How 15 Million Pounds of Smoked Fish Gets Made – A Frank Experience

How 15 Million Pounds of Smoked Fish Gets Made – A Frank Experience


-This is by far one of the
biggest ovens I’ve ever seen. This is where all the cold
smoking is going down, so this is “A Frank Experience.” And today I’m learning how
to take beautiful whole salmon and turn it
into the smoked fish that we’ve all grown to love
here in New York City. ♪♪ We’re at Acme Smoked Fish
here in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I’m kind of new at this. I don’t have much experience
with raw fish. So I guess you could say I’m
a fish out of water on this one. [ Rimshot ] Alright. We’re about
to go into the factory. They have very strict
sanitation rules. I mean, these Yeezys are fresh, but I think I’m feeling these
yellow boots a little more. -We’re going in to the raw
production area. We bring in fish from all over
the world, and it all comes here. We do about 15 million pounds
of fish per year. That’s encompassing everything
from salmon to whitefish, herring, smoked trout,
a little something for everyone. We have been around
for over 100 years. -How many employees
do you guys employ here? -So we have about 170 here
in Brooklyn at our HQ. Brooklyn is the smoked-fish
capital of the world. -When you come to New York,
you get a hot dog or a pretzel, you get a slice of pizza
and you get a bagel and lox. -That’s it. -If you miss one of those,
why even come? -Why even come? Exactly. We ship all over the country. Or wherever people are looking
for smoked salmon, they can certainly find
our products there. -Well, this is the salmon
processing section of the factory. This is sort of what
Acme is known for. Luckily not only do I have
the best guy in the business to show me,
but he’s also an old friend and one of our first regulars
at Best Pizza. -What’s up?
-What’s up, Vince? Good to see you, brother.
-Good to see you. -Thank you
for having us here today. -Thanks for finally coming in.
-So I would imagine fileting a fish like this
is a very specific technique and probably something that
takes some time to learn. -Yeah. These guys behind us
have been doing it for at least 15, 20 years. They make it look easy.
-Yeah. -But we’ll get you up to speed.
The first thing they do is they cut off a couple
of skin patches… -Okay. -…which allows the brine
to penetrate evenly as it sits for a week
in the salt water. -Interesting.
-And they cut off the head. Goes right down the rack.
-Okay. -And then he’s trimming off
some of the fat and some more of the bones. What do you think? You ready
to give one a try? -Yeah, I would love to. Do a little… -A little more, a little more. -Ooh, got to get deeper
than I thought, huh? That’s a little too deep. -A little more confidence. -That’s it. -That’s it.
-Alright. Flip it now?
-No, no, no. The other way. -And now you follow
the bone the other way. But a little pressure up.
-Gotcha. Oh, I left a little meat
on the bone over here. -I’m gonna feed my family
with that bone. -Yeah. [ Laughs ] Don’t let the boss
see that, Rich. You peel a little bit
of that stomach fat off, huh? What am I hitting, a bone there? -[ Speaks indistinctly ] -One chop. There you go. -Clean it up a little bit.
I butchered that one, man. I’m not feeling
so good right now. -Well, you got to do
another 700 of them… -Yeah, yeah, yeah. I want to stay here now
all day and work on these until I get it right. I was better
at rolling dumplings. How did I do on my first try?
-Okay. -Yeah? From 1 to 10,
what would you say? [ Laughs ] Yo, they’re tougher here
in Brooklyn than they are in Manhattan,
I’m telling you. Do I get another shot?
One more fish? Let’s do it. Alright? Okay. Okay. That was a little bit better
right? Yeah. [ Laughs ] You got to come
make pizza with me. He’s getting ready for me
to slice my finger off. -It’s not as easy as it looks.
-Not as easy as it looks at all. On my second chance,
how did I do? -Oh!
-1 to 5. -Alright. 1 to 5. Thank you, my brother. So we’re gonna throw
these filets into the brine. And, Richie, where we going
from here? -We’re gonna take these
into the brining cooler. So you can just get on that
and push it on this way. -Alright.
Beep, beep. -So now these will be in here
for about a week. After a week,
they’re gonna drain the brine and rinse it
with fresh, clean water. And they’re gonna go on to
trolleys and roll into the oven. -Richie just brought me
over here to the oven. What’s going on in the oven? -The fish is rinsed
and it’s on a rack. You have high-powered fans
which are gonna be drying the fish constantly over
this 17-hour period. -Mm-hmm. -And intermittently.
you’re gonna be burning wood and it’s gonna generate smoke
in the smoke generator and it’s gonna get
pumped into the oven. -You really smell it
in the air. -It’s the heart
and soul right here. Hands on the inside.
-Hands on the inside. There must be 20 fans in
here blowing, drying off all this fish
that’s been brined. Right now, the smoker is off.
We just turned the fans off. This will dry in here
for 17 hours and then smoke. The color and the fat is just
kind of perfect. 72 degrees is the average
temperature in here. It’s the perfect temperature
for a piece of salmon like this to soak in all the smoke
and flavor from the wood chips. My old buddy Gary.
-How you doing? -These two guys have been
regulars at Best Pizza for 10 years now?
-Yeah. -At least…
-Since you opened. -Since we opened. They were some
of our first customers. -It’s a good thing
you make good pizza. You weren’t gonna come back. This is very popular
for the diners. It’s sliced in this style. -It’s a little different than your traditional,
like, meat slicer. It’s almost more like
a table slicer. -Turn it around.
-Turn this one around. -Flip it over.
-Got to push that in. -Oh, I see what you’re saying
by coaxing it through. I got some ways
for that blade, right? I don’t got to worry
about my fingers. This is this
is real factory work. This is a place that employs
tons of people in this neighborhood. When you’re able to sustain
a company for this long and give people jobs
for that many years, I think
it’s an impressive thing. And it’s what we all want
as business owners. Yes. We’re gonna switch. This slicing machine
is incredible. It’s slicing it perfectly,
ready to eat. You could see that it’d probably
be easy for it to be packaged. And then we put this
on the line. Okay.
Right on the conveyor belt. Next tray. So once these get on to that
conveyor belt, they’ll go be made
into a 30-pound tray to be packed away and sent out. Now it’s my job
to pack this up. Here we go. -So you would put that
on the conveyor belt. -This goes back
to the conveyor belt. Put it right in. Goes right into a Cryovac. -Yeah.
Right on the roll stock. -Beautiful. So the facility is huge. There’s a lot of fish
being moved around. We have some beautiful —
Is that whitefish? -We bring fresh whitefish
from the Great Lakes about twice a week. The first thing we got to do
is get those fish clean. So when I started here,
this was my first job, scraping out all the bloodline
in the fish. Near and dear to my heart. -What’s the technique? -Take this spoon
and just kind of scoop out any last bit of bloodline. -Got you. -This is a high-velocity scaler. It’s got these angled blades that basically scrape the scales
off of the whitefish so that when they smoke,
they get to be nice and shiny. -I’ve never seen anything
like this before in my life. -Pretty cool feat
of engineering. -The scaler I know
is, like, the little… -Back of a spoon, right? -Yeah, back of a spoon. We’re seeing the transformation
now going from a whole fish to what’s gonna be
a delicious whitefish salad. So the next step now is salt it. -We got to get salt in the fish. So the first thing is
we’re gonna fill up this tank with some fresh
New York City water. We’re gonna mix it with some
100% salt solution. -Wow. -We’re gonna mix it
to the optimal salt percentage for smoked whitefish,
which is about 20%. -You know, this is definitely
a little bit of a workout. I could imagine doing this
every day. You probably — You don’t have to go to
the gym and build up those lats, if you know what I mean. -Last step is to check
our brine here, make sure we got the right… 20 on the button. -Wow.
-Let’s keep it going. -This guy’s good.
This guy’s good. -So these are the whitefish
in here. And then there’s smoke
in the hot smoker. -Gotcha. -Here you have
an additional step — drying, cooking, and smoking.
-Yep. Whoo.
Eyes are burning. So this is the finished product
of the whitefish. They were brought over here into
the smoker — the hot smoker. Golden brown and delicious. Ready to rock ‘n’ roll. So now that the whitefish
has been smoked, it’s time to pack it up
and send it out to the customer. Yeah, so is this
a premium product? -On the retail side,
you’re usually — Something like this — they’re about two
and a half pounds each — you’re probably about between
15 and 18 bucks a pound. -40, 45 bucks a fish. So I mean, you know, it’s not
the most expensive thing in the world,
but it’s definitely not cheap. A lot of work has gone into it, and it’s been done
the old-fashioned way, which, in my opinion, adds a lot
of value to the product itself. So packed and ready to go.
This is finished up. From here, it’s gonna be
weighed and tagged. Is that right? -Yes, weighed, labeled up,
and palletized. And ready to go out tonight
on the trucks. -I can’t wait to get
my hands on this. We’re up in Acme’s corporate
office upstairs. I’m here with Richie
and the word is, is that he’s the best
salmon slicer in the game. -So this is a freshly smoked
side of Chilean salmon. You want a pretty stiff
yet flexible knife. So you want a good backbone
to it but still a nice flex
in the midpoint. What you want to do is you want
to establish your angle. The tail of the fish is almost always gonna
be used for something else. They’re gonna make their
cream cheese, their lox cream cheese with it. They’re gonna put it in omelets
for Leo’s. So instead of going
after that, I’m just gonna…start
with my angle. You want to make these nice,
thin slices, nice, even strokes coming down
and keep it nice and thin. You’ll see there’s
that dark meat. What I like to do is I fold
and I get rid of it. -Is there a degree
of transparency you want with the actual slice? -You want it as thin as possible
without it falling apart. -Gotcha. -And the old standard was always
you want it to be so thin, you could read “The New York
Times” through it. So you’ve been watching
this all day. You ready for a bite?
-I can’t wait. It’s so tender. It literally — you don’t have
to chew it much. Kind of like break it apart
with your tongue. It’s just what you want, you know, an amazing piece
of smoked salmon to taste like. -Alright, you ready
to give this a try? -Yeah, I think so. Fileting the salmon
was a little bit difficult, but, you know,
I think I got this one. -Gonna get you a weekend job
on the Upper West Side. -There we go.
I like the sound of that. -There you go. -It’s all about
those long strokes. -it’s not bad right there.
-Alright. This slice right here,
it’s so thin, you can read “The New York
Times” through it. Forget about it. You were probably
one of the first customers that came in to Best Pizza. 2014, shortly after that, I got approached
by a mutual friend that comes here every Friday
and came up to me and said, “Hey, would you ever want to do
something with ACME, maybe, you know, do some pizza
and smoked fish?” And sure enough,
we kind of thought up this idea. And me and you got on the horn. We talked about what
different fish we could use. I invited all these old-timers
from Brooklyn, all of my family, to come out, and then you guys invited
a bunch of old-timers from here,
from the neighborhood. So it was a bunch
of old Sicilians, a bunch of neighborhood Jews that come here for years
and years, and we packed the place out. It was really cool to be kind
of accepted by you guys. And it made me feel part
the neighborhood, for sure. -Yeah, absolutely. And you’ve always
done the same for me and my family coming through.
-Yeah. I love it. -My boys since they were I don’t
know 4 or 5 years old… -Yeah.
-…been coming to your place. -Yeah. Yeah. -Now they’re starting
high school. -I can’t believe it, man.
-Thank you. Thanks for coming. -No, I can’t say
thank you enough. This is the whitefish
that we worked on earlier today. This has been smoked to the
point where it is just perfect. Look at this meat. You know, even the meat
is just golden. I mean, come on. I’m a scooper,
if you haven’t noticed. I like that.
I like that. You know I’m coming over for those delicious-looking
summertime tomatoes. I got to see the transformation
from a whole fish to what we have here
laying in front of us. Now I’m about to dig in
and eat. -The best part
of a labor of love. -It’s obvious now why you guys
have been around for so long. Your grandfather would be proud. ♪♪ -You know what this knife
is called? 10-inch Wide Stiff boner. -F. Dick makes the 10-inch… -Wide Stiff boner. -I guess you got
to get creative.

100 thoughts on “How 15 Million Pounds of Smoked Fish Gets Made – A Frank Experience

  1. ive smelled their factory…and it makes my mouth water overtime……mmm i can smell it from my deck in snowy Belgrade Montana…. over 2300 miles away…

  2. Frank is such a genuine guy. I honestly want his job. Looks so interesting to have these different experiences.

  3. That smoked fish si fckn bullshit i favour u a smoked "Forelle" out a small village in austria/Niederösterreich u e been never eat soemting like that frech caught out of da water and then served wir little bit of garlicbutter and Lemon damn jesus j had never eat something like that before (its like flavoured Butter in da tounge)

  4. An "F. Dick 10" Wide Stiff Boner". Nice.

    I've gone to their factory outlet outside of Stuttgart, Germany. F. Dick makes a wide range of types and price points of knives. High quality stuff. I'm always happy to use my Dick knives…

  5. Amazing! I really enjoyed your video. Is Acme smoked fish available in Houston, Texas? All I ever find is Norwegian.

  6. It is always so interesting to hear a true NY accent. I have a lot of transplanted friends who moved there and fake the accent. We have one in Chicago too, but I think at this point it is mostly faked when around certain groups/areas. I always enjoy the videos.

  7. As a commercial fisherman on lake superior, I get about $1.50 a pound from the fish buyer. He says thier selling for $50 a fish! Cheap motherfucker!

  8. i love these videos with Frankie, but when is the next season of the Pizza Show finally coming, pleaaase 🙏 it's about time 🍕 💙

  9. I love traveling to upper great lakes and stopping by the little smokey shops by the shores to get fresh smoked whitefish.
    That fish, on a toaster bagel, Perfection.

  10. Frank is one of the few people i look up to, he's not only a great chef, he's also a great human being overall, he is the prime example of what a human must become to be a top notch person all over.

  11. Saying NY is the smoked salmon capitol of the world is a blatant lie. I feel offended as a Norwegian, we invented that shit. Such a shame, the US taking creds for other people’s inventions as usual. Shame on you

  12. Dislike.
    Disrespect to smoking fish old way.
    Now they put some smoke thru a fan for couple of hours pretending its smoked.
    Boi you need to see old soviet smoking. For a whole day and night you burn normal wood not some small pellets and its immersed in smoke not covered. A proper smoked fish should have the smokey flavour to the middle.
    This is just disrespect to the word smoking.

  13. Not great with the fish, but with clear potential for improvement. Anyways, I've seen Masterchef contestants truly butcher a salmon so this was pretty decent.

  14. That slicing machine cut the salmon in the wrong direction. It didn't look like it was cut against the grain like you also do with meat and should do with smoked salmon. You really shouldn't get a rectangular slice of salmon. It means you've butchered the salmon filet into weird chunks, as these people do to fit it into a machine.

    I wouldn't buy this product while there's top-notch quality Norweigean smoked salon out there, which I'm more used to eating anyway since I don't live in the US. Then, you actually get a slice of the WHOLE FILET, not some weird-assed industrial chunky piece slice.

  15. I can only imagine the stench. How polluted are these fish? I like near lake erie and lake Ontario and I would not eat fish out of there.

  16. The amount of PBDEs and PCBs found in farmed salmon is enough for me to be disgusted but i would definetly esat that whitefish.

  17. Wow this would be a dream job for me 😀 always fascinated at how anything is made. I always think hmm how did they do that? 😁

  18. Honey…. I'm from Alaska. I'm looking at those fish and .. it's sad. Grey salmon flesh. Pathetic. Come to alaska, talk to copper river reds. Please. That fish is sad. If not? I'll send you some actual smoked salmon.

  19. "Brooklyn is the smoked fish capital of the world"? Sure it is if you like mediocre smoked fish… what a load of bilge. And why would anyone in their right mind allow someone to "butcher" a beautiful fish like they let this guy? It looks like the guy was using a spoon to fillet that fish.

  20. I've been eating this fish since I was a kid. I've even smoked my own salmon. I love salmon; no bones about it. It's probably my favorite single food.

    And I still learned things watching this. Bravo, Frank. Bravo.

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