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How to smoke salmon without a smoker?

Hello there,

I have developed a ridiculously expensive addiction to deliciously yummy smoked salmon. I can put it on everything. But my checkbook is beginning to rebel, and I want to make some on my own. Does anyone have a good recipe, and is it possible to make it without a smoker?


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    1. re: paulj

      Certainly need that little detail to advise.

    2. If I can recall correctly, Alton Brown dedicated an episode where he smoked salmon in a cardboard box.

      3 Replies
      1. re: fourunder

        Didn't Morimoto cold smoke fish in an ice sculpture?

        1. re: paulj

          Yes he did, in a flash of absolute genius!

          To the OP, if you don't know if you want cold vs hot smoked, post what brand/type/label of the version you have been buying at the store. One of us might know how it was smoked.

          1. re: smtucker

            Smtucker, I honestly don't know. I buy it from my local organic/local supermarket. The next time I go there (tomorrow), I'll ask them how they smoke it.

      2. any heavy lidded pot, like a dutch oven, can be used as a smoker.

        1 Reply
        1. re: thew

          Oh! I have a big Le Creuset pot ... one of their 12 qt versions.

        2. Yes small pieces in a wok. There is a video on this site You can use the oven also Before the internet I found real good recipes from old hunting /fishing cookbooks from the library I found this 31/2 qts water 8 tbsp water ,2 tsps sugar ( I LIKE BROWN ) ,spices bring to a boil cool cover fish with the brine over night rinse in cold water (do not soak ) Then smoke 5-6 hrs

          3 Replies
          1. re: scunge

            Anything you smoke @ home in a pot/pan/WHY has only a tangential resemblance to Salmon smoked in a proper smoker.

            The Good News is that it's always better eaten cold the next day.

            1. re: Sam Salmon

              Yep. You can add some smoky flavor using a wok or dutch oven, but the fish will cook faster and with much less exposure to smoke than if you use a proper smoker (store bought or DIY). It will be tasty, but not what you're hoping for. You can do a better job in a bbq grill if that's an option. Low, indirect heat is the key. And don't forget to brine the fish.

              1. re: Zeldog

                Unfortunately, not in my apartment building. No BBQs to go by :(

          2. Based on your responses, I will give you the instructions on how I smoke fish. I started with this website: http://www.3men.com/threemen1.htm

            I brine my fish until the flesh has become "just firm", and then take the fish out of the brine and dry it for at least an hour on the rack I will use for the smoking. For smoking salmon, I really like Alder wood, but this is one of the places that you can experiment and find woods that appeal to you.

            Now you can build your smoker. You will need a vessel [roasting pans work well] that is at least 2 inches deep, a rack that fits inside [the same one you dry the fish on, and either a cover or some heavy duty foil. [I have never done this on an electric stove, but it should work.] Place about a tablespoon of wood chips in your cooking vessel and cover [no rack yet.] Put over your heat source just until it starts to smell smokey. Carefully lift the cover/foil and insert your rack with the fish. Cover again.

            At this point, I generally turn down my heat source to as low as possible while still getting some smoke. Smoke for about 20 minutes. Check the fish. Keep smoking until you get the texture that you want.

            Once you have enjoyed some salmon this way, expand the fish you smoke. Haddock with apple wood, etc.

            4 Replies
            1. re: smtucker

              Would wet chips work ? Alder wood had been available in the outdoor shops (hunting /fishing) here in the N.E. I'm not sure if thats the case now.

              1. re: scunge

                Indoor smoking you want to use very fine wood chips. I found some from Camerons that were well priced and smoke indoors. When we use the outdoor smoker, then we use larger chunks of wood that has been soaked.

                I haven't tried soaking chips for fish since the smoke time is so short.

              2. re: smtucker

                Thank you — this sounds pretty easy! When you heat it until it just starts to smell smokey, what heat setting are you putting it on? I have a gas stove.

                1. re: SouthToTheLeft

                  I have a top for my vessel, so I keep it kitty-corner until the smoke starts. Until the smoke does get going, I have the heat just above medium. Once the fish goes in, I turn down the heat to low, close the top tightly and adjust the heat around until I can smell some smoke, but not too much.

                  The burner I use goes from 900BTU-18,000BTU, so not sure how this will translate. My first attempt, the fish cooked very quickly. It was delicious, but I wanted more smokiness so I use as little heat as possible while still maintaining smoke. TIP: You can do one piece of fish all alone to see what your stove produces for you, and then do the rest with your new-found knowledge.

              3. Two products that can be used for both hot and cold smoking are the A-Maze-N smoker and the ProQ. They are essentially the same and use wood saw dust in a maze that is lit and smolders for hours as it snakes through the maze. Both of these products can be used as a cold smoke generator using anything as a smoke box, from a cardboard box, clay pot, grill, smoker with no heat source or added to a standard smoker or grill for hot smoking.



                5 Replies
                1. re: scubadoo97

                  No BBQ allowed here either so I bought a Cameron's Stovetop smoker-no problem using it inside although it does make your apt smell a bit like camping (!)


                  What these units do is steam cook the fish while adding a tad of smoked flavour-again better the next day and overall not bad.

                  I use a simple Gravlax cure 50% demerara sugar/50% salt for 24 hours rinse well and then use the stovetop unit.

                  1. re: scubadoo97

                    Thanks for the tip, Scubadoo. I've been using short periods of hot smoking for bacon and sausage recipes that call for cold smoking with some success, but wouldn't think of trying that with fish, so I bought an A-Maze-N smoker. I used it to smoke 5 lbs of Spanish style chorizo. The chorizo needs to dry a few more days, so I can't say anything about the taste, but that little device did perform as advertised. I'll be trying it out on some salmon tomorrow. I use it in a Masterbuilt smoker with the heat off, but you could indeed convert many types of containers into smokers, although I would not recommend a cardboard box (think of this gadget as a cigar lit at both ends).

                    It does not produce a huge volume of smoke, but this is not a big issue with cold smoking, where long, gentle smokes are typical. This might actually be an advantage for apartment dwellers who want to stay under the radar.

                    My only complaint is you must use their sawdust. It's very fine, almost a powder. I tried using several of the sawdusts I use for hot smoking and they did not work at all. The price is not bad, but for me, with shipping it's over $20 for 5 pounds. You can save a bit on shipping if you order some extra dust with the device. The sawdust does go a long way.

                    1. re: Zeldog

                      And that's why I've stayed with my tin can/soldering iron smoke generator. It's pumping out smoke at this moment.

                      1. re: Zeldog

                        Update. The gadget does indeed do the job. The chorizo came out first rate, as did the salmon (served some to my book club and they all raved). I just finished smoking a slab of bacon and though it still needs to hang for a week or two, it looks and smells great. The best thing about the gadget is it produces smoke for a long, long time without much heat compared to DIY rigs I've tried. Start it late at night when it's coolest and it will still be smoking in the morning. I forget what they claim, but for me it goes for a good 10 hours when lit at one end (light both ends and you get twice as much smoke for half as long). This could vary depending on the type of sawdust and humidity and such. Still, in the immortal words of Ron Popeil, it's pretty much "set it and forget it".

                        1. re: Zeldog

                          Glad it's working out well for you Zeldog

                    2. I'm guessing the OP is referring to cold smoked salmon. Hot smoked salmon is basically grilled salmon with smoky flavor. Certainly excellent, but quite a different beast from cold smoked.

                      I've developed a technique for cold smoking indoors without fancy equipment. First I cure a salmon fillet for about 36 hours - depends a bit on thickness. I use the cure recipe from Ruhlman and Polcyn's Charcuterie. The basics are the salt and sugar, the rest of the spicing is up to you. After curing, you wash the cure off - very well. Here's it's important to get all the salt off, other wise salt can keep absorbing and the finished product is too salty. Then let the salmon fillet dry a bit in the fridge on a drying rack, so both sides can dry out a bit and develop a pellicle that the smoke can hang on to.

                      Now for the DIY part. My girlfriend got me a Smoking Gun as a gift. Basically, there's a cup you put shaved wood into, you light it, and a fan draws the smoke out through a flexible tube. So I took a small styrofoam cooler and put ice cubes in the bottom. Then a jar, or anything that's a couple inches high. I put the salmon on a perforated tray (from my toaster oven), and put that on the jar support. The idea is that the salmon sits an inch or so above the salmon. I popped two holes into the cooler - one in, one out (the out one is on the backside of the cooler), and saved the little chunks of styrofoam. So I blow smoke into the cooler, about a 5 - 8 second blast, until smoke starts coming out the hole in the back, and then plug the holes up with the styrofoam. I repeat blasts every 30 minutes or so, for about 4 hours. I inserted a digital thermometer at the height of the salmon, and the temperature was always about 55F - well below the 90F threshold for cold smoking.

                      I've got the say, the finished product is excellent. The spicing from the cure comes through, the smoke comes through, and the salmon flavor is excellent. Consistency of the salmon is right on. The smoking gun was around $100, the rest of the stuff I had laying around. At about $20+ a pound if you buy smoked salmon, I'm already ahead of the game. I do it in my kitchen, and the smoke produced that flies around is minimal. Should be perfect for an apartment. Bonus - you can use the Smoking Gun for putting a smoke finish on lots of stuff - scallops, chicken breasts, salt, etc.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: foreverhungry

                        Cool! Keep smoking

                        Love to hear more about what people are doing to cold smoke. All these techniques work, it's just finding the one that works best for you. DIY smokers or modifying something like a smoking gun, it's all fun and tasty.