Amazing––delicious––fantastic––are words that come to mind whenever smoked salmon is injected into a conversation. To produce this intensely flavorful product, fresh salmon fillets are soaked in a salty, slightly-sweet brine overnight and smoked with alder or apple wood for 6 to 8 hours.
4 lbs salmon fillets, skin on (1.8 kg)
2 tbsp Prague Powder #1 (34.2 g)
1/2 cup pickling salt (154 g)
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder (4.65 g)
1 1/2 tsp onion powder (5.4 g)
1 1/2 tsp white pepper (4.1 g)
2 tsp liquid smoke (10 ml)
1/4 cup lemon juice (59 ml)
2 cups brown sugar (464 g)
2 quarts chlorine-free water (1.9 L)
1. Combine all ingredients, stirring until brown sugar is dissolved.
2. Immerse fillets in the brine solution; refrigerate 24 hours stirring one time.
3. Remove fillets from brine solution; rinse thoroughly under cold water.
4. Place fillets skin-side down on oiled racks, dry 2 hours in a cool, breezy area while pellicle* forms on surface of the fish.
5. Transfer salmon to a preheated 110°F (43°C) smoker (vents wide open) and hold for 2 hours to finish the pellicle* formation.
6. After drying, increase smoker temperature to 150°F (66°C), turn vents to 1/4 open; apply light smoke for the next 1-2 hours.
7. Increase smoker temperature to 170°F (77°C) and hold until the salmon reaches an internal temperature of *145°F (63°C).
8. Smoked salmon can be refrigerated up to 7 days or vacuum seal and freeze up to 3 months.
If you start to notice beads of fat forming on the surface of the fish during the smoke cooking cycle, the smoker is too hot and will need to be adjusted. The length of time it takes to hot smoke a salt cured salmon depends on the thickness of the fish and not the weight of the fish. For example, a 1/2-inch (1.27 cm) thick fillet takes about 4 hours to smoke/cook, a 1-inch (2.5 cm) thick fillet takes 6 hours and a 1 1/2” (3.8 cm) takes about 8 hours.
*Brine cured and smoked salmon is ready to eat when it reaches and internal temperature of 145°F (63°C). Salmon that hasn’t been brine cured should be smoke cooked to an internal temperature of 155°F (68°C).
*The pellicle seals the surface of the fillets and helps to prevent the loss of natural juices throughout the duration of the smoke/cooking operation.