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Preparing To Cold Smoke Salmon

Hey Eggers,

I picked up an A-MAZE-N Smoker the other day and cold smoked some cheese. The cheese is still resting but the pieces I picked at early have been great. Obviously, I want to try cold smoking some other items and Salmon is high up on my list of things to try. Here's what I am thinking...

1. Dry Salmon with paper towel
2. Lay out saran-wrap piece
3. Mix together enough Salt and Brown Sugar (2:1) to get good coverage on the Salmon pieces
4. Thick coat of Salt and Brown Sugar mix on the salmon
5. Wrap Salmon pieces in saran-wrap to cure for 10-12 hours in fridge with some weight on top of the pieces
6. Drain liquid from bag and rinse salmon to remove dry cure residue
7. Let salmon dry in fridge uncovered until tacky ~12 hours (form pellicule)
8. Smoke in BGE with A-MAZE-N filled with some combo of Oak/Apple/Maple pellets for 6 hours
9. Vacuum-seal pieces for eating later

I am planning to vacuum seal small pieces to have for lunch at work throughout the week, should I fillet them before curing or after smoking?
If I cut the fillets prior to curing I would assume that the amount of time needed for each step (aside from maybe the pellicule step) can be lowered a bit?
For forming the pellicule I have seen some suggest to just leave the fish on the kitchen counter instead of fridge and give it 2-3 hours to form... any thoughts?


  • MO_EgginMO_Eggin Posts: 186
    Cure the salmon in a non-reactive dish of some sort (like 8 x 8 x 2 pan), it releases a lot of liquid during the cure stage; using saran wrap alone is going to make a mess.  So the question of how small to cut the portions really depends on how large a dish you have that will fit in the fridge.  Put half the cure under the salmon, half on top.  Leave the salmon in the cure until it is uniformly firm - IME, this takes upwards of 36 hours even for 1lb. portions.  I wouldn't dry the salmon on the counter (unless your kitchen is under 40 degrees), unnecessary risk there; drying phase can take up to 24 hours; some folks will put a small fan in the fridge to help accelerate this.  

    You may also want to add some spices to your cure mix - allspice, dill, bay leaf, etc.  Lots of recipes out there.  You may also want to consider including some pink salt for safety purposes.

    Good luck.
    LBGE, St. Louis, MO
  • LuvfltLuvflt Posts: 63
    Just out of curiosity how did you do your cheese? How do you let it rest and for how long. I have seen people place cheese on rack high then cold smoke for 3 hrs but I'm not familiar with letting it rest?? Sorry I can't help with the salmon.
    Palm City, FL
  • NDGNDG Posts: 1,552
    MO_Eggin . . . is there a particular kind of salmon you suggest?  In other words, does an oily salmon, such as king, make a much better cured product when compared to a less expensive farm raised?
    Columbus, Ohio
  • MO_Eggin - Thanks for the suggestions. The times that people give for the various steps are all over the place online. I am wondering if there is a minimum time that should be observed for curing to keep things safe? I'm used to getting packaged cold smoked salmon that is still pretty moist. I am wondering if the longer cure and drying times are a personal preference or if it is needed for safety reasons? I plan to use a dish and probably add some spices at this point just trying to make sure I am safely preparing and cooking the fish. 

    Luvflt - I used the a-maze-n smoker with hickory at the bottom of my egg. Put in the plate setter with a couple trays of ice on top of it. I put the rack of cheese above that. I smoked for 2 hours. After that I wiped off any sweat (minimal in my experience) and vacuum sealed the cheese. From what I understand letting it sit refrigerated like that will allow the smoke flavor to even out and mellow. I have two cuts of each cheese and plan to try some after the 1 week and 2 week points to see what kind of impact the rest has had. Here is a before and after picture...
  • MO_EgginMO_Eggin Posts: 186
    My suggestions are generally based on the recipe in Ruhlman's book Charcuterie; call me old fashioned, but I have more faith in an actual published book.  The longer cure time helps to get a consistent texture to the fish - it becomes much more firm (can pick up by a corner and the entire piece lays flat, rather than floppy like when raw) - and getting the flavoring to penetrate all the way through; how thick of a fillet you're using will have a big impact.  Pellicle (sp?) formation also depends on the particular piece of fish and air circulation.  I did some salmon earlier this week and the pellicle wasn't where I wanted it to be after sitting overnight in the fridge, so I let it go roughly 24 hours.  

    I've typically used farm raised salmon - more readily available and less expensive.  Earlier this week I used Chilean farm raised; still need to try cold smoking some of the Faroe Island farmed salmon.  In any case, the different types of salmon will result in subtle differences in flavor and texture (differing fat/ oil content).

    Not sure how long to actually smoke using the AMNS - I cold smoke using the soldering iron in a coffee can method describe on the Naked whiz site, but have found 1-2 hours of smoke time sufficient, going longer made the smoke flavor overwhelming in a bad way.
    LBGE, St. Louis, MO
  • LuvfltLuvflt Posts: 63

    Deekoritz3 - Thanks for the info on the cheese. Yours looked pretty good. I didn't know about using ice and about the resting. I plan on doing some tomorrow just to see how it goes. I think I have an idea on how to do it now. Good luck on your Salmon.

    Palm City, FL
  • pantsypantspantsypants Posts: 1,191
    I have done a lot of smoked salmon over the past few weeks . Its simple and delicious .
    For the cure I have set up a system that will allow fro all that liquid to spill into a bowl while weighted.

    You will figure out how to cut it once its ready to eat !!

    hope this helps
  • I have 2 small salmon fillets saran-wrapped with a cure made from a combination of Salt, Brown Sugar, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Pepper and a bit of curing Salt in the fridge with a bit of weight on top of it. My fillets are pretty much completely submerged in the rub. Since it is getting rinsed off anyway I figure it was better to have too much rather than too little. I'm thinking with the thick coating it may take a bit less time to cure but we'll see.
  • pantsypantspantsypants Posts: 1,191
    if i am smoking it  let it cure for 12 hours max .
    but yeah you want them fully covered in that rub  and let all the liquid drip out .
    I made 7 lbs this weekend and its delicious

    let me know how it turned out with the garlic and onion powder ? sounds a bit crazy to me as but if its good i am willing to try ( i think )

  • This morning the bottom of the saran-wrapped fillets was wet. The top stayed pretty dry though. I just flipped the package over and we'll check in on them later to see if more liquid releases and gets the rest moist. If not, I'll chalk them up as being done. If it get wet I will probably let them go the 36 hours as planed. 

    pantsypants - In comparison to the salt and brown sugar there was just a bit of garlic and even less onion. Just wanted to get a hint of some other flavors in there. I forgot to mention I also put a bit of honey and syrup on the fillets for some sweetness. This is definitely quite the experiment. 
  • LuvfltLuvflt Posts: 63

    Pantsypants- how long do you smoke your salmon for? Are you looking for a target temp or just cold smoking for x number of hours. Do you do anything else to set up for the smoke? Very curious. I have done a lot of salmon but only in a Little Chief smoker.

    Palm City, FL
  • pantsypantspantsypants Posts: 1,191

    Luvflt said:

    Pantsypants- how long do you smoke your salmon for? Are you looking for a target temp or just cold smoking for x number of hours. Do you do anything else to set up for the smoke? Very curious. I have done a lot of salmon but only in a Little Chief smoker.

    I aim for about 8 hours of smoke and use an Amaz-n-smoker . I light it and leave . I don't worry about temperature at all.

  • Fish is now sitting uncovered in the fridge to form the pellicule

    The fish was quite firm and a nice red-ish color. It seems like it is too firm but I really have no idea. We'll see how it comes out planning to smoke it later this evening.
  • pantsypantspantsypants Posts: 1,191
    yeah the outer layer is usually way firmer than the part you are used to but its still delicious.

    cut it away and behind it is what you are looking for .

    how long did it cure for ? and how long you letting it sit ? I generally dont let it sit as it will for the pellicule will form as it smokes .

  • pantsypants - The cure was 36 hours. I let it sit for a bit over 10 hours in the fridge. So far so good. Reviews from other folks that have tried it have thought it was great as well. 

    The combination of textures between the outer layer and inner layer interesting to get used to but the flavoring of both together is great. The outer layer in some areas got a bit salty for some folks taste but as long as you got a bit of both or put it on a cracker it was fantastic. I didn't take a ton of pictures due to fishy hands but I have some I will post soon.
  • MO_EgginMO_Eggin Posts: 186
    Outer layer ends up much drier than the inner.  Here are some pics of a 1 pound portion I did last week - the full piece of fish is post-smoke, second pic you can see the inner vs. outer layer (also separated on the cutting board).  

    This was about 48 hours in dry cure, 24 hours in fridge, 1.5 hour cold smoke (alder & apple). Delicious.
    LBGE, St. Louis, MO
  • pantsypantspantsypants Posts: 1,191
    looks great !! i have done my cure for 12 hours so i would be intrested in seeing the difference in a longer cure .
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