Author Topic: Smoked Salmon EASY and DELICIOUS!  (Read 21549 times)

Offline SoupGuy

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Smoked Salmon EASY and DELICIOUS!
« on: October 01, 2005, 05:15:55 PM »

Simple Smoked Salmon.

Whether you catch your own Salmon or buy it from the store, Smoked Salmon is without a doubt one of the finest fish you will ever eat! (OK- smoked Chubs are awesome as well as catfish and Whitefish).

There are two distinctly different methods for smoking Salmon. The most pronounced difference between them is the temperature they are subjected to.

1. “Cold Smoked” Salmon: aka: LOX, is a Jewish favorite that falls into this category. It is difficult to make because of the equipment and labor required and also the quality of the fish needed (Sushi grade- the TOP).  Don’t even think of trying to make Lox using a frozen store-bought Salmon fillet!!!  “Cold-Smoked” fish are never subjected to temperatures much above @ 90F.  It really takes specialized equipment and very high-grade fish to produce.  This type of smoked fish is similar in taste/texture to Sushi. It is also much more perishable than hard-smoked Salmon!

2. “Hard Smoked” Salmon. This is a fully cooked fish. It is MUCH easier to make at home and is actually preferred by many people. Don’t let the terminology ‘Hard Smoked’ make you think it will be a dry brick. NOT! “Hard” simply means fully-cooked. The advantages here are that you don’t need to use sushi-grade Salmon, you don’t have to worry about strange diseases or warning pregnant women about the potential dangers of consumption, and the finished product will last a whole lot longer than cold-smoked fish.

The recipe that follows is for hard-smoked Salmon. You can use the fish you caught either in the ocean or the great lakes, OR that you can purchase in your local grocery store (fresh or even frozen). One caveat: avoid what is called “Chum” Salmon. Usually sold whole and not filleted. They are inferior Salmon and not worth the cheap price!

Whether you buy store bought fillets or catch your own, freezing them seems to makes a big difference. Much moisture is lost as a result of freezing/thawing and this is a good thing. So buy frozen fillets without concern, or freeze your own catch and thaw/process later. (Hint: thaw in the refrigerator… takes a day or two, but NEVER thaw at room temperature!!!)

Store bought Salmon fillets are graded alphabetically by its Trim grade. This describes the extent of the trimming that has been performed on the fish. Let me say now that belly fat and fin-muscle are two parts of any fillet that you won’t want to eat. So a Trim rating of “C” or “D” are usually OK. If the packaging in the store doesn’t specify Trim rating, look at the lower part of the fish… belly meat tastes horrible- cut it off before brining!  

Another great thing about store-bought (Farm Raised)  Salmon fillets is that they are almost always de-boned. If you are using your own caught fish, I’ll just advise you to chop the hell out of the finished meat and not worry about bones.

So here is the process to make hard-smoked Salmon:

1.Thaw and Rinse your fillets thoroughly! Remove any scales that might be present. IF there is skin on the fillet, you can remove it, but this is not really necessary. Skin-ON simply means a little more time in the brine and it also holds the meat together better after smoking.

2.Prepare your brine/cure:

Simple/BASIC brine:  (add your own spices/wines etc, but they are certainly NOT necessary!!!) I am not a fan of brine recipes containing a lot of spices as I don't believe they all come out and are worth the greatly-added expense... I'm more of a FRUGAL briner)

This is a recipe for a rather large batch of fish- feel free to reduce proportionally as needed (this will do up to eight 2 ½ LB fillets).

4 gallons COLD fresh water
4 to 5 LBS Pickling or Kosher Salt (start w/4LB. when an egg floats- no more salt)
2 LBS Pure Cane dark brown Sugar (NO molasses in the brown sugar please!) C&H brand is PURE brown sugar.

Mix the above WELL/THOROUGHLY in cooler or lug.

3. Brine the fish.

Place thawed and rinsed fillets into brine. I use a 10 gallon coleman cooler to hold the brine because it fits in the bottom of my (extra) refrigerator. Put some kind of weight over the fish to keep them down into the brine. I use a 9x13 glass casserole dish partially Filled with brine.

4. Here is the part only you can determine. How long to brine? Depends on your taste, but here is a place to start:

A fillet weighing OVER two pounds should be brined about 6 or 7 hours using the above brine recipe. This assumes all your fillets are approximately the same size. Mixing large and small fillets is troublesome but can be overcome by placing the large ones into the brine first and the smaller ones (hours) later.

5. After the Brining/Curing:

After removing the fish from the brine, rinse each fillet WELL under COLD water. Pat dry with paper towel, place onto wire racks and put into refrigerator to finish drying. This drying process is CRITICAL and takes at least 3 or 4 hours. You can/should let it go even overnight! You will know that you have this right when the so-called ‘pellicle’ forms. That is, the fillets will produce a shiny exterior on the flesh side. This is absolutely one of the most important parts of producing excellent smoked fish! DO NOT shortcut!!!
6. Smoking:

Don’t be in a hurry! Step #5 above is far more important than here. A soggy wet fish won’t ever come out as good as one properly cured and dried!

No two smokers are alike. But there are basic principlea to finishing no matter what equipment you use… they are: heat, smoke, and moisture. HEAT: Slow and Low are the order of the day. Don’t be in any hurry.

Start your smoking at no more than 100 degrees (F).

Start your smoking at 100 degrees WITH FULL SMOKE and dampers wide open.

Start your smoking with a bowl of water in the bottom of your smoker. (NOT directly over the heating element)

After about an hour of smoking under the above conditions, close down your dampers and begin to increase the temperature a little at a time- no more than 20 degrees per hour to a MAXIMUM of about 165 degrees.  Keep the smoke going this whole time.

7. When am I “Done”?

I personally pull my Salmon out of the smoker when the internal temperature at the thickest part reaches about 125/130 degrees (F). You could go to 140 (F) but you are risking drying out the meat if over this temp. Your choice.

You cannot hurt your Salmon by giving them a quick COLD water rinse immediately after smoking, but this step is not especially necessary. If you DO rinse, be sure to let them dry on a rack for a couple of hours before storing. (Make SURE they are DRY before sealing!!!!)

Refrigerate immediately! Vacuum seal or at least place in a plastic bag or wrap tightly rolled up! You do not want to pick up refrigerator flavors by leaving exposed.

Like Chili, stews and soups, Smoked Salmon gets better tasting with time. It is better 24+ hours later than it is right out of the smoker (My humble opinion anyway). I VAC pack mine using a food saver unit and this product will keep well over three months!

I hope this doesn’t look complicated with too many details! Just wash your fillets, brine them (time according to your taste) DRY THEM, and smoke-cook them. It really is that simple…

The most frequent error people make in this endeavor is being in a hurry and skipping or rushing the most important steps. This recipe/method takes only two days MAX (not counting thawing of frozen fish) and if this is not fast enough for your needs, well then buy pre-smoked salmon instead and just HOPE it was not made with “Liquid smoke” or by some HACK who is better qualified as a transmission repair man… #61514;

Offline MWS

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Re: Smoked Salmon EASY and DELICIOUS!
« Reply #1 on: October 02, 2005, 03:48:49 AM »
This effort needs to be posted to the recipe site. Well done Soupy

<i><font color="green"><b>Mike </i></font id="green"></b>

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"Men like to barbecue, men will cook if danger is involved"

Offline SoupGuy

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Re: Smoked Salmon EASY and DELICIOUS!
« Reply #2 on: October 05, 2005, 04:00:14 PM »

I did post this recipe several months ago but it has disappeared... I checked the linked recipe site and did not see it there either.

But your right... wrong area!