Smoked Salmon

Smoked salmon is an easy meal to make and when we do make it, we generally make enough for a few meals.

Remember there is a difference between barbeque salmon and grilling your salmon. Grilling is cooking that happens rather quickly. Barbeque, or smoking salmon is a process that takes a while.

If you are in a hurry this will not be the way for you to go, however if you do have the time, the rewards are wonderful. You end up with a great meal.

There are many different ways to make your smoked salmon. We will just explore a couple of ways here.

Some people use a brine only to prep and flavor the fish. In this case they would have the fish in the brine for an extended period of time. Another way is to put it in the brine for a shorter period of time and then use a flavorful rub to put on the salmon before smoking.

It all starts at the beginning though

Cooking salmon is no different than any other meal that you might make in your smoker or on your grill. It all starts with a good cut of meat.

There are a number of different types of salmon to choose from. For help with the different types that you could get, how to buy the freshest fish or just plain getting your wood right, check out our grilled salmon section. We have a number of tips and ideas in there to get you started.

Generally speaking though, the higher the oil content of the fish the better it will be for smoking. The Sockeye and Chinook or King Salmon as they are commonly referred to tend to have the highest oil content.

Also a couple of great woods for flavoring are alder and mesquite. Of course if you prefer a different wood that is fine too. In the big picture, it all comes down to personal taste.

Actually I used apple once and it turned out great!

For this smoked salmon I will stay with a simple and basic brine to start with and then a great rub that you can put on before heading to the smoker.

The Brine

This is a very basic brine and these measurements would make about 5 pounds of meat.

Start with a 1/2 gallon of water.

Mix in 3/4 cup of kosher salt and 3/4 cup of white sugar.

Mix it all together real well.

Put the fish in the brine and leave it in there for about 2 hours. Be sure to keep it in the refrigerator the whole time.

If you want to change the sweetness, adjust how much sugar you use. Not the salt.

Take the fish out of the brine, lightly pat with a paper towel and then let it air dry until a glazed film forms on the fish. This called the pellicle and it is perfectly normal.

Remember to be safe when cooking this meal

While the fish is in the brine for an extended period of time it should always be in the refrigerator at a temperature of between 35° F and 40° F to keep bacteria from growing.

Don't cross contaminate your food by touching raw fish with a utensil and then using it on other food. Always wash it before using it again.

Don't reuse your brine. It should only be used once and thrown out.

When you smoke your fish it will be done when it begins to turn opaque and flakes, but know that the internal temperature should be between 155° F and 160° F

The recipe

This recipe will be enough for four large fillets. About 4 pounds.

3 fresh lemons2 TSP fresh ground black pepper
2 TSP sea salt4 TBL olive oil
4 TSP onion powder4 TSP garlic powder
Lemon zest

You can make this mixture while your fish is in the brine. Just mix all the ingredients together except for the lemons. I then put the fish in aluminum foil, skin down and generously wipe this mixture all over them.

To finish out the recipe I take the lemons, quarter them and put them in the water tray that sits inside my smoker. You can put a lot of spices, garlic etc. in there when smoking. It really just depends on what you are making at the time.

I try to keep my smoker at about 225° F so it could take your smoked salmon two to three hours to cook up. Actual cooking times will vary depending on your equipment and weather conditions, but you will get it down with a little practice.

You will know when your fish is done, when the meat turns an opaque color and begins to flake. The internal temperature of the fish should be between 155° F and 160° F when finished.

Like I mentioned before, when we make smoked salmon, we always try to make extra meals so that we can shrink wrap and freeze some for another day. I hope you found our tips on smoking salmon helpful.

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