Wild Alaska Salmon can be a delicious entrée prepared in several different fashions, including smoking the salmon. While the smoking process has its origin in the requirement to preserve fish, it provides a unique flavor favored by many.
Salmon is an excellent source for smoked fish due to its fat content. A high amount of fat present in a fish fillet will result in a juicier, smoked end-product. King salmon typically has a fat content around 15 percent, while silver, pink and red salmon average around five percent. More important than the salmon species is freshness. Fresh salmon will provide a more firm, smoked sample than frozen or previously frozen salmon. If purchasing fresh fish, ensure the eyes are clear, because cloudy eyes are one indication of bacterial growth.
You can buy smoked salmon from Alaska or learn to smoke it yourself. The latter requires the investment of a little bit of time and effort. For the do-it-yourself aficionado, there are two main processes: cold and hot smoked.
Making Smoked Salmon
Cold smoking salmon results in a product commonly referred to as lox. The only supplies needed are a pan deep enough to hold the amount of salmon to be smoked, about a ½" of salt and a cooking rack. About ¼" of salt should be lined on the bottom of the pan, on which a salmon fillet is placed skin-side down. After covering the fillet with another ¼" of salt, the pan should be covered and placed in the refrigerator overnight or for twelve hours. Remove the fillet, wash out the pan and rinse the fillet and then dry it well. Letting the fillet sit on the rack in the same pan overnight will result in the delicate lox enjoyed by many.
Hot smoked salmon is the more popular version, however. While a bit more intensive, it still is a fairly simple procedure just about anyone can perform. There are several kinds of smokers, from the electric, charcoal or wood apparatus, to the homemade version nothing more than a cardboard box.
The hot smoking process begins with a salmon fillet which has had the head, tail, fins and innards removed, but the skin still left on. Strips about 1" thick typically work well. The only real ingredient needed to perform the smoking is called brine, with non-iodized salt as the main ingredient. The specific flavor desired can be determined through the brine. For a simple taste, relying on the chips used for flavor, the brine would include brown sugar, salt and garlic. More specific flavor is determined through the addition of teriyaki or barbecue sauce.
Stacking multiple fillets in a flesh-to-flesh and skin-to-skin alternating pattern can be used with a large pan, but all the fillets should be covered in the brine and allowed to sit for six hours.
A significant layer of wood chips, such as alder, oak or hickory should be placed at the bottom layer of a large pan. The fillets should then be placed on a cooking rack about two or three inches above the chips. The pan should be covered and placed in the smoker or grill and smoked for about four to six hours. Maintaining a temperature of 140˚ to 165˚F will provide a flaky smoked salmon in that amount of time.
Once completed, the salmon not eaten within a day or two should be vacuum sealed. The nice part about smoked salmon is it does not require refrigeration until the package has been opened again.