When Paul (our illustrious leader and grand master flash of our forum) visited Seattle last month he made me promise to post my super secret salmon recipe to the forum... well here is is complete with pics:
A note about salmon:
I prefer smoking Chinook (King) salmon because the fillets are thicker and the meat is oilier which actually concentrates during the cooking process. The white stripes in the meat contain the omega 3 fatty oils that are high in calories but are good for you and lower bad cholesteral. Less oily salmon such as Silvers (coho) and sockeye (reds) have slightly different flavors but are not as oily and can dry a bit once smoked. Sockeye has a more intense flavor and if you can find copper river variety (usually pretty spendy $$) it does smoke up wonderfully but I prefer to grill copper river fish.
A note about smoke:
Any fruit or nut bearing wood is suitable for smoking food. Some have mild flavors like alder, apple or hickory while others are strongly in character like cherry or mesquite. ( Its really personal preference as I have used all of them with salmon and they all come out great.) My current favorite is actually mesquite (being a native born Texan) but you have to watch it to not over smoke the fish... measuring this comes with practice.
2 cups sugar (white, brown, organic... brown preferred)
1 cup salt (non-iodized, preferably sea salt)
2 gallons water
2-8 fillets of Salmon
As you can see from the ingredients there is no Worcestershire sauce, no teriyaki, no garlic... none of that stuff for me. I like to try to enhance the salmon flavor and bring it out pure with only smoke flavoring added.
1. Cut your fillets into finished size (usually each fillet results in 4 pieces)
2. Mix the sugar, salt and cold water together with a whisk until everything is completely dissolved
3. Place the fish into the brine and fully submerge all pieces
4. Put the container into the fridge overnight
5. After 12-15 hours take it out and use paper towels to pat dry each fillet as dry as possible.
6. Slice off a small piece and sample it for salt concentration. (Its fully cured and is awesome just like sushi).
7. If its too salty to taste the VERY gently and briefly run it under cold water to take away some salt... usually just a few quick seconds is enough. This is the most important step... if you dont get the salt content right you can waste the entire batch. This comes with practice as I have messed up a few batches myself.
Too little salt just doesnt taste very well and may not last as long in the fridge once smoked.
8. MOST IMPORTANT STEP...Place fish in front of a fan for at least 2 hours. Believe it or not this is the most important step and is almost always omitted by the casual smoker. The fan will dry the surface until it forms a "pellicle" which is sticky like flypaper and allows the smoke to adhere. It also seals in the moisture into the fish. Hey if its got its own name then you know I am not making this stuff up. (Unless I made that up too I suppose )
9. Now grease your racks with olive or canola oil the place your fish in the smoker according to size. I have a new Bradley Digital smoker which does a great job and is fully automatic. I just load up the wood discs in the tube on the left and set the smoke duration and it does the rest... No changing saw dust out every 30 minutes for 6-8 hours for me anymore. (Though inexpensive smokers like the little chief (about $60) work just fine, they just take more diligence during the smoking process.)
10. Advice on smoke duration and temperature: I usually smoke my fish for 6-10 hours and bring the smaller fillets (by the tail area) out early since they are thinner and complete quicker than the thicker sections near the head of the fish. Sometimes the fish just takes on the smoke quicker than other times and this is something to keep an eye on. I think it depends on moisture and temperature. I stick a temperature probe into a fillet and usually call it done if the internal temperature reaches about 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
I immediately remove the fish and vacuum seal them while still warm of course eating at least a full fillet during the process on simple saltine crackers along with an adult bevy or two as Paul would say.
I hope you take this on as its very rewarding... Most people who try my fish seem to absolutely devour it so it must be a decent recipe and I would recommend to give it a go and have some fun with it.
74 36' TF
69 19' SS
75 23' Lancer