Head of cods drying on wooden racks

Photo: Bjarni Eiríksson

The air drying of food is one of the oldest methods of preserving food in the world, and dried fish has a storage life of several years. Dried fish has been a staple food of the Icelanders for centuries and it is mentioned frequently in Icelandic tales.

In the old days, dried fish was the main food in Iceland and was eaten with butter and sometimes dulse. Stockfish was important to the export economies in Europe for more than a thousand years and was an important commodity for Iceland. Late in the 13th century stockfish became the most important export together with fish oil and weave in the economy of Iceland. In the later years, most of the Icelandic stockfish has been exported to Nigeria and Italy.

The production of stockfish usually involves unsalted fish, especially cod, dried by sun and wind on wooden racks. Icelandic companies started to use indoor drying with special drying devices late in the 80’s for fish heads and fish spine. It has been shown that indoor production of dried whole fish is more complicated and substantial research has been done to improve the production. Dried fish products constitutes about 2% of the value of seafood exports from Iceland.