Curing salmon for cold smoke

Discussion in 'Curing' started by fungus, Oct 25, 2014.

  1. fungus

    fungus Fire Starter


    I keep reading so many differing views on smoking salmon. many say dredge the thing in salt as much as it will hold onto. Some say brine, others say amounts that call for some weight of meat. While I could try to extrapolate a ratio from them I dont necessarily trust one particular recipe over the other.

    So, i decided to use the same calculator I used for bacon making and this is what I ended up w

    770g fresh salmon filet I skinned myself

    14.2g sea salt

    10.3 g sugar

    1.9g cure#1

    I baggied it and put it in my fridge sandwiched between 2 cutting boards weighed down by 9 lbs of curing pork belly.

    I would like to cold smoke it asap (ideally tomorrow afternoon making it a 12 hour cure and a few hours to dry) but figure it may need more than over night.


  2. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Gus, Evening..... Looks like good numbers to me.... Consider rinsing and drying the fish well before smoking... forming a pellicle is a fairly important step also...

    Pictures would be cool, when you can get to it....

  3. fungus

    fungus Fire Starter

    I kept seeing it wasn't loosing lots of moisture so tonight I dredged it in kosher salt for 4 hours. Its firm now and I am rinsing it for an hour, ill smoke it tomorrow night. I am not sure if fishiness  develops with so much salt? Ie. can I let it cure for days without it turning?

    In my world in Canada, smoked salmon is never hot smoked. I understand it happens but where I live smoked salmon is always uncooked.

    I am thinking I will let it make a pelllicle overnight and smoke it tomorrow night for 4 hours using cold alder smoke. I will brush it with local maple syrup in the last hour and let it sit for a day to stablize then eat and vacuum pack and freeze if its good.

    Last edited: Oct 27, 2014
  4. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Hi Gus

    To avoid the salmon from becoming too salty you need to use a dry brine that has a lower concentration of salt than in your mix. A ratio of 1:1, 3:2 or 2:1 sugar:salt is common - some use higher ratios. You will not need the cure#1 either as this will be a product that is either cooked  if hot smoked or chilled if cold smoked.

    The main reason for curing the salmon is to reduce the moisture content and you need to reduce it by about 16%-18% from fresh if you are making cold smoked salmon - which is what is doing most of the actual preservation. By putting it in the cure you will have started to reduce the moisture content, however by then soaking it for the hour afterwards you will have then been unfortunately adding it back. Once out of the cure you should rinse the fillet but you should not soak it.

    For lightly smoked salmon fillets you can get a good flavour by smoking overnight (about 8 hours) however for true traditional cold smoked salmon this can take a day or two to achieve the desired moisture loss.

    You mention brushing with maple syrup at the end. Your method appears to be a mix of hot and cold smoking techniques - however you do not appear to be cooking at a high enough temperature for hot smoking and you will not achieve the required moisture loss for cold smoking.

    I hope it turns out OK but I must confess that I am skeptical. Please let us know how you get on.
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2014
  5. atomicsmoke

    atomicsmoke Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    That's not entirely true. East coast traditionally cold smokes salmon (European influence). West coast authentic smoked salmon is hot smoked (alder wood). They are both great.

    I agree with Wade: I don't think maple syrup is best used for cold smoking salmon.

    Good luck.
  6. fungus

    fungus Fire Starter

    I know that about smoked salmon. What I was trying to express was more in my part of Canada in the restaurants and homes I go to.

  7. fungus

    fungus Fire Starter

    Hi Wade,

    Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I was pulled in many different directions with this one.

    The fact that it was not firming up, ie, not losing moisture led me to try and salvage it. This article appealed to me: prettier version here:

    From what I have read, if you dredge the salmon in salt, a soak in water is what helps it equalize and gives you control over the saltiness. 

    As far as the cure goes, I have seen talk of botulism and cured/smoked fish. I think I have since decided that next time I wont use cure#1 because the fish will either be refrigerated in saran wrap with allows an air exchange or frozen as per the Canadian guidelines.

    Thanks for the thought on maple syrup. I'll take your tip on that one and skip it.

    My gut tells me it will be too salty but I will do it anyway.

    Live and learn,

  8. atomicsmoke

    atomicsmoke Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Why don't you try a slice before you smoke it? If its firm is cured...lox...OK to eat.

    If too salty soak it a little longer. It will absorb some water but it won't be waterlogged and will still show significant weight loss.

    I soak all my cured meats. The water will remove some salt from the outter layer then,in the drying phase it will equalize with higher salt levels from deep down.

    My last lox was dry cured for 4 (or 5?) Days. After soaking and drying it wasn't too salty.

    Please also keep in mind this is cured uncooked meat. By definition will taste saltier than hot smoked salmon.
  9. fungus

    fungus Fire Starter


    I pleases me immensely to say that after a 5.5 hour cold smoke of alder and oak, this shit is da bomb. Its not too salty at all, in fact I think it may be perfect for my tastes. The flesh is appropriately firm, there is a slight sugar on the edges and the smoke is pleasant. If I do this again, I will smoke a bit longer. otherwise this is really great.

    Next time, I wont pair it with such a bitter beer and go for a nice lager.

    If I die tonight from weird noob poisoning, at least I die happy :)

    Happy Gus

  10. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Nice smoke! So you cold smoked, how cold? Just curious, the more info you can give is helpful for others who may want to do the same process.
  11. fungus

    fungus Fire Starter

    It was around 72 and below in the smoker. The cool air here insured it, i didnt need ice. AMNPS With east version of traegar alder pellets (70% oak, 30% alder). Done in dual master pro.
  12. I cure salmon/fish with 2% salt, no sugar and leave the skin on. I smoke for hours only when the air temperature is below 40°F I have a remote fire so my smoke is cold.
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2014
  13. fungus

    fungus Fire Starter

    Hey ssorllih  ,

    How long do you cure?

  14. Since I limit the amount of salt and cure the length of time is not important after about 24 hours. It can't get too salty. Allow it to dry without rinsing.

    Sugar and black pepper is optional. My total salt is 2% including .2% cure #1.

Share This Page