen Skink or a Smoked Haddock Chowder for a deeper flavor than traditional smoked haddock. Smokies also make a lovely, deep-flavored pate.

Protecting the Arbroath Smokie

The Smokie has a protected status under European law and can only be called an Arbroath Smokie if it is produced in the traditional manner and within a five mile radius of the town.

PDO status comes from the European Union (EU), which has a scheme in place to protect precious foods that can be easily copied or are in danger of being lost. The EU Protected Food Name identifies these foods and where their authenticity and origin can be guaranteed, and grants them protection against imitation. The application process is lengthy and complicated but the protected status reaps rewards for the producers.