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Thread: Salmon Smoking Primer

  1. #1
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    Post Salmon Smoking Primer

    FOREWARD

    A friend of mine (and his friend) asked me if I would smoke 4 big silvers - of course I said yes. He is a forum member here and on certain subjects he knows more than just about anyone else on the entire forum. Great guy, too. But he hasn't smoked a fish before. He has told me so much about so many things Alaskan that I don't know about, but I do know a bit about smoking fish that he doesn't.

    This reminded me of something I already knew: That all of us have a bit to teach and a bit to learn. So I wanted to help my friend by first smoking a batch for him and second telling him my process so he has a place to start smoking them himself. Then I thought there must be others like him that know so many other things Alaskan and outdoors-ish, but are new to smoking fish, and would want to know this same information.

    So I decided to make this thread a Primer on one way to smoke fish. A way to get started if you're new and want a simple, old fashioned method. If you've smoked lots of fish before, stop reading now; you'll be bored.

    There are more ways to smoke fish than are described in all the smoking books in the world, and I'm not competing with them. I'm just offering some simple tips on how a person can successfully smoke their first salmon, and how I smoke mine. There are only 3 ingredients to this recipe: salt, white sugar, and smoke. I've tried a dozen or more ingredients to smoke fish and I now prefer the simpler, more old fashioned way.

    (continued, next post)

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    Post Set up your equipment

    SET UP YOUR EQUIPMENT





    Forecast is rain, so I set up my pavilion tent. Under it is my gas powered Smoke Vault, 5# propane, Apple chips soaking in water & a little pitchfork to add them to the smoker. Plus a squirt bottle to put out any fires, and my foldable outdoors table to work on.





    I heat my smoker up to 350F or so to sanitize its racks for 30+ minutes. Never wash off a smoker rack or anything else inside a smoker. Like a good cast iron pan its gets better with age and never it its life wants to see soap. I'll cool the smoker and its racks before adding the fish into it, since I'm smoking, not baking fish here.





    (continued, next post)

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    Post Salt brine

    SALT BRINE
    I boil about 3 gallons water in my largest soup pan so as to make sure my brine is at the solubility level and that I've added as much non idodized table salt that can soak into the water. Then let it cool, which will take many hours. Heating the brine isn't necessary to get the salt into the water; its just my way of making sure I got enough salt into it.




    Pour the cooled salt brine into the vessel; if there's salt at the bottom of the pan you know you got enough salt into the water.




    Since it takes just about as long for my boiling salt water brine to cool as it does to smoke a load of fish, I start the next batch's salt brine to boiling as soon as I've emptied the last salt brine into my non-metallic soaking vessel; in this case the plastic tub from inside a megasized cooler. I don't reuse brine – some do.

    Add 1 cup white sugar. No more or you'll lose all salt flavor from your final product. Stir.

    Rinse off your fillets and stack'em up so you can add them to the brine all at once.



    Soak medium sized reds 30 min. Longer if you want a saltier end product.



    These large silvers will soak 60 minutes since they're so thick (1 1/2”). One option is to score through the meat side of the thickest part of the fillet so as to even up the thickness throughout the fillet. I didn't do that, so in this batch the end product's tail will have more salt taste than the thicker parts. This provides you with a varied product that you can choose which part to use depending on how you're using your smoked salmon – from making a cream cheese dip to eating straight. Use the tails for dip and the head end for eating straight.

    If you want a more consistent end product then soak the tails (which are 1/3 as think) for 1/3 as long as the rest. And also deeply score the thick ends or cut into strips lengthwise so all fish is of equal thickness. During this smoke I'm not doing this.

    Occasionally skush the fillets about, in the salt solution using a long plastic spoon during the soak to make sure all the fish's meat gets good contact with the solution.

    (continued, next post)

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    Post Lay the fillets out on the smoker racks

    LAY THE FILLETS OUT ON THE SMOKER RACKS

    Lay heat-sanitized, yet now cooled smoker racks out on your table.



    Lay them out skin side down, and let them sit maybe 20 minutes or so until they're not so wet looking. I work on a foldable outdoors table here next to my smoker, so runoff is no problem. Or if you see a scale or two, wipe them off with a paper towel (tail to head direction only – so you don't ruffle the grain of the meat) and pat down the fish to remove excess brine. When they're merely wet looking (not dripping) move on to the next step.




    Some people spray PAM on the racks first; my racks are seasoned enough that I don't need to, plus I don't like artificial-anything in my food.

    Lightly dust the fillets with ground black pepper, and put them in the smoker at 140F smoker temperature.





    (continued, next post)

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    Default Smoke the fish

    SMOKE THE FISH

    I use Apple wood for fish, but any fruit wood is great. I regularly rotate the racks front to back and top to bottom, because no smoker smokes/heats evenly.

    Using my Smoke Vault brand of smoker (made for higher temps) I remove my cast iron wood pan from its rack and set it right onto the gas burner, when smoking fish. This lets me maintain a cooler (proper for fish) smoker temperature while still keeping the cast iron hot enough to create smoke.




    Take great care to not let your smoker exceed 150F, EVER. 140F is better. If you've got a Little Big Chief your internal smoker temp might even be as low as 135F or so and your smoke will take a lot longer; the plus side being that its about impossible to overheat your fish.



    Constant vigilance is key here, and as a friend told me yesterday, it is also a great safety measure to have a beer open, so you can put out any flames that might arise. Or an entire cooler full of beer if you're really safety conscious.

    During the smoke (reds take about 4 hours; fatter fish 1.5 to 2 times as long) you'll see a white fatty liquid forming on top.



    Take a dry paper towel and very lightly dab the fillet to remove. Don't wipe off all the black pepper, so pat it more than wipe it, turning your towel often. If you need to wipe rather than pat, wipe from tail to head only.



    Check the fish often. Test it for firmness; you should already know that a raw fish is squishy and a done fish is firm(er). Check your thickest part with an instant read thermometer. “Done” is 130F internal temperature or above. If its very cold outside, warm the instant read thermometer in your hand to be 70F or so before testing fish, or you won't get an accurate reading, since your probe will cool the part of the fish that its temperature-testing.

    (continued, next post)

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    Post Removing the fish as they are done

    REMOVING THE FISH AS THEY ARE DONE

    Don't empty the smoker all at once. Pull out done pieces as each is done; their individual timings will very.



    Set them out. They will tend to “sweat” a little as they cool, so you MUST not vacuum pack them right away. Leave them outdoors on a nice day, or inside with a fan on them, or if its cold outside leave them there for awhile, the timing for this might be just a couple or few hours. The point of this step is to let them acquire ambient temperature without having any liquid on top which will form at first while they cool; don't move forward with them until they're both ambient temperature and dry.



    VACUUM PACK

    I then portion out the fillets into about 10 ounce pieces, leaving the skin on, and vacuum pack & freeze them right away. Another option is to can them at this point, but if that's what you're doing then I'd remove them from the smoker way before they're done; maybe like 90 to 100F internal temperature or so, since the canning process itself does cook them to the point where they're safe to eat.

    That's it.

    I do apologize for the crude pictures in this primer. All were taken with my phone's camera which is something like 1 megapixel, not even my little point N shoot 8 megapixel camera. But the idea for making a primer like this kinda blossomed during the process (i.e., I was very "safety conscious"). That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it!

    Newcomers to smoking: Start here with this process, and then take this fun wherever it leads you. And share your successes (or even failures) here on this forum. Its all about sharing.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by FamilyMan View Post
    FOREWARD

    A friend of mine (and his friend) asked me if I would smoke 4 big silvers - of course I said yes. He is a forum member here and on certain subjects he knows more than just about anyone else on the entire forum. Great guy, too. But he hasn't smoked a fish before. He has told me so much about so many things Alaskan that I don't know about, but I do know a bit about smoking fish that he doesn't.

    This reminded me of something I already knew: That all of us have a bit to teach and a bit to learn. So I wanted to help my friend by first smoking a batch for him and second telling him my process so he has a place to start smoking them himself. Then I thought there must be others like him that know so many other things Alaskan and outdoors-ish, but are new to smoking fish, and would want to know this same information.

    So I decided to make this thread a Primer on one way to smoke fish. A way to get started if you're new and want a simple, old fashioned method. If you've smoked lots of fish before, stop reading now; you'll be bored.

    There are more ways to smoke fish than are described in all the smoking books in the world, and I'm not competing with them. I'm just offering some simple tips on how a person can successfully smoke their first salmon, and how I smoke mine. There are only 3 ingredients to this recipe: salt, white sugar, and smoke. I've tried a dozen or more ingredients to smoke fish and I now prefer the simpler, more old fashioned way.

    (continued, next post)

    Great thread and what you said about me but I have smoked fish before

    After eating all that good stuff no wonder you have a floor jack under you chair.

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    Default how the floor jack is part of the smoking operation

    Quote Originally Posted by kingfisherktn View Post
    Great thread and what you said about me but I have smoked fish before

    After eating all that good stuff no wonder you have a floor jack under you chair.
    Then you know that what I speak of here is just the basics. The reason for creating the thread is that some here don't know them and live too far away to just come over and watch. For members that don't live too far away, remember, watchers must bring beer.

    The 5 year old's attention wanders, so actually the floor jack is his; its his elevator. After jacking it all the way up he stands on it, turns the handle, and goes down to the bottom floor.

    Hey, aren't you supposed to be off writing a hunt report? Attachment 40084
    Last edited by FamilyMan; 10-03-2010 at 13:34. Reason: forgot to jab King

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    Son and I are still butchering those critters, hope to finish up tonight. Already ground 285 lbs of prime moose burger.

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    Default got me to smokin some reds now

    As I knew, smoking 4 silvers for a couple of friends did indeed get me to smoking some of my own reds before the snow flies, and while the smoker and pavillion tent are all set up.

    Notice that reds have less fat that forms on the surface, compared to those pictures of the silvers earlier.


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    Wow, those silvers sure do look familiar. Just out of curiosity, wonder what it would cost to FedEx them to North Carolina?

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    Default 10 below & safe

    They're safe at 10 below right now, so no immediate worries, though I bet yer missin' it.

    I did call FedX once and after 10 minutes of them still not having answers I had to go pick up my kid instead of sit waitn' on them.

    And last few days hurling headlong at a project where I need a few yards of concrete poured before it can't be done until spring....

    OK, enough excuses.... I'll get on it. If its any consolation, it did come out really really nice.

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    Awesome thread Steve

    Thanks for smoking the silvers for my buddy Joe. Quite the gesture that was. Additionally, it was great to read this pic heavy thread. Looking forward to smoking some salmon myself soon.


    -Dan


    "You must spread some Reputation around before giving it to FamilyMan again."
    The two loudest sounds known to man: a gun that goes bang when it is supposed to go click and a gun that goes click when it is supposed to go bang.

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    Default the fish is in the mail

    Quote Originally Posted by danattherock View Post
    it was great to read this pic heavy thread. Looking forward to smoking some salmon myself soon.

    -Dan
    Note the exact times & temps described in this thread Dan. Then taste Dan's fish. Taste the different thicknesses separately. As described in the thread, the tail is much saltier than the head, which I did on purpose to give you NC guys more variability in the product for variety; use what's appropriate for what you're doing. Likely the tail sections are better in a cream cheese dip and the head end eaten straight.

    Also that gives you a guideline for how long to soak the fish you do there, based on its thickness.

    Tracking number PM'd and emailed; it will arrive tomorrow before 5pm.

    Please tell Joe to use a frosty freezer, not frost free; it keeps 10 times better/longer that way.

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    Thanks a bunch buddy.They look mouthwatering. cant wait to get them together with some cream cheese minced red onion. Hope we can get out that way again soon. Plannin on hittin Palooza again next year. -Joe

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    Quote Originally Posted by twoatlow8 View Post
    Thanks a bunch buddy.They look mouthwatering. cant wait to get them together with some cream cheese minced red onion. Hope we can get out that way again soon. Plannin on hittin Palooza again next year. -Joe
    My wife throws a little red pepper into her smoked salmon dip too; try that. Cya next year, but we'll be talking or typing before then of course.

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    Got the fish yesterday! My mother-in-law brought it in and put the whole box in the fridge. I got home at 8pm and unpacked it. All were frozen. Thawed one out and ate it with the family that night. IT IS FANTASTIC! Thanks so much for smoking it for us. The thin part is my favorite. The amount of salt is perfect. The smokiness is bold and just right. It just tastes like Alaska! The kids love it and all of them picky eaters. I was kinda hoping that they wouldn't like it....more for me! Can't thank you enough but I can send you some money for the shipping. Send me an Email with the amount. I have your address.

    twoatlow8.joe@gmail.com

    Thanks again buddy!

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