Hot-smoked Salmon

Discussion in 'Fish' started by ragnar, Jan 24, 2016.

  1. ragnar

    ragnar Smoke Blower

    My wife LOVES fish, especially salmon. I happen to love my wife, so I figured I'd give it a shot. One of the grocery stores local to me has a good seafood counter, and had a couple of nice fillets.

    Prior to smoking, I prepped and cured the fish as follows:

    Cut the fillets into more reasonable sizes, about 4" or 5" square. 

    Dry brine in a mixture of 2 cups light brown sugar, 1/2 cup Kosher salt, 1Tb ground black pepper. I covered the bottom of the glass dish with a layer of the mixture, put the fish in skin-down, put a healthy layer of the mix on the flesh and gently rubbed it in, added the remaining fillets flesh-down, and packed the remaining mix on top and around the pieces. Left to cure for 8 hours, covered, in refrigerator.

    Pour out and rinse off all of the cure and liquid.

    Set out to develop pellicle while smoker is getting up to temp. (Had she desired, I would have applied any rubs she'd have wanted at this time, but she wanted it just as is.)

    Smoke using Alder wood for 2 hours at 200F. I'm using a 4-rack digital Bradley with an Auber controller.

    I'm not a salmon guy - too "fishy" of a fish for my taste, but it was decent - I was expecting a sweet flavor from the brown sugar, but there wasn't much other than fish and smoke. My wife and father in law, however, found it very pleasant, and destroyed 3 pieces in a short time. Very easy process, good results. I'll definitely do this again next time my mother comes to visit - she'll love it.

  2. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    On meat, sugar penetrates about 5-10 times slower than salt...  I don't know what it does in salmon but probably close to the same....
  3. ragnar

    ragnar Smoke Blower

    Thanks for the input, Dave! Lots to learn, for sure.

    I suspect you're correct. The structure/texture probably also has something to do with it as well. Just finished up smoking a batch of tuna a couple of hours ago that was cured the same way, but it was in 10 hours instead of 8. As was done with the salmon, all of the cure mixture was washed off, the piece patted dry, and left at room temp for the pellicle to form while the smoker preheated. The tuna has a bit of a sweet, sticky outside that wasn't present here with the salmon. 

    I'm happy with both. My bride is VERY happy with both.
  4. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Salmon should not taste too "fishy" if it is fresh. Maybe it was not as fresh as it could have been from the store. Did you rinse it off well under running water before putting it in the cure?
  5. ragnar

    ragnar Smoke Blower

    Wholly agree, Wade, and have had that experience, hoping never to repeat it. In this case, not fishy from being old nor from lack of a rinse, just a taste not to my palate (as always with salmon - tuna is as "strong" a fish as I enjoy).
  6. Just finished with this recipe/method.  My first time doing salmon, so it was bound to be an experiment, but I literally have no idea what I did wrong.  Within 45 mins, my salmon hit the IT of 140.  Ill upload photos later when Im back on the ole cell phone, but figured Id pop by quickly to see if there was any thoughts on it.

    To be honest, I was reading a little too many forums at once, which lead to me messing up the brine - I used two cups brown sugar to one cup salt, instead of half cup.  So the extra saltiness is my own fault.  It also brined for about 16 hours as I work 12 hour night shifts and couldn't get it out of the fridge in 8.  After the rinsing stage, I let it sit out to form the pellicle.  Once in the smoker, I hit 200 degrees and maintained that the whole time.  I calibrated my thermometer with my oven thermometer and the temp of the smoker was spot on.

    I thought maybe my meat thermometer was wacked out, but its been dead on with steaks and chicken earlier this week.

    Anywho, like I said, Ill check back later with some photos, but any thoughts in the meantime are welcome.

    Thanks y'all!


    Upon thinking it over, is it possible I left it in the salt cure too long and the salt actually "cooked" the salmon, bringing it to temp way quicker than if I had cured it for less time than I did?
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2016
  7. cmayna

    cmayna Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member


    Depending on the size of the Salmon pieces, I typically do not brine the largest pieces longer than 12 hours.  My brine is typically a 4/1 ratio of br sugar/non iodized salt.  I honestly feel the temp you chose to smoke at is the issue.  For me, 200 is way too hot.   I start at 125-130 for the first hour.  Bump up to 140-145 for the second hour.   Bump up to 155-160 for the 3rd hours until we reach an IT of140*.  Low.....and slow....
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2016
  8. That makes sense. I think, like said, I was reading too many threads all at once and confused too many instructions.

    I'll give your temperatures a try. Likely very soon too, it's so frustrating to fail! Thanks for the tips. :)
  9. cmayna

    cmayna Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Ragnar,  I see that you also smoked at 200*.    As I mentioned above, consider starting out lower temps and slower. I also suggest dark brown sugar.  Some people add different spices or marinades to their dry brine to add different flavors.   Though I typically don't do this, another idea is not rinse the brine but just lightly wipe it off, leaving a thin glaze of it on the pieces, let them dry for a couple hours then smoke.  I tried it on a couple pieces and yes it was sweeter than the rinsed pieces.

    The way I add sweetness to the batch that was originally rinsed is to immediately upon pulling the fish out of the smoker, I quickly brush each piece with some diluted honey (some prefer maple syrup) while the meat is warm.  As it cools, it absorbs the honey.  I also lightly dust each piece with coarse black pepper immediately after brushing the honey on.

    Whatever you guys do, please take notes as to what you did, so you can learn.

    Yum!   Think I'll have some Salmon nuggets for breakfast.     This Friday, I'm doing a bunch of Salmon bellies, filets and tails for one of my fishing buddies.  Will post it.
  10. I've found nothing more helpful than this.  I can't explain how much taking notes has helped.  Every time I make something, in the smoker or not, I note my steps and the results with suggestions for next time.

    I'd love to say I remember every step, every time, but the mind isn't what it once was.  And I'm only 34! lol

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