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Smoked Salmon

I have made smoked salmon several times at home (to wonderfully tasty results). I am about to do it again, but I have an issue that I was hoping someone on the board might know how to solve.

When I cut the finished smoked salmon it comes apart in "chunks". I have no way to make the wonderful thin slices that you see everywhere.

Am I getting too much heat during the smoking process? Is it really only possible with an electric knife (I have some very sharp knives).

Any tips on proper technique would be much appreciated.

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  1. Are you hot-smoking or cold-smoking? Is the finished product cooked or raw, like lox? Sounds like your goal is the latter, so you need to keep your smoker below 100 degrees. Most commercial smokers use ice and keep the smoke generator far away from the fish so it doesn't cook.

    What kind of smoker are you using and what process are you following?

    10 Replies
    1. re: acgold7

      I use my weber grill. I keep a few briquets with wood chips on one side and the fish on the other. It takes about 6 hours for the fish to have a good crust...the fish itself gets to around like 110 degrees maybe. I don't know the temp of the grill, but will definitely measure that and try to keep it down this year.

      1. re: mcleester

        Yes, but it's still not clear what kind of "smoked salmon" you're trying to end up with. Lox/gravlax/thin sliced style, the kind you put on a bagel or cracker with cream cheese and/or onions and capers and the like, is always completely raw and is cured before smoking. It is very difficult, if not impossible to do in a Weber grill. It would never have a crust on it of any kind, although it could be covered with herbs like dill.

        Hot smoked/Hard-smoked salmon is cooked and is done the way you are doing it. It will not slice but tends to flake and come apart in chunks. It is delicious but is a completely different thing.

        Which are you going for?

        1. re: acgold7

          I completely agree with acgold7 - the end product you're looking for can't be done on a Weber grill. Maybe look up some Gravlax recipes, which aren't smoked, but will be cured & have the silky thin-sliced texture you're looking for.

          Regardless of how low you keep the temps, hot smoking is hot smoking. You'll still end up with flaking fish or just plain raw fish. I suggest doing some online research on gravlax & cold-smoking.

          1. re: Breezychow

            Thanks to you both. It looks like my flaking is caused by the high temperatures in the grill. I will look into cold smoking and some other techniques.

            The kind I want is the kind that you put on bagels in thin slices (what would you call that?). I've heard it called lox or just smoked salmon.

            Of course, I just put my chunky salmon on the bagel with cream cheese -- and it's delicious.

            1. re: mcleester

              There are a zillion methods for just unsmoked cured lox. Try this one,
              Take a side of salmon, less ok, skin on, thickest one you can find. l use King river wild, but get the best your wallet can handle.
              Rinse and pull out any pin bones, then freeze solid for 36-48 hours, this will take care of any parasites that may reside in the fish, farmed seem to have the most.
              Take a pyrex dish slightly larger than the fish and on the bottom, put about 4 tbl of sugar, and 4 tbl of salt and about two to three tbl of vodka sprinkled over the dry ingredients.
              Place the fish skin side up, cover the dish with Saran wrap and place a slightly smaller pyrex dish over this. Place about 2-3 lbs of something in upper dish, cans, beans, whatever.
              Put in reefer for 48-96 hours.
              Drain off liquid, rinse salmon and slice so thin you can see through it.
              TaDa
              After the first time if you want it moister,less weight, less salty, don't use as much, sweeter, add more sugar, herbed, add a lot of dill, etc. l use japanese hooch called shochu, but any liquor works, try different things.
              the recipe is flawless, inexpensive and l always have one going or one ready to eat.

              1. re: mcleester

                Ah, got it. What you want is cured first and then cold smoked. It's lox. Gravlax is not smoked. Belly lox is not smoked. Nova Lox is smoked.

                So you cure it first, as Deluca says (yum) or any way you like, and then you cold smoke, which is the tricky part. A Bradley Electric will allow you to cold smoke, as the part that makes the smoke is separate from the part that makes the heat. Even there, it's tricky, as you need to use ice to keep the smoke chamber cool enough to not cook the fish. The Bradley forums tell you how.

                Virtually impossible to do in a charcoal grill.

                1. re: acgold7

                  Yes, cold smoking is next to impossible even with a dedicated smoker. I have a Weber Smokey Mountain, but the lowest temp smoke I can manage is about 150 degrees. You'd either have to try something like the Bradley, or rig up a separate firebox with a nice long length of ducting leading into your smoke box, so the smoke can cool off before it hits the smoke chamber.

                  What you've been making is Northwest style smoked salmon. If you're in Seattle and get the alderwood smoked salmon, it's hot smoked and flakes. Delicious, but not lox.

                2. re: mcleester

                  My Tip - If I ever dry out your smoked salmon a bit too much, I'll mix that with cream cheese and use it for Smoked Salmon Spread...

                3. re: Breezychow

                  Sure it can. A cold smoke generator like the A Maze N smoker or the ProQ will produce smoke with little to no heat for 4-8 hours. I make nova lox often. In fact I have a side that's been brined and is drying in the fridge at this moment and is going into my smoker which is only acting as a smoke box tomorrow morning. I've posted several times on my homemade cold smoke generator