Smoked Salmon for Christmas Gifts

Every year I give away gifts that I’ve smoked, and usually that means a smoked ham or butts… but this year I wanted to give some other gifts. Planning on doing a basket of smoked goodness and give it to a few family members and friends. I’m doing the smoking and Rachelle is in charge of the “prettyification” of these baskets.

And the first thing in that basket is smoked salmon.

Quick Note: The one thing is that most of these gifts need to be vacuumed sealed to ensure they stay as fresh as possible. And if you don’t have a vacuum sealer already, you need to get one anyway. I use mine all the time.

Smoked Salmon – after being cooled and vacuum sealed – will last for months in the fridge. And it’s delicious. I expect it to be a big hit in my Christmas gifts.

So here is my recipe for Smoked Salmon along with a video I shot last year:

When it comes to Salmon, you can’t beat Wild Pacific-caught Salmon. It has more nutrients and essential fish oils than its farm raised cousins, and it just plain taste better. The biggest mistake you can make when smoking salmon is to buy a cheaper cut – it’s going to taste really fishy (and that’s not what you want… believe me, I’ve made this mistake before and no one wanted to eat it). But if you start with a good quality, fresh cut – you’ll have some unbelievable smoked fish to giveaway as unique gifts.

Start with a 2-3 lb fillet of fresh salmon.

You can buy Salmon with the skin on or off. I’ve cooked it both ways and it makes no difference to the final product. Some people prefer to cook it with the skin on because it helps hold the fish together, and it’s easy to remove when the fish is cooked.

Rinse the fillet thoroughly under cold water and pat dry. Sometimes there are a few bones left in the fillet, so you’ll want to feel along it and remove them. A pair of needle nose pliers works great for this. Now place the salmon in a large baking dish skin side down.

In a medium size bowl mix together the dry brine:

  • 1 cup Kosher Sea Salt
  • 1 cup Brown Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon of The BBQ Rub.
  • 1 teaspoon Dill Weed
  • 1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Parsley Flakes
  • 1 teaspoon Minced Onion Flakes

Sprinkle the dry brine over the fillet making sure all of the exposed flesh is covered. Place plastic wrap over the dish and place in a refrigerator for 3 hours. The dry brine will start to pull moisture out of the fish and allow the other flavors to penetrate the meat trapping them inside.

salmon in dry brine before going on the smoker

salmon in dry brine before going on the smoker

After 3 hours remove the salmon from the refrigerator and rinse the dry brine off under cold water. You’ll immediately notice that the texture of the fish has changed. It should be bright pink in color and have a slight firmness to the touch.

Let the salmon sit out in room temperature air for 30 minutes until its tacky to the touch.

Indirect smoking for salmon

While the salmon is sitting, start your grill. For smoked salmon I like to use a Weber kettle grill set up for indirect cooking. Place about 20-25 unlit coals on each side of the grill. A small aluminum pan can be placed in the center of the fire rack to help keep the coals in a pile and hold liquid for added moisture. Use water, apple juice, or your favorite beer in the pan.

In a charcoal chimney start a dozen or so coals, and when they’re good and hot, place them on top of the unlit coals. Add a few chunks of wood to the top and place the cooking rack on the grill. In 10-15 minutes it is ready for the salmon.

Usually when I’m smoking skinless salmon, I use a sheet of aluminum foil folded into a boat. Tear off a piece large enough to hold the fillet and fold it on the edges. I try and create a small lip all of the way around the boat. Place the fillet on the foil and transfer it to the grill.

But this year, I’m using a smoking plank and when the salmon is done cooking, I will vacuum seal the fish and the plank all together. This is going to help the fish keep it shape and give a better appearance. Plus when they get ready to serve, they can just open the seal and serve off the wooden plank.

Place the lid on the grill and set back and let it do the work. This method is considered hot smoking salmon; you can also cold smoke it at 170-180 degrees but it will take several hours. On the Weber it only takes about 30 minutes and it’s done.

Check the salmon in 15 minutes.

You’ll notice that a white liquid is starting to seep out on top. When it starts to flake, it’s ready to come off the grill.

Just before it’s done you can glaze the salmon if you want. 

If I’m smoking salmon to eat, I always glaze it with a honey-brown sugar glaze or a teriyaki glaze.  But since I’m giving this salmon away as gifts, I’m going to skip the glaze process and let the salmon stand on it’s own.

Malcom Reed
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