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Cold Smoking Salmon

Cold Smoking SalmonCuring and Cold Smoking Salmon by Tim


Cold smoked seafood like salmon is impossible on a gas grill and most home smokers.   They are not capable of smoking at ambient temperature.  They cannot provide a good flow of smoke without heating the grill cavity. 

Salmon or trout must be smoked without allowing the fish to heat to over 70°F degrees.  If the fish temperature rises to over 80°F degrees, the fish loses its texture and cannot be sliced thin on a diagonal.

Curing (Dry Brining) the Salmon

Dry brining the salmon in a mix of salt and sugar removes moisture and cures the salmon for smoking.  The process takes 1 or 2 days to complete.  (You may also want to add aromatics to the cure to make gravlax.)

Cold Smoking on a Weber Kettle

You will need a metal mesh rack to hold hot briquettes and small wood chips.  Mild fruit wood or alder chips works nicely with fish.  Soak the chips in hot water for 15 mins.

You will need about 4 natural charcoal briquettes depending on the wind and temperature.  (Weber or Kingsford Professional briquettes) The lower vent should be half open.  The top grill should be clean.  The cover vent should be almost closed.

Place the mesh rack on the lower grill and top with the briquettes. You may light the briquettes with an electric starter or soak them briefly in rubbing alcohol and light with a match.  When the briquettes are ready to cook, generously top them with the moist wood chips.  Put the top rack in place and cover the grill.

When the smoke begins to flow, pull the fish fillets out of the fridge, dry them with paper towels and place skin side down on the leeward side of the grill.

Replace the cover. Cold Smoke the cold filet for 30 minutes with a continuous flow of mild smoke. 

Watch the grill for about 5 minutes to verify the steady smoke flow.  If it is flowing rapidly, close the top vent a bit.  If the kettle surface begins to feel hot, close to bottom vents to reduce the heat.  If the smoke stops, you can light another briquette and place it on the rack with more wood chips.

After 20 - 30 minutes the salmon should be fully smoked and still feel cold.  Take the filet to the kitchen and have another party do a taste/smell test.  You may smoke for an additional time if desired.

When the smoking is finished dry the filet with paper towels, rub with a small amount of canola oil and place on a rack over a tray.  Refrigerate for two days to complete the curing.

Wrap in aluminum foil and cover with a plastic bag or Press and Seal.  Refrigerate to fully cool the fillets.