Expertly smoked salmon is achieved with practice. Learning the basics of smoking salmon helps develop your own personal touch of smoked flavor. My family moved to Alaska three years ago to live in the salmon capital of the world. My husband wanted to fish for Wild Alaska Salmon to provide for our large family. Shortly after moving to Alaska my husband learned how to smoke salmon. He perfected smoking salmon after many trials and error. In addition, incorporated tips from a former chef. I have spent many hours helping prepare smoked salmon. Learn how to smoke delicious smoked salmon by following these instructions:
The Big Chief Smoker
Find Jensen’s Big Chief Smoker at Wal-Mart in the sporting goods aisle, sporting goods store or from a sporting goods dealer online. Most Alaska fishermen utilize the Big Chief smoker to smoke salmon. The Big Chief smoker accommodates up to 50 pounds of salmon at a time. This electric smoker has successfully smoked salmon for us the last three years.
Cut salmon fillets into pieces about the size of your hand. Layer salmon starting with skins side down. Next layer should be meat to meat and then the next layer should be skin to skin. Repeat this layering method until you have all your salmon in the cooler with room reserved for brine mix.
Basic Brine Recipe
The brine process is an old method that’s been around for many generations to preserve food. Here’s a basic wet brine recipe to get you started:
2 quarts water
1lb brown sugar
1½ cup salt
Mix ingredients together and pour over salmon in cooler. Soak salmon in brine mix overnight with a couple trays of ice cubes. Some people prefer to rinse the brine off prior to smoking, but we feel it takes too much of the flavor away. We smoke it with the brine left on. There are many different brine recipes out there. Try different ingredients until you find one that tastes best for you.
After the brine process is complete you will need to allow the pellicle process to do its work. Spray the smoker rack with PAM cooking spray. Then place salmon on the rack. Salmon should be placed on rack according to size. Thicker salmon pieces need to be put on the bottom racks. Thinner salmon pieces need to be placed on the top. Salmon pieces should not be touching each other or hanging off sides of the rack. To speed up pellicle process set a fan in front of the rack. This process will take about 2 hours. You will know when the salmon no longer feels wet. Salmon should feel tacky and not hardened.
Place smoke rack of salmon into the Big Chief smoker outside, shop or garage. Add wood chips to the smoke pan. You will need to cover the smoker with a cardboard box. Place box over the smoker in a way that won’t put pressure on the pan’s handle. Allow 2 hours between refills of wood chips. Adding chips every 30 minutes will result with a bitter smoke taste. Check salmon periodically with each wood chip change and more often toward the end of smoking. Take salmon off the rack as it becomes done. Total time of smoke process should take approximately 6 hours. Salmon should be reddish-brown and hardened to the touch. Break off a piece to check the inside. Inside should be flaky, easy to break apart and not real moist. Allow smoked salmon to cool. We use a Leatherman tool to pull out salmon bones. Most of the salmon bones should be protruding out after the smoke process is complete.
Storing Smoked Salmon
If you have a lot of smoked salmon it’s best to package in vacuum seal bags. We portion bags in meal-size potions, date them and store in a deep freezer. Refrigerated smoked salmon allows the meat time to reabsorb the flavors.
Living in the salmon capital we have an abundance of Wild Alaska Salmon. Not only do we store for the winter, but we trade for other Alaska fish and game. This is the Alaskan way. In addition, we ship smoked salmon back home to our families. Smoked salmon makes a great gift and is great food to bring to gatherings. Smoked salmon has many uses. We use it on crackers, pasta, deviled eggs, sandwich spread and other recipes. Get creative in your way of preparing smoked salmon. Empress your family and friends with this delicious treat!
Haughen,Scott & Tiffany. Smoking Salmon & Stealhead
Portland Oregon: Frank Amato Publications, 2005