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Alaska: The Last Frontier exclusive — Atz Lee makes a portable smoker in the backcountry

On Sunday night’s Alaska: The Last Frontier, Atz Lee Kilcher is taking us into the backcountry and teaching everyone how easy it is to build a portable wilderness smoker from three tall straight branches, some tarp, chicken wire and clever use of twigs and branches from Alderwood for the smoke flavor.

It’s quite ingenious and another example of Kilcher know-how as it boasts simplicity and ease of design.

Atz Lee and his wife Jane venture far out into the wilderness to fish for hard to catch tasty pike.

The exclusive clip shows Atz Lee back at Lake Clark where he gathers materials needed for a portable wilderness smoker.

Atz Lee patiently explains how to build a smoker in the wild. Pic credit: Discovery
Atz Lee patiently explains how to build a smoker in the wild. Pic credit: Discovery

It seems like a super easy task as he says, “All you really need to bring with you into the backcountry is a tarp and some like chicken wire, basically what you do is you go out and find some [straight[ three [tall] poles and tie them together to make a little teepee then you just stand them up and spread them apart and voila! You’ve got a mobile smoker.”

Atz Lee is busy gathering his Alderwood and begins the interior construction of his smoker.

“Then I take some old chicken wire or fencing wire and make a little shelf out of that,” Atz explains.  “Once you got the rack on there you take the tarp and wrap that.”

It really does looks like a teepee or a small tent, as continues to explain how the smoker works, “That’s your little smoker then you go out and get some Alderwood [then you] peel off the bark and get a fire going.”

He has a nice rack of fish that has been cleaned and scaled, it looks to be some sort of pike or maybe salmon. He says, “You take your fish, pull them out of the brine [and then] put them on that little rack that you made [for] smoking fish.”

The fish is out of the brine and ready for smoking. Pic credit: Discovery
The fish is out of the brine and ready for smoking. Pic credit: Discovery

Now if you want to cure your own fish like Atz Lee, it depends on the thickness of the fish meat. A thin filet about a quarter inch thick will take approximately one or two hours. If it’s closer to an inch thick, you might need to brine it three to seven hours. If you opt to dry brine your fish it will be quicker, according to Riley Woodford of Alaska Game and Fish.

He writes, “For a batch, I use two cups of salt and two cups of brown or white sugar. I grind about four tablespoons of whole cloves and a big handful of bay leaves and mix this in with the sugar and salt.”

The early stages of the smoker build. Pic credit: Discovery
The early stages of the smoker build. Pic credit: Discovery

Atz Lee is quite proud of his finished smoker and adds, “You can’t help but wonder how Jane (his wife) is doing [out] there [on her] great pike [fishing] mission. I think the timing is gonna be brilliant. This stuff should be able to get a good smoke on it and when Jane comes back… hopefully with some pike I will have a nice little meal with my wife in the woods.”

Also in the episode titled “Coming of Age” on Sunday night, Eivin Kilcher takes son Findlay on his first ever, coming of age hunt. Atz Sr. upgrades the Yuletide for the impending cold.

Alaska: The Last Frontier airs Sunday, December 16 at 9 pm ET/PT on Discovery Channel. Watch live or catch up on the Discovery Go app.

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April is an accredited entertainment writer, interviewer and television critic. She is a current member of the Television Critics Association (TCA), Gay and Lesbian Entertainment... read more
April Neale
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