The Secret of the Smoked Salmon

Knowing a little bit about the food we consume is important. You might appreciate it a bit more and perhaps seek out better quality fish when shopping. Fresh fish is preferred, although the local supermarket fishmonger might have a good selection.

Salmon – a wondrous fish that travels thousands of miles to lay eggs and then die! It has fans worldwide, with about 40 million caught in the US alone, each year, and eaten. Many anglers seek out opportunities to catch them in the wild as they swim upstream to hatch.

Heading home to spawn

It is a rather gloomy future for any newly hatched salmon fry. These little dudes are hatched many miles upstream and return to this place a few years later to spawn their own baby eggs.

A salmon does not have a long prosperous life like Dolphins and live on average 4-5 years. Many die after they have spawned about 1000-17000 eggs. Only a few salmon can survive multiple spawning events – who can blame them.

When they are initially hatched, they instantly start to feed, growing from fry to a fish. Amazingly, these scaled wonders can grow a full pound (lbs.) per month and can reach 3-126lbs when they are fully grown.

Of the seven species of salmon, and most of these are Pacific salmon. The Atlantic salmon is almost extinct and has been added to the Endangered Species List.

Chinook (King) salmon are the largest salmon and get up to 58 inches (1.5 meters) long and 126 pounds (57.2 kg).

Pink salmon are the smallest at up to 30 inches (0.8 meters) long and 12 pounds (5.4 kg), although they average 3 to 5 pounds (1.3-2.3 kg).

Source USGS web site

During their life, they swim thousands of miles. Some have been recorded to swim over 2000 miles.

Their journey is truly amazing; traveling through open waters, dodging fishing trawlers, swimming upstream, avoiding the claws from bears, and then perhaps ending up on the hook of an avid angler.

We need to understand the salmon’s life and death to appreciate it better when preparing it for dinner, grilling, baking, steaming, smoking, or frying it.

Salmon is one of the most nutritious foods on the planet.

This popular fatty fish is loaded with nutrients and may reduce risk factors for several diseases. It’s also tasty, versatile, and widely available.

Source Healthline website

Now you’ve learned a little more about the salmon, it is time we talk about how you can smoke it. I’m referring to hot smoking salmon, not cold.

Cold smoking is the kind of slice-able smoked fish you get in fancy boxes, often thinly sliced with herbs on the sides. That is something we can try much later … once I’ve learned it!

Smoking fish is an acquired taste, but it is amazing. Once you have smoked and tasted salmon, you will find it hard to go back to ‘normal’ grilled salmon.

It is not as healthy as grilling or steaming salmon, simply because you cure the salmon in salt and brown sugar. And as you know, salt is not good for you – according to me. You decide your own salt consumption, but recipes often contain no salt.

Smoking salmon is easy, but time-consuming. All you need is salt, patience, brown sugar, time, black pepper, a nice sized salmon, and a smoker. I prefer my Traeger if you hadn’t noticed.

  • 1/2 cup of salt
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 3-5lbs salmon fillet, skin on

Let’s prepare the salmon for the curing process. The actual curing process takes up to 12 hours, which is eaten up by the salmon sitting in your fridge. You can remove it after 5-8 hours, but I prefer to cure it over night.

Let’s Cure this Sucker

  1. Take a piece of clingfilm, double the length of your salmon fillet
  2. Mix the salt and brown sugar in a bowl
  3. Spread out half of the mixture on the clingfilm, a little bigger than the salmon fillet
  4. Place the salmon filet on top of the mixture
  5. Pour the rest of the mixture over the salmon fillet
  6. Make sure it covers all of the salmon – it should completely cover the salmon
  7. Close the clingfilm around the salmon, tightly
  8. Place it in the fridge for 5-12 hours – your call

Some people like to weigh down the salmon with some pans and cans. I’ve tried both, and there’s very little difference in texture and flavor. It is all about preferences.

Let’s Smoke this Sucker

Once the time has elapsed, preheat your Traeger to 180F.

  1. While the grill is heating up, wash and rinse the salmon well.
  2. Remove most, if not all, the salt/sugar mixture. If not removed, it may create a very salty taste to your salmon.
  3. Place the salmon fillet on the grill, skin down.
  4. Insert a grilling thermometer probe, and set the alarm to 140F
  5. The grilling process can take 3-4 hours

As soon as the probe alarm triggers, you are in for a super delicious treat. The salmon will “fall” apart when using a fork, and it will almost melt on your tongue. It is so good!

I would suggest eating the smoked salmon on a piece of proper Danish rye bread or roast some red potatoes in the oven, add some bacon-wrapped asparaguses and a nice lemon sauce.

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