It’s time for some smoked salmon! This recipe is for hot smoked salmon as opposed to cold smoked. Cold smoked, otherwise known as lox, is a totally different process and quite a bit more complicated. This recipe is very easy and the base for any smoked salmon.
This is one of my wife’s favorite meals and can be changed quite easily. As mentioned, this is just the base for smoked salmon. You can add the flavor profile you desire in the brine to infuse the salmon: chili peppers, thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, garlic, etc. My wife prefers a honey baste which is what was done for this cook. You can also use maple syrup if you desire.
If you like Smoked Salmon, be sure to check these other recipes:
Cut: Salmon Filet – Center cut and tail end
Weight: 3 Pounds
Heat Source: Wood pellets
Type of Wood: Cherry
Estimated Cook Time: 3-4 hours
Actual Cook Time: 3 hours and 30 minutes
Estimated Cooking Temperature: 165 degrees for first hour and then 175 from there
Actual Cooking Temperature: 165 degrees for first hour, 175 for the next two hours and then 185 for the final 30 minutes
Location of Purchase: Chula Seafood - www.chulaseasfood.com – local fish market
Cook Date: August 4, 2020
3-5 pound salmon cut into filets (my specific salmon was Faroe Island)
Honey for basting (or a syrup of your choice)
1 quart water (luke warm to cool water)
1/3 cup kosher salt
1 cup brown sugar (I used light brown for this cook but either light or dark would work)
Step 1: Mix together the brine ingredients: water, salt and sugar in a marinating container and place in a refrigerator for a minimum of 4 hours. See note below.
This is the salmon pre-brine
Note: 4 hours is still needed for thinner cuts such as pink salmon or sockeye. Larger cuts will need longer such as 8-12 hours and big filets of king salmon may need 36 hours. For my Faroe Island salmon, I brined it overnight, about 10 hours in total.
Step 2: DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP – In this step, we are creating the pellicle which helps the smoke adhere to the salmon. The pellicle looks like a glaze on the salmon when done properly. This provides the salmon with a nice seal and helps protect the fish.
Remove salmon from brine and pat dry. I suggest using a wire rack for this step but a plate will also work. Place the salmon, skin side down on the rack or plate in a cool, breezy place. For this cook, I put mine in the refrigerator but under a ceiling fan or outside will work as well. But, the temperature has to be cool, in the 65 degree or cooler range. A minimum of 2 hours is needed for this step, 4 hours is a good goal but overnight works as well.
This is the salmon after being brined, patted dry and placed in the refrigerator for 4 hours...can you see the glaze on the skin? That's the pellicle and what you are aiming for.
Step 3: Preheat your smoker to 165 degrees. Rub a little olive oil on the skin of your salmon and place on the smoker. Cook for one hour at this temperature.
Note: It is vital to keep the temperature low at first to reduce the chances of albumin. You know that white stuff that can ooze out of salmon when being cooked sometimes? That’s called albumin and occurs when the salmon is cooked at too high of a temperature. The muscle fibers contract so strongly that they extrude albumin which thickens on the surface of the fish. This tends to dry out the fish. A little is normal but a lot is not good.
Step 4: Every hour baste your salmon with your choice of baste. For this cook, I used honey. You can also use this time to baste away any albumin that has appeared. But, if you kept the temperature within range, you should be good.
Step 5: Remove salmon once done to your liking. A generic temperature range to aim for is 135-140 degrees.
Note: Smoked salmon is very customizable based on preference. Not only is the flavor profile personal preference, but also the texture. My wife prefers a lighter smoked salmon and not so dry. So, my cook was about 3.5 hours in total. If I went to 4 or 4.5 hours, the salmon would just be a little denser. You can go far longer and make more of a jerky style as well, if you so desire.
Step 6: Let salmon rest about an hour on a cooling rack and then refrigerate. If kept in an airtight container, smoked salmon will stay good 10-12 days or up to a year if frozen.
Lessons Learned (Note: I will update this section to include your lessons learned from the comment section)
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