This past week we smoked salmon, it’s a easy fish to smoke, and it lends itself to a variety of rubs and brines. I used 4 different dry rubs on 4 different pieces of fish,so we could decide which we liked best. The salmon was purchased at my local Costco, since I do not have a nearby source for “fresh” salmon. Try to get as fresh a fish as you can. The quote I have read is it should smell like the ocean. Cook it the day you buy it if you can. Freeze it if you have to wait. If it is possible try and cook portions that are somewhat the same thickness so that the individual pieces of fish will cook close to the same rate. If for some reason the salmon has a fishy smell (from being less that fresh off the boat), you can soak it in whole milk for about 2 hours to neutralize the smell.
I used a basic brine and a drying method to cure the salmon for smoking. To start, I brined the salmon in a plastic Zip Lock bag with a mixture of 1 part kosher salt, 1 part turbanino Sugar and enough water to cover the fish. This brining was over night about 12 hours. I removed the salmon from the bag and patted it dry then placed it on a drying grill (a cooling rack like one you would use to cool a cake after it is taken out of the oven) in front of a house fan so that I could move air across it to speed the drying. The reason for drying the salmon in this manner is so that the brine mixture can form a pellicle. This helps the smoke stick to and penetrate the salmon. The brine you used helps to prevent bacteria from forming, so the “raw” salmon will not spoil in the 2 hours it takes to form this pellicle. I will caution you to do this in a cool area as close to about 60° as you can get. Now that we are moving towards the cooler temperatures of fall this should not be a problem.
I smoked with 4 different rubs at the same time. When you look over the different write ups on the internet about smoking salmon they all suggest filling the smoker with salmon if you are going to cook it. So my 4 different portions were not crowded. I suggested earlier that you cook equal size portions, if you purchase a side of salmon this may not be possible so if that is the case I suggest that you put the smaller thinner portions further away from the heat. With the Brinkman, this means on the top grill and the thicker portions on the bottom grill or closer to the heat. Monitor the top grill so you do not over cook the portions there and dry them out.
The different rubs I used are as follows:
Maple Glazed Salmon
I modified this recipe from the Smoking Meat Forums slightly by omitting the lemon zest and adding in a little red pepper:
1 cup pure maple syrup (the real stuff not maple flavored)
2 Tbsps. ginger, finely grated
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 Tbsps. low sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 Tbsps. garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. ground red pepper
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
Simmer the above ingredients in a sauce pan until reduced to just under 1 cup. It should take about 30 minutes, be patience and do not burn the glaze. Once this is done set it aside and allow to cool. If you are in a hurry, you can set a small bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice. Don’t let it sit too long or it will start to get solid. Use about ½ of the mixture as a glaze on your salmon, the other half can be warmed on the stove and add about 1 Tbsp of lemon as you are getting ready to serve the salmon to use as a dipping sauce…..
I used this Williams-Sonoma seasoning I got as a gift a while back.
You can make your own potlatch seasoning blend fairly easy.
Salt and Peppered
This is as simple as it gets. Just salt and pepper to taste….
I used old Bay Blackened seasoning from the store.
This you can also make at home: About.com Southern Food.
The cook time was about 90 minutes, you want to be sure that you take your time here. The smoker was kept at around 225° the salmon was done when it was just a little flaky and still a dull pink. If you cook this at a temp that is too high it will start to weep a white creamy substance. This is a protein, and it is an indication that your salmon is drying out. Low and slow that is the trick.
Our favorite…….. we’ll never tell. Try them for your self. It’s worth the effort.
‘Til next week take care, and I’ll see you then.