Cold Smoked Salmon – The Simple Way To Cook

Simple Recipe For Cold Smoked Salmon

Salmon is a richly flavored fish packed with nutrients like selenium, potassium, protein, and vitamin B12. This fish has a lot of Omega 3 fatty acids which help support joint health and a healthy functioning brain. By not using the proper slicing knife you can completely mutilate a beautiful filet. Avoid using a thick, chunky knife and go for a thin, flexible serrated blade.

Smoked salmon lasts about five days in the refrigerator. You can always freeze cold smoked salmon and it can last up to three months. You need a cold smoke generator to make cold smoked salmon. A wood or charcoal-burning smoker cannot be substituted. Fortunately, you can build a cold smoker out of a gas grill.

When it comes to selecting the fish, frozen fish is better for smoking than fresh fish. Deep freezing salmon at -10 degrees will kill any parasites present. Freezing causes the cell membrane to rupture. When the fish thaws, all of the liquid drains from the ruptured membrane. This results in less water to remove from the fish. There are different types of salmon and the best types for cold smoking are King Salmon and Sockeye.

So what is cold smoked salmon? In short, it’s still raw fish but it’s cured and the protein in the salmon becomes denatured. By following this guide, you’ll ensure that your fish is free from harmful bacteria, flavorful, and cooked to perfection. You’ll want to avoid cooking the fish, preventing you from cutting thin slices.

The cold smoke generator

Place the empty cold smoke generator on top of the grill. Hardwoods and fruitwoods are usually used for cold smoking salmon. The wood should be fine and more like sawdust. Place wood dust of your choice into the cold smoke generator. Spread the dust around evenly filling it with dust. Pellets do not stay lit as well as wood dust. Ignite a small part of the dust with a tealight candle or a torch lighter. Once it’s lit, remove the tealight and place the smoking generator in the grill underneath the grates. Filling the cold smoke generator should lend you about 10 hours of smoking time. Never allow the temperature of your cold smoker to go above 80 degrees. With cold smoking, the temperature never goes above 80 degrees which would cook the fish.

The cold smoked salmon guide

Make sure you start with descaled and deboned fish. You can debone by hand or with a pair of needlenose pliers. Run your hand gently down the fish to make sure there are no bones left. Cold smoking the fish requires drawing the moisture out of the fish with salt.

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 pounds of salmon
  • 1-gallon water
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup or molasses
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 ½ cups sea salt
  • 1 ½ cups brown sugar
  • 2 cloves of garlic

Optional cure ingredients:

  • Anise
  • Thyme
  • Lemon juice
  • Lemon zest
  • Fennel seeds

Garnish:

  • Drained, brined capers
  • Sliced lemon
  • Sliced red onion
  • Crackers or brioche toast
  • Chopped, fresh dill
Brine The Fish Cold Smoke

The brine is a little different from one recipe to another. You can make the fish taste more salty or sweet depending on your preference.

Add all of the ingredients together and bring to a boil. After boiling, allow it to simmer for five minutes. To make sure you have the right balance of salt, try balancing a boiled egg until it floats. If the egg sinks, add ¼ of a cup of salt and then refrigerate. The brine is ready once it reaches 40 degrees. Place the fish in the brine and cover it. Allow it to sit in the refrigerator between 6 and 12 hours. If you like, you can let it sit for 24 hours. Once the salmon has been brined, rinse it with fresh, cold water to remove extra salt. Next, mix brown sugar and salt to create the cure.

Spread ⅓ of the cure mixture all over a glass pan and place the salmon on top. Place the remaining cure all over the top and sides of the salmon, covering it completely. Generously add the cure to both sides of the uncut filet. Leave the skin on during salting. After salt curing, the meat is rinsed, dried, and refrigerated. Refrigeration helps the pellicle form which aids the smoke sticking to the meat. After refrigeration, the skin is removed to better allow the smoke to penetrate the fish. Remove the chewy brown flesh by carefully cutting it off with a knife. This part of the fish can become rancid during the curing and smoking process. Allow the fish to cure between 48 and 72 hours. Place about one pound of weight on top of the fish while curing.

Once it’s cured, rinse the filet and soak it for about a half hour. Then allow the fish to drain for another half hour. Let the fish dry on a rack with the skin side down in the refrigerator for about four hours. The fish should be slightly sticky to the touch. Add the fish to your cold smoker and remove it in about 10 hours. The fish should feel slightly leathery and have a bronze-like color.


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Cold Smoked Salmon Recipe

There’s no need to be daunted by the process of cold smoking salmon. It’s truly delicious and can be served in so many ways. The texture of your salmon should be silky and smooth rather than flaky like cooked salmon. The result is salmon that’s full of flavor that doesn’t necessarily require side dishes.

Prep Time1 d
Cook Time10 hrs
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Smoked Salmon
Servings: 4
Calories: 210kcal

Ingredients

  • 2-3 pounds of salmon

  • 1-gallon water

  • 1/4 cup maple syrup or molasses

  • 2 bay leaves



  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns

  • 1 ½ cups sea salt

  • 1 ½ cups brown sugar

  • 2 cloves of garlic

Optional cure ingredients:

  • Anise

  • Thyme

  • Lemon juice

  • Lemon zest

  • Fennel seeds

Garnish:

  • Drained, brined capers

  • Sliced lemon

  • Sliced red onion

  • Crackers or brioche toast

  • Chopped, fresh dill

Instructions

  • The brine is a little different from one recipe to another.

  • You can make the fish taste more salty or sweet depending on your preference.

  • Add all of the ingredients together and bring to a boil.

  • After boiling, allow it to simmer for five minutes.

  • To make sure you have the right balance of salt, try balancing a boiled egg until it floats.

  • If the egg sinks, add ¼ of a cup of salt and then refrigerate. 

  • The brine is ready once it reaches 40 degrees. 

  • Place the fish in the brine and cover it.

  • Allow it to sit in the refrigerator between 6 and 12 hours.

  • If you like, you can let it sit for 24 hours.

  • Once the salmon has been brined, rinse it with fresh, cold water to remove extra salt.

  • Next, mix brown sugar and salt to create the cure.

  • Spread ⅓ of the cure mixture all over a glass pan and place the salmon on top.

  • Place the remaining cure all over the top and sides of the salmon, covering it completely. 

  • Generously add the cure to both sides of the uncut filet.

  • Leave the skin on during salting.

  • After salt curing, the meat is rinsed, dried, and refrigerated.

  • Refrigeration helps the pellicle form which aids the smoke sticking to the meat.

  • After refrigeration, the skin is removed to better allow the smoke to penetrate the fish.

  • Remove the chewy brown flesh by carefully cutting it off with a knife.

  • This part of the fish can become rancid during the curing and smoking process.

  • Allow the fish to cure between 48 and 72 hours.

  • Place about one pound of weight on top of the fish while curing.

  • Once it’s cured, rinse the filet and soak it for about a half hour.

  • Then allow the fish to drain for another half hour.

  • Let the fish dry on a rack with the skin side down in the refrigerator for about four hours.

  • The fish should be slightly sticky to the touch.

  • Add the fish to your cold smoker and remove it in about 10 hours.

  • The fish should feel slightly leathery and have a bronze-like color.

Nutrition

Serving: 100g | Calories: 210kcal

 

Slicing cold smoked salmon

Cold smoking is a specific but not difficult process which will allow you to slice across the grain without the flesh flaking. Begin slicing the filet towards the tail and cut off the pellicle. This is a thick, flavorful part of the fish but has a tougher texture. The pellicle forms after a fish has been cut and left in the open air for about 20 minutes. It should have a shiny, lacquer-like finish. Cut slowly in a saw-like motion to ensure each cut is thin and roughly the same size. Very thin slices are desirable, no thicker than 1/16”.

Pro tips

Toast your peppercorns for about one minute before preparing your cure. This step adds aromatics and makes the salmon even more flavorful. Place the peppercorns in a tea towel and crush with a handheld meat tenderizer. Separately, toast your fennel seeds for about 60 seconds and mix with the toasted peppercorns. Add a tablespoon of anise and dried thyme for maximum flavor. Then blend the toasted spices with all the cure ingredients; kosher salt, lemon juice, lemon zest, and brown sugar. You know your cure is ready when the texture is like wet sand.

Adding pressure during the curing process helps inject the flavor into the salmon. Generate slight pressure by placing a flat cake pan on top of the fish while in the curing. Place some canned goods into the pan to add weight.

After 24 hours, flip the salmon over so that the cure can distribute evenly. Continue doing this for about 3 days until the salmon is fully cured.

The cold smoking method can be used on other food items, giving it that unique smoky flavor. Try smoking cheese, whole garlic, salt, and even almonds.

Add Side Dishes Complete The Meal

Side dishes and beverages

You can serve smoked salmon tossed with pasta and a cream sauce. Add salt, pepper, and scallions to complete the dish. Alternatively, you can use cucumber noodles, dill, and sour cream. Add cherry tomatoes, capers, and fresh black pepper for a delicious smoky salmon dinner. If you’d like to create a more vegetable-rich meal, try cold smoked salmon with asparagus risotto.

For drinks, it’s common to pair smoked salmon with champagne. You can opt for light beer, zesty white wine, or modest red wine. If you like whites, go for Chablis, Chenin Blanc, or Zinfandel. If you like reds better, go for light body reds that resemble whites such as Burgundy Pinot Noir.

There’s no need to be daunted by the process of cold smoking salmon. It’s truly delicious and can be served in so many ways. The texture of your salmon should be silky and smooth rather than flaky like cooked salmon. The result is salmon that’s full of flavor that doesn’t necessarily require side dishes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Cold smoked salmon is not technically cooked, as it never reaches hot enough temperatures to cook it through. It is raw, but cured and seasoned with smoke flavor. Most cold smokers have specific temperature settings, which are all below 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Lox is salmon that is brined and cured in a heavy salt solution. Sometimes, the brine includes sugar to add sweetness to the fish. After the fish is brined, it is never smoked. Smoked salmon falls into two categories. Cold smoked salmon has a similar flavor to lox, but it has a smoky flavor and is less salty. Hot smoked salmon is very different, as it is cooked with heat to transform the texture into a flakier product.

You can eat cold smoked salmon straight out of the refrigerator without heating it up. It’s best served very thinly sliced on top of a bagel with cream cheese, but it’s also very tasty in a salad. If the idea of eating cold fish worries you, though, you can certainly heat it up first and it will still taste great.

Cold smoked salmon is technically raw, but it is generally considered safe to eat for most people. The salt curing process kills any potential parasites that could cause harm to your body. If you are concerned about eating cold smoked salmon, you can gently heat it up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit before consuming it.

If you’re using the cure recipe in the article above, it will take three days (72 hours) for your salmon to cure. This is what’s called a hard cure, where the salmon is hard to the touch. Be sure to rinse off the excess brine before eating your smoked salmon, or the salmon will taste salty.

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