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The Fancy Smoked Fish Face Off

Avatar for Samantha Biggers Samantha Biggers  |  Updated: July 1, 2019
The Fancy Smoked Fish Face Off

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I used to love smoked salmon growing up out in Washington. I usually only ate it when people gave it to us because even out in Washington it was not inexpensive meat to eat unless you knew someone that smoked it or did it yourself. Coho Salmon was one of the more popular salmons for smoking. They have a deep red flesh and good levels of fat.

Now that I live in North Carolina, I have a weakness for smoked trout. Sunburst Trout Farm provides locally produced smoked trout that we use to make sushi or for a special treat at picnics.

Of course, this smoked trout must be refrigerated, so if we want smoked fish that is shelf stable, we choose canned smoked trout. I wish it were local, but Germany is a reputable country regarding food safety, so we buy it sometimes. This taste test introduced us to Polar smoked peppered herring which you will want to try after reading our review!

While I am calling this the fancy smoked fish face off, the truth is that some of the fish and oysters in this post are not incredibly expensive. The shelf life of many of these smoked meats is 5 years which is pretty impressive compared to some meats like canned chicken. The sodium content varies a bit, with the canned trout and salmon containing the most.

Consider that the meats in this post can help you add variety to your diet during hard times or emergencies. Calorie content varies a lot, but you can be assured that smoked, canned fish contains a lot of valuable protein.

Bumble Bee Premium Select Fancy Smoked Oysters

Cost: $1.76 or $5.16 for a 3 can pack

Country Of Origin: China, Farm Raised

Container Size: 3.75 oz

Servings Per Can: 2

Calories Per Serving: 110

Calories Per Can: 220

Protein Per Serving:  11 grams

Total Fat Per Serving:  6 grams

Salt Content Per Serving: 160 mg or 7% based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Ingredients: Smoked oysters, cottonseed oil, salt

These oysters are really small and to be honest Matt and I both found them almost completely flavorless. There was not really any smoke flavor either and no hint of salt despite the listed sodium content. Another oyster we don’t plan on buying ever again.

Great Value Smoked Oysters

Cost: $1.23

Country Of Origin: China

Container Size: 3.75 oz

Servings Per Can: 1

Calories Per Serving: 170

Calories Per Can: 170

Protein Per Serving:  14 grams

Total Fat Per Serving: 10 grams

Salt Content Per Serving: 330 mg or 14% based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Ingredients: Smoked oysters, cottonseed oil, salt

We made it to Wal-Mart, so I have Great Value to test this time. The oyster size is very small; in fact, these were the smallest oysters we tested. The flavor was about as tasteless as the Bumble Bee. There is no smoke flavor to these oysters despite them being called smoked oysters on the label.

Chicken Of The Sea Fancy Smoked Oysters In Oil

Cost: $1.28 for the can size tested. The link above is for the larger can size available at Wal-Mart. I was unable to find the smaller cans online at a reasonable cost.

Country Of Origin: China

Container Size: 3.75 oz

Servings Per Can: 1 (based on drained weight)

Calories Per Serving: 100

Calories Per Can: 100

Protein Per Serving:  12 grams

Total Fat Per Serving:  4.5 grams

Salt Content Per Serving: 210 mg or 9% based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Ingredients: Smoked oysters, sunflower oil and cottonseed oil, salt

Wow, we were actually really surprised that the Chicken of the Sea Smoked Oysters had such a good rich flavor. These are some big oysters. The texture is buttery and so much better than the other smoked oysters we tested. These go well on a large cracker with a creamy cheese. We had a wheel of Camembert as a treat with this fish.

Unfortunately, these oysters come from China like all the other ones that we found. I do think this brand and style of oyster is raised under better conditions and more attention is paid to quality despite the fact that these are not a lot more money than the other oysters on the list.

Northern Catch Harvest Of The Sea

Cost: $1.19 at Aldi stores. Click the link to find a store. They are not in every state, but they are a good place to check for deals if you have one nearby. 

Country Of Origin: China

Container Size: 3 oz

Servings Per Can: 1 (based on drained weight)

Calories Per Serving: 130

Calories Per Can: 130

Protein Per Serving: 11 grams

Total Fat Per Serving: 7 grams

Salt Content Per Serving: 220 mg or 9% based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Ingredients: Smoked oysters, cottonseed oil, salt

Northern Catch is Aldi’s store brand. For those that don’t know about Aldi, it is a popular discount store owned by a company in Germany, You can find unique stuff there but selection can be limited, so you are probably going to need to shop somewhere else for the remainder of your groceries.

The flavor was just plain and light on smoke. There was less of a seaweed flavor compared to some canned smoked oysters. These do not taste salty at all. The small size of these oysters makes them a good choice for eating on medium-sized crackers.

These were inexpensive oysters, but we both agreed they were not worth purchasing again or go out of our way to buy. Aldi is a bit of a drive, but once in a while, we are nearby.

Bumble Bee Skinless Boneless Smoked Trout

Cost: $3.58 per can or $7.16 for a 2 pack

Country Of Origin: Germany

Container Size: 3.8 oz

Servings Per Can: 1 (based on drained weight)

Calories Per Serving: 140

Calories Per Can: 140

Protein Per Serving: 18 grams

Total Fat Per Serving:  7 grams

Salt Content Per Serving: 440 mg or 18% based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Ingredients: Smoked trout fillets, canola oil, salt

We had a little trouble with this can. The tab broke off, so it took a minute. We have not had that problem before, but it does bring up that you have to be careful opening any fish that has a pull tab because it is a real hassle if you have to use a butter knife or similar. This is a fish that we have eaten many times before.

The trout fillets look very appetizing and good in the can. This smoked trout is firm and tastes delicious. If you are looking for a freshwater smoked fish that is easy to find and good quality, this is a fish to try. I suggest keeping a few cans for picnics outside.

Season Brand Lightly Smoked Sprats In Olive Oil

Cost: $3.50 per can locally. It is harder to find sprats than it used to be.

Country Of Origin: Scotland

Container Size: 3.75 oz

Servings Per Can: 1 (based on drained weight)

Calories Per Serving: 200

Calories Per Can: 200

Protein Per Serving: 16 grams

Total Fat Per Serving:  16 grams

Salt Content Per Serving: 360 mg or 15% based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Ingredients: Smoked sprats, olive oil, and salt

Sprats are a fatty yet high protein fish from Scotland. We like to eat these for picnic lunches and vineyard wine time. At one point we could get them for a less expensive price, but now they are a bit more than what we are willing to pay especially with options like the Bumble Bee Smoked Trout from Germany. Sprats are a good alternative to sardines. The smoke flavor is mild, and the presentation is well done. You actually get about 8 small headless fish arranged in the can.

We like to eat sprats with crackers, cheddar cheese, and some mustard. A little Tabasco sauce can also be good with Sprats. If you can find these for a good deal locally or online, they are a tasty addition to your prepper meat stash for SHTF!

Bumble Bee Smoke Flavored Salmon Fillets In Oil

Cost: $2.74

Country Of Origin: Thailand

Container Size: 3.75 oz

Servings Per Can: 1 (based on drained weight)

Calories Per Serving: 160

Calories Per Can: 160

Protein Per Serving:  20 grams

Total Fat Per Serving:  9 grams

Salt Content Per Serving: 360 mg or 16% based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Ingredients: Medium red salmon, soybean oil, water, smoke flavor, color added

I am choosing not to provide a link for purchasing this fish because I don’t feel it is a good value or choice for Backdoor Survival readers.

The Bumblebee Salmon with smoke flavoring and oil was so awful that I actually spit it out almost immediately.  This fish has the most horrible burn fake smoke flavor because it is not naturally smoked. It is also clear that food coloring is used even if you don’t look at the label. The underlying fish taste is slightly rotten almost.

I don’t see how they can sell this at all. Even if I used, this is a recipe I think it would be hard to cover up the bad fake burnt smoke flavor. This was fed to our dogs immediately after the test. I know I am ranting a bit, but this is about the worst canned fish I have tasted.

Polar Smoked Peppered Herring Fillets

Cost: $2.22

Country Of Origin: Germany, wild caught!

Container Size: 7.05 oz

Servings Per Can: 2

Calories Per Serving: 170

Calories Per Can: 340

Protein Per Serving: 15 grams

Total Fat Per Serving:  12 grams

Salt Content Per Serving: 660 mg or 28% based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Ingredients: Herring fillets (75%), seasoning, pepper mix (1.5%), sugar, dextrose, rapeseed oil, salt, maltodextrin, spices, aroma, beechwood smoke

Polar has once again impressed us. This fish is actually pretty to look at when you open it up. The price is great. If you like smoked salmon or trout but don’t like the price, this is a fabulous option. The pepper flavor is robust but not over the top. I will definitely be buying this for picnics and special treats during emergencies. I know the ingredients list is long, but none of it is that terrible.

The fact that this fish is wild caught and a product of an immaculate production facility in Germany makes me more comfortable eating it than Oysters from China. The smoky flavor is mild and not burnt. Part of the reason the smoke is right is that Polar actually uses Beechwood to smoke their fish, so you are tasting the real deal and not a bunch of artificial flavors.

The Winners

Matt and I consider canned fish a winner if we both agree that we would buy it again. For this fish test, we both agreed that the Chicken Of The Sea Smoked Oysters, Bumble Bee Smoked Trout, and the Polar Smoked Peppered Herring were all meats that we would consider purchasing.

Out of the top 3, we are the least likely to buy the oysters because they are from China. I trust Germany to provide trout and herring that is cleaner and better for me than any farmed fish from China.

If we had to pick one fish out of all of them to eat on a consistent basis, we both agree that the Polar Peppered Smoked Herring had the best flavor and more nutritional value. The quality of the fish is exceptional, it looks appetizing in the can, and at $2.22 per can for 7 oz, it is probably the best deal all around in the canned meat aisle. The link I provided is for Wal-Mart.


Canned fish is very convenient to eat and packs a lot of protein and valuable fat into a can. Regarding calories, the fancy fish we tested in this post is not the best value compared to canned ham or chicken.

Shelf Life

Smoked fish products have a good shelf life. In fact, if you are putting back any type of meat, looking for a smoked version will lead to a food stash with a longer shelf life. If smoke is done well, it definitely enhances the flavor of less expensive fish like herring.

For those that are curious about herring, please be sure to check out “The Herring Hearing”. Matt and I taste tested a variety of herring that is inexpensive and often smoked. Kippers and herring are an often looked over canned fish product that is a tasty and inexpensive addition to a prepper food stash!


The links in the meat comparisons we do are the best prices I can find including shipping. You may have noticed that Backdoor Survival is doing more links to Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart is one online retailer that usually has pricing that is the same as in store.

I advise being cautious about too good to be true deals online if you find them. Doing the meat comparisons articles has made us realize that fabulous deals can mean that the meat is closer to its best buy date than regularly priced cans. If you plan on eating it within the next year, then that may be fine but for long term emergency food storage it is important to know.

Ideas for how to eat smoked fish

  • Oysters on crackers with cream cheese or other creamy cheese like brie or camembert
  • Smoked trout or herring with eggs, mushrooms, onions, and garlic
  • Oyster stew
  • Add some smoked trout, herring, or salmon to your next salad for added protein and nutrition without adding a ton of calories
  • Eat on toast or a bagel
  • Use in a favorite smoked fish dip recipe
  • Add to a tomato sandwich or any traditionally veggie based sandwich

Do you have a favorite smoked fish brand or type of fish? Everyone would love to hear any recipes you enjoy that include smoked fish! I would like to find a source of canned smoked oysters that are not farmed in China, but so far I have not had any luck. If you have found a better source of smoked oysters, please let me know in the comments or in an email if you prefer!

Samantha Biggers can be reached at [email protected].

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7 Responses to “The Fancy Smoked Fish Face Off”

  1. I tried the “Polar Smoked Peppered Herring” it was very good after I drained off all the oil in the can. It has a very good taste and I had this with rye bread.
    You might look ” Kalalalle Fish Cock” from Finland this is smoked salmon between two layers of rye bread in a can and has a shelf life of 5 years. Saw this on “Inrange TV” web site

  2. Can anyone comment on the expected shelf life if stored in a cool dry basement?
    Also, canned chicken was mentioned as having a shorter shelf life. Anyone know what that is?

    • A lot of the canned smoked fish we tested had a shelf life of about 5 years. The chicken was about 2 years. A cool dry basement could extend the time a year or two in my own opinion. Plenty of people during major situations eat salty and smoked meats that are past their date by a few years. I always recommend checking out the sell-by dates before ordering large quantities of canned meats on Amazon. Sometimes what seems like a super deal is old stock that is only good for a year or so instead of up to 3. This happened with tomato paste I ordered. Salty and cured meats always have a longer shelf life. As with any canned food, I also recommend smelling anything past its best buy before eating. You can often tell something is not right based on smell alone. Botulism, for example, can smell horrible. It is not guaranteed that you can tell entirely by smell but it helps.

  3. Thanks for posting these reviews! It’s great to have such good suggestions on what brands and varieties are worth stockpiling.

  4. I love smoked fish and also canned sardines and smoked oysters. I’ve never tried canned smoked trout or salmon. I stock up on the canned sardines from Costco (have you tried those? I like them) but have put your “winners” on my grocery list and am going to give them a try. How surprising that there can be so much variation among different fish from the same manufacturer! Thanks for the article!

  5. Thanks for posting on smoked and tinned meats and fishes, Samantha. As you always state, this can be an important source of protein for SHTF scenarios, and great picnics or snacks for regular use.

    My absolute favorite smoked fish is Baltic Gold Riga Smoked Sprats in oil. The best price for these is at Cost Plus World Market. A case of 12 jars at 6.2 ounces each costs $41.88 online at their online store with $8.95 ground shipping, or $2.99-$3.49 each in the store. I have sometimes been lucky and found them a half off in the store. Whenever I go, I get as many jars as they have in stock.

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