My first salmon trial (AKhap method) with QView

Discussion in 'Fish' started by kgb1, May 26, 2013.

  1. kgb1

    kgb1 Smoke Blower

    I'm still a novice smoker, but was eager to try something new besides the usual baby back ribs.  I've been wanting to try my hand at smoked salmon for a while.  I think I do a good job at grilling salmon, but certainly wanted to start smoking as well.  After much research here on, I decided to try the AKhap method.

    (It's also a good read. Ignore the ramblings on the later pages, just stick to the method as outlined by AKhap on the first page)

    I started the morning with making the brine:

    I had 4 fillets of salmon, cutting them each into thirds, for 12 pieces around 1/2 pound each; and brined them for the exact 90 minutes.

    Now, to form the pellicle.  I had no experience and didn't know what I was doing, but while researching knew that this was a critical step.  So, I just followed directions and prayed for the best.  I had the fan on the pieces for 3 hours.  It's hard to tell in the photo closeup, but I believe the pellicle was as well formed as I was going to get it.

    I was using cherry wood chunks:

    It is always a battle over temperature control in my particular smoker, so I spend the afternoon constantly tinkering to keep it under control.  About 4+ hours later, I had an internal temp of 140*F, and declared victory.  If I'm to be 100% honest, 3 of the pieces had a couple small white dots on them, but the remainder stayed "well sealed".  I think that's still fairly good (batting .750) on my first trial.  The victory was confirmed by my dinner quests who said this was the best smoked salmon they had ever tasted.

    The family, my guest, and I were extremely pleased with the results, and I can't wait to do it again.  I'm really loving this smoking thing!!  :)
  2. wjordan52

    wjordan52 Meat Mopper

    Very impressive kgn1! That salmon looks perfect. I've been smoking for a few years but mostly the more 'common' things like butts & ribs. Been wanting to move on to more imaginative foods but I've been hung up on perfecting my smoker instead. Seeing your awesome job on the salmon is very inspiring. Thanks and congrats on a great looking smoke!
  3. kgb1

    kgb1 Smoke Blower

    Thanks for the kind words Poppy Bill.  I really can't take the credit.  I just try to find those that have done well before me, and follow in their footsteps.  Yes, I'm a copy-cat, but sure beats re-inventing the wheel with my own trial-and-error.  :)

    Happy smoking.
  4. wes w

    wes w Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Outstanding job!   When you take it out of the brine, you can also sprinkle a little garlic powder, onion powder on it before the pellicle forms just to give it a little extra flavor.

    Great Q-view!
  5. kgb1

    kgb1 Smoke Blower

    Thanks Wes.
  6. fpnmf

    fpnmf Smoking Guru OTBS Member

  7. kgb1

    kgb1 Smoke Blower

  8. akhap

    akhap Smoke Blower

    The fish looks outstanding! Notice the white spots are on broken flesh. That damage was done by mishandling long before you started the smoking process. The pellicle is supposed to seal those "leaks" but some are simply too big. To get to 140IT the surface, and those little leaks, must get hotter than 140. That is all it takes to denature those proteins and coagulate the fats into the white stuff you see.

    What you want to be aware of is leaks coming from places you cannot explain... That is when it is your fault and needs your attention to figure out why to prevent "next time."

    Looks like an outstanding job, forget about the "first time" thing!
  9. akhap

    akhap Smoke Blower

    One other thing... I usually vary my wood a bit and always use a mixture. I believe it adds a level of complexity to the taste and is much better.

    Apple, pear, peach, apricot, and plum are light and similar.

    Cherry can be a touch bitter if too heavy.

    Alder is smooth and mild.

    Maple is like alder but can be overdone and will produce a "charred" (sharp) flavor for lack of better description.

    Mesquite is too strong for salmon unless you just add a single chunk or three to the firebox.

    White oak, pecan, and hickory are milder than mesquite but need a little lighter wood to tame them down for salmon.

    Ash is almost like the last three, but lighter...

    Just a few notes to help...
  10. kgb1

    kgb1 Smoke Blower

    Art, thanks so very much for the words of encouragement and the advice on the wood.  I see what you mean about the "broken flesh" and take comfort in knowing that this was damage outside of my control.  I did notice the broken flesh when I brought it home from the store.  I didn't think much of it at the time.  Lesson learned: inspect the fish more closely before purchase.  :)

    As for the wood...  I appreciate your suggestions.  I haven't been able to find Alder around here yet.  I would have liked to try that.  That's why I opted for Cherry (I can easily buy it locally).  I failed to mention in my original post that I did add a few pieces of Apple toward the end, but I believe it was "too little, too late" to really add to the flavor.  I think I'll try mixing sooner next time. 

    Thanks again.  You've been a big help, and I appreciate it.

  11. akhap

    akhap Smoke Blower

    When critters die the ATP in the muscles breaks down causing the tissue to shorten and therefore get stiff. If fish is handled during this time the muscle can be pulled apart and will lead to the type of muscle tears you see in your fish. That is not bad in yours. I have seen far worse.

    I always cringe at the fillet table when I see someone really leaning on a fish to straighten it for cleaning.

    I am the "knife" that gets to take the sides off big lingcod because they will sometimes be a corkscrew or similar and have to be filleted as is... We work hard at laying them out flat on ice before rigor sets in, but bouncing around on the boat can make that a challenge.

    Good luck in your future smokes!
  12. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Nice Job Kevin!!!

    Looks Great !!!

  13. kgb1

    kgb1 Smoke Blower

    Thanks Bear.  I appreciate the comment.
  14. ssyork

    ssyork Newbie

    Thanks for your write up, looks great. I bought some fish and tried this method a few days ago. I made the same mistake and didn't inspect the fish very well either. Just a good excuse to do it again!
  15. bigtrain74

    bigtrain74 Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Looks great! 
  16. akhap

    akhap Smoke Blower

    Back in the late '70s and early '80s I fished on a salmon power troller in SE AK. The primary target was king salmon. Every king over 20# (except whites) was sold to the Orthodox Jewish market for lox. We were told it was because line-caught fish could be blessed and sold as kosher. They paid a huge premium at about $10/per pound, ex-vessel.

    The fish were bled and laid out on deck under damp burlap bags. Once in rigor they were not touched. As soon as rigor was up they were carefully placed on trays in a blast freezer section. Then removed to the hold when solid. When there were enough of them we glazed them in slushy water made elastic by adding a bit of powdered corn sugar. Quite a bit actually...

    At the dock the fish were very carefully inspected and getting kicked out of the Orthodox tote was an expensive thing... To this day I do everything I can to make my personal fish as good as those fish we were selling to the fussy fellows in NY.

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