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Apr 26, 2006 03:11 AM

freezing smoked salmon question

  • s

hi hounds! i'm planning to use my smoked salmon either with pasta or in a frittata. however, i sometimes have trouble planning ahead. so, i can't always thaw the salmon the day before in the fridge.

so, my question is, can you use frozen smoked salmon straight from the freezer? if not, are there any rapid thaw methods you could advise me on? microwave perhaps?

on a sidenote: what are your favorite smoked salmon recipes?


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  1. Cold smoked or hot smoked?

    8 Replies
      1. re: sonora

        Cold-smoked salmon is lox, isn't it? I freeze lox all the time. But when you defrost it, and it does defrost fast (in wrapping, in water in the sink) it tends to break up into small pieces, which is fine for my purposes. Hot smoked salmon would probably last a very long time in the fridge, but cold smoked has a pretty quick "use by" date. And you can't press your luck on it either. I opened some that was in the fridge, unopened, a week after the date and it was moldy. That's why I freeze it. When defrosted, the mouth feel is fine for my purposes, and the flavor is unchanged. I have 2 recipes - one is for an appetizer or casserole type item "smoked salmon vinagrette" which I posted a little over a week ago. The other is lox spread. Lox, onion, and cream cheese in food processor. Could not be simpler - you'll find your own favorite proportions of each ingredient and preffered texture if you make it a few times. Hint: use Philly CC, place chunked onion in bottom of processor. Both recipes are huge, and I do mean huge, hits with whoever eats them.

        1. re: Niki Rothman

          "Hot smoked salmon would probably last a very long time in the fridge."

          Not necessarily true. Shelf life depends on how the fish was processed. Hot smoke usually results in a fully cooked (well done) product. Cold smoke usually results in a cured (dried) product. In the olden days, preservatives were used in cold smoked fish. Currently, preservatives are frowned on, thus the hot smoke process. Hot smoked, no preservative salmon will last in the fridge as long as a cooked steak will.

          "Cold-smoked salmon is lox, isn't it?"

          No, lox is just salt cured salmon, sometimes flavored with dill, lox is a raw product. Nova is salt cured and cold smoked.

          I have had bad luck keeping both hot and cold smoked fish and beef in the fridge, even commercial product, vacuum packed. No saltpeter; no shelf life.

          1. re: Alan408

            Right, about lox. Unfortunately, you will see many products, especially from the left coast, mislabeled - so a cold smoked salmon is often called lox. This would never (ok, seldom) happen in NYC, where people know the difference. I guess this is just another authentic food rant.

            Hot smoked comes from a different tradition than cold smoked - mainly from native american indians. Some people actually differentiate between hot smoked and an even hotter, faster process, which is often labeled barbeque - that's really a misnomer, given that bbq is all about low and slow. The range of product under the hot smoked category overall is not that different - I don't see the value of giving a process of 160F/4 hours versus 250F/2 hours different names - it's all flaky and dry and all the other variables will account for much greater differences.

            In any case, hot smoked is fully cooked, but it is also preserved (chemically) by both brining and smoke - it should last longer than a cooked steak. Mine certainly do, although that doesn't mean forever. If you're careful about the cleanliness of the utensils you use to flake off pieces (hard smoked cannot be cut across the grain like cold smoked), a tightly wrapped piece will last in the fridge for a couple of weeks or more. In the freezer, it will last much longer, and there will be less overall effect on the texture than on cold-smoked.

            I wouldn't call cold smoked dry - certainly not in comparison with hot smoked, which definitely is dry (although cold smoked is certainly drier than Lox). Cold smoking doesn't fully cook the flesh - it's typically done at 90F or below, and the time can vary from 36 hours to 3 weeks. The combination of brining and the light smoking does strengthen the connective tissue - which is why you can cut across the grain (hot smoking just dissolves the connective tissue, so it flakes no matter how much brining it had). Most commercial cold smoked product today is brined lightly and smoked for 36 hours or so, which makes for a less salty and light flavor, but also means that it won't last very long. A week in the fridge, and most will lose its firmness and flavor. Freezing also destroys some flavor and definitely a great deal of the firm texture - I find that after freezing, I had better eat that fish right away. Even a day after defrosting, kept in the fridge, the fish is mushy. Longer smoked fish will hold out better - a brand I get from Norway seems to hold its firmness very well through freezing.

            1. re: applehome

              A little research indicates there would be some difference of opinion as to whether cold smoked salmon could be considered lox. I always thought that brined plus cold smoked = lox and that salt cured = gravlox. What would be considered the definitive source of information here. See the following two definitions of lox:

              Lox (salmon)
              From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

              Lox is smoked salmon fillet that has been cured and then often cold-smoked. The cold smoking does not cook the fish, resulting in its characteristic smooth texture, similar to the raw product. The English word is derived from the Yiddish lox ("salmon")–which is a cognate of Swedish (lax), Danish/Norwegian (laks), and German (Lachs). It is often served with bagels and cream cheese. Lox is noted for its importance in Ashkenazic Jewish cuisine.

              and from epicurious:

              Regular. Brined in a solution of water, salt, sometimes sugars, and spices (the brine). This is called "wet brining." Then the fish may be cold smoked.
              Nova lox or Nova Scotia lox. Similar to regular lox, but cured with a milder brine. The fish is then cold smoked. The name dates from a time when much of the salmon in New York City came from Nova Scotia. Today, however, the name refers to the milder brining, as compared to regular lox, and the fish may come from other waters or even be raised on farms.
              Scottish lox. A mixture of salt and sometimes sugars, spices and other flavorings are applied directly to the meat of the fish for a period of time. This is called "dry-brining" or "Scottish-style." The brine mixture is then rinsed off, and the fish is cold smoked.
              Scandinavian lox. The fish is salt-cured and cold-smoked.
              Gravad lox. Also known as Gravad lax or Gravlax, this is a traditional Scandinavian means of preparing lox (salmon). Gravad lox is not smoked, but it can be served in a similar fashion. The salmon is coated with a spice mixture, which often includes dill, sugars, and spices like juniper berry. It is then weighted down to force the moisture from the fish and impart the flavorings. It is often served with a sweet mustard-dill sauce.

              smoked salmon
              Fresh salmon that has undergone a smoking process, usually by one of two methods — hot-smoking or cold-smoking. Hot-smoking is a process by which the fish is smoked from 6 to 12 hours at temperatures ranging from 120° to 180°F. The time and temperature depend on the size of the fish, how close it is to the source of smoke and the degree of flavor desired. In cold-smoking, a temperature of 70° to 90°F is maintained and the fish might remain in the smokehouse for anywhere from 1 day to 3 weeks. There are many types of smoked salmon. Indian-cure salmon is brined fish that has been cold-smoked for up to 2 weeks, which results in a form of salmon JERKY. Kippered salmon — U.S. style — is a chunk, steak or fillet that has been soaked in a mild brine and hot-smoked. It's usually made from chinook salmon that has been dyed red. European kippered salmon differs in that it's a whole salmon that has been split before being brined and cold-smoked. Lox is brine-cured cold-smoked salmon, much of which is slightly saltier than other smoked salmon. Some lox, however, has had sugar added to the brine, which produces a less salty product. Lox is a favorite in American-Jewish cuisine, particularly when served with BAGELS and cream cheese. Nova or Nova Scotia salmon is an idiom used in the eastern United States that broadly describes cold-smoked salmon. Scotch-smoked, Danish-smoked and Irish-smoked salmon are all geographical references to cold-smoked Atlantic salmon (whereas the Pacific species — usually coho or chinook — treated in this manner is generally simply labeled smoked salmon ). Squaw candy consists of thin strips of salmon that has been cured in a salt-sugar brine before being hot-smoked. Other fish such as trout and haddock can also be smoked. See also SALMON.

              © Copyright Barron's Educational Services, Inc. 1995 based on THE FOOD LOVER'S COMPANION, 2nd edition, by Sharon Tyler Herbst.

              1. re: jfish

                Wikipedia is as accurate as the last bozo that posted on it - it's information, but it's no reference. As to Epicurious, it reflects common usage, not correctness. I know, I know - common usage is correct, and authentic means little, especially here in the annals of deliciousness, either in ingredients, methods, or vocabulary. So barbecue is grilling, and lox is smoked salmon.

                I'll stick to someone that is renown for food research: Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking - The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. He says that Lox is a heavily brined form of salmon that is usually soaked to remove some salt before slicing for sale.

                Also, try the site below. Russ and Daughters, probably the best known, longest lasting purveyor of smoked and cured fish in NYC, (and all US), insists that lox is lox and smoked salmon is smoked salmon. But they've even had to give in to the tidal wave of ignorance - now, when you ask for lox, they ask you if you really mean lox or do you mean smoked salmon. I guess too many people were getting angry that they got what they asked for.

                Language changes, food changes, it's a fact of life. But imagine what the future holds if we don't try to hold on to some understanding of the originations of food and food language. Pho and ramen will end up being the same. Noodles will replace spaghetti and soba. Sushi will include stuffed cabbage and peppers. Well... I'm clearly not one that prays to the fusion gods.

                My biggest issue with the changing of meaning to be more general is that the original meaning is lost - no other word comes to fill in for the changed one. It may even lead to that particular food beeing lost. So if lox is not lox, what do we now call lox? That brined stuff that came from Eastern Europe and was eaten in the lower East side before that new stuff came along, called Nova, which some folks began to call Nova Lox in error? Pretty long name. Same for bbq - that pork or beef stuff that originated in the southern US cooked with low heat provided by smoldering wood coals and for a long time?

                Lox is not as popular as smoked salmon, and real bbq is not as popular as grilling. Real bbq is popular enough, at this time, that it's not going to disappear anytime soon. But what about real lox? If the only folks that are interested in a great piece of belly lox live in NYC, maybe it ends up dissapearing along with the original meaning of the word.


                1. re: applehome

                  Thanks. Interestingly, here in Baltimore, nova is now what you get when you order lox. You must specifically ask for belly which is more expensive. 40 years ago belly was the default and nova cost more. We thought (incorrectly so I learn) that nova was a less salty form of lox. I always preferred belly.

                  1. re: applehome

                    Check it out!
                    "Barney Greengrass the Surgeon King" is the name of the restaurant and mail order purveyor of all things smoked fish on the Upper East Side of NYC. Amazing. I hate to say it, because it's so endangered, but sturgeon is so absolutely delicious smoked. Ditto sable - I don't know whether it's endangered but it's right up there with sturgeon for deliciousness. Also expensive. Also delicious, and much less expensive, in the universe of Jewish smoked fish, are whitefish, herring and chubs.

      2. I have some in my freezer that is frozen solid as a rock. I can't imagine what you could use it for in that shape so I think it would have to completely thaw.

        1. Wrap it tightly - like in a ziplock bag - and submerge the bag in tepid water. Replace water a couple of times until the salmon thaws. I do it all the time.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Nyleve

            thanks! great to know impromptu smoked salmon prep is possible

            1. re: sonora

              Most of my smoked salmon consumption is impromptu.

          2. My favorite smoked salmon preparation for grocery store/not the best/slightly slimy smoked salmon (and would probably work well with previously frozen): Cut the big slices into smaller pieces (about the size of slices of baguettes, or a little bigger), toss with lots of lemon juice, evoo, chopped cilantro, chopped red onion, and capers, and let sit in the fridge for a few hours/overnight -- the lemony goodness interacts with the smoked salmon and turns it from that horrid sliminess that bad smoked salmon has into a delicate ceviche-like texture. You then put a big beautiful bowl of this out, and top thin slices of baguettes with it, esp. tasty if you let the baguette slices soak up some of the lemon/oil deliciousness. This is a great nibble, and something unusual to most of my guests -- even avowed smoked salmon haters enjoy it.