Hot Smoked Salmon
This salmon recipe takes a total of 3 days so it's important to plan ahead. At the winery we like to use damp grapevines as our smoke medium, but most fruitwoods and hardwoods make perfect substitutions. A proper smoke box is the most controlled way to smoke salmon, but if you do not own a smoker, I have included a method you can try on your home charcoal grill. (See the Chef's Note below.)
Serves 6, total time:
- 6 6-ounce salmon filets
- 2 cups water
- ¼ cup salt
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 fresh thyme sprigs
- 2 cups ice water, in a 1 quart vessel
- Trim the salmon filets and remove any bones. Rinse under cold water, pat dry and place in a wide shallow container large enough to hold all the salmon filets and 1 quart of liquid.
- Place the water, salt, brown sugar, bay leaves and thyme into a small sauce pot and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve all of the salt and sugar. Pour this mixture into the container of ice water to cool quickly.
- Pour the chilled brine over the salmon filets; place in the refrigerator for 48 hours. During this time the salt and sugar will penetrate deep into the salmon and the flesh will begin to cure.
- Remove the salmon from the brine and pat dry with paper towels. Place onto a cookie tray and refrigerate uncovered for 12-24 hours. This will form the important pellicle, or skin, over the filets so the smoke can adhere to the fish.
- Place in a hot smoker set to 180°F for 2 hours or until the internal temperature of the salmon reaches 150°F. Chill in the refrigerator for 4 hours to thoroughly cool before serving. The salmon will last up to 7 days in the refrigerator or up to 30 days in the freezer.
If you plan to use your charcoal grill as a smoker, thoroughly soak wood chips in water for at least 8 hours. When ready to smoke, light a large handful of charcoal in the far side of the grill chamber. Let them burn 75% of the way through, with the lid off of the grill. Once the coals have burned down, place the soaked wood chips on top of the coals and place the salmon filets on the opposite side of the grill. Place the lid on the grill and let the chamber build up with smoke. Monitor the temperature inside the chamber and make sure that it does not reach over 200°F. Smoke until the salmon filets reach an internal temperature of 150°F.