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Salmon is one of the most nutritious foods that you get to have at the dinner table. However, not many people realize that it is also the most versatile type of fish to cook. Most people fail in salmon cooking because they either have too little smoked salmon knowledge or they tend to overthink about the process while in reality, it is one of the easiest dishes to cook. Here are a few of those best kept secrets of making salmon and why each of the small steps such as the ideal smoked salmon temperature and others which may feel a little mundane or useless, will largely contribute to the success of your salmon cooking.
Understanding smoked salmon
When preparing and serving salmon, it is important to remember that the success salmon recipe does not start in the kitchen but rather starts in the fish market when you are choosing the salmon to take home. Experts recommend that you turn over the fish and look at the back side because at times, the meat will be frost burned from extreme temperatures. Pick the fish that has a vibrant color all around, does not have off odors and if possible, a center cut because it has the most fillet.
Health benefits of smoked salmon
The process of smoking salmon involves three steps, the first one is cutting the fish into strips. These strips are then cured in brine before they are smoked for flavor. When consumed in healthy quantities, smoked salmon is one of the most nutritious foods for you because of the following benefits:
- Salmon is rich in omega 3, and fatty acids and the smoking method of preparing it does not interfere with these nutrients.
- Salmon is rich in almost all of the amino acids which make up the food block that we call proteins. And like the omega 3, the amino acids do not get ruined during smoking
- Salmon is an excellent source of all B vitamins and potassium and many other antioxidants
- Regular consumption of salmon will protect you from heart disease, keep your weight manageable, maintain your brain health and improve your overall health and well-being.
Therefore, you should strive to have smoked salmon in your diet at least two or three times a week.
How to smoke a salmon, the dos and don’ts
The process that you follow when smoking salmon is what determines whether you will be successful at it or not. However, here are some important rules to remember about the entire process:
- Choose a reliable smoker – the quality of your salmon will depend on how well your smoker can do its job.
- The temperature – there is a certain optimal temperature which is recommended for hot-smoking salmon, anything above that temperature and the texture of the fillet becomes a mess.
- The wood – the type of wood that you ate using in the smoker will determine the final flavor of the salmon, therefore, choose carefully.
- Seasoning – there are two seasonings that take smoked salmon to the next level of deliciousness, something salty and something sweet. When preparing the brine, add a little syrup to make things a little interesting and then, use kosher salt as opposed to table salt in order to avoid that off flavor that the iodine in the salt gives the fish.
The best salmon smoking recipe
These are one of the most straightforward and yet the most delicious recipes that you will come across.
- 4 cups water
- ¼ cup kosher salt
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 stalk of sliced celery
- 1/ cup chopped fennel
- ½ cup chopped onion
- 2 cloves of garlic, smashed
- Salmon Fillet
Step 1. Curing the fish
You have to prepare the brine before you can start curing the brine. Mix all the ingredients listed above, except the salmon, in a non-reactive plastic container and ensure they are all mixed in before you add the fish fillets. Then, cover the fish and put it in the refrigerator. The curing process using the brine is done to eliminate all the moisture from the inside of the fish. At the same time, the curing process infuses salt into the fish which preserves it. The least amount of curing time that you should give to your salmon is 8 hours for thin fillets. If you have thick filets, allow them to cure for at least a day. Never brine your fish for more than three days because then it will be too salty to eat.
Step 2. Air drying the fish
This is the secret to a well-smoked salmon, but unfortunately, not many people follow this step of the process. When you expose your cured salmon to the air, the surface of the fillets forms what is known as the pellicle. The pellicle is the thin lacquer-like layer on top of the salmon to which the smoke adheres and gives the final product a fantastic flavor. You just need to take the brined fillets and place them on a rack and then allow them to rest in a cool place for two to three hours.
Step 3. Smoking the Salmon
After curing and air-drying the salmon, you can now smoke it. Note that this is hot smoking and not cold smoking. For the process to be successful and the salmon to be delicious, you will want temperatures not to exceed 140 degrees Fahrenheit. The smoker that you have will determine how much time you keep the fish in there, but make sure that you have attached the ThermoPro TP-20 Digital Wireless Meat Thermometer to the fillets so you can check the internal temperature of the fillet throughout the smoking process. Take at least an hour to smoke the thin slices of fillet and for the thick slabs, let the fish stay in the smoker for at least four hours. You will know your smoked salmon is ready when the internal temperature is 140 degrees, and when the meat flakes easily.
That is the simple and effortless process to follow when smoking salmon. When cooked, you can keep it in the fridge for up to ten days or freeze it for up to six months.