Monday, September 14, 2015

"Hot Smoked" Salmon, Whole Filet!

When most people hear the words, "Smoked Salmon," they imagine a slab of cold salty fish, smashed onto a bagel with some cream cheese.  "Cold Smoking" is a food preparation process that usually involved brining (salting) and drying the meat out with an infusion of cold smoke, to preserve it for long periods of time.  This is awesome if you're an Eskimo, or if you live without the modern convenience of electricity and refrigeration.

I am not an Eskimo.I prefer to actually cook the salmon with hot smoke in a cooker that uses charcoal and wood.  The results are super-duper tasty, look!

Why doesn't everyone smoke their Salmon the same way they smoke pork, brisket, ribs, or chicken?  Because it's FRAGILE and super easy to screw up, that's why!  Using a few simple tricks, you can make this restaurant quality dish at home and impress even the snootiest of your friends!

You Will Need:
  • One Full-Sized Raw Salmon Filet
  • One Foil Pan, large enough to accommodate your fish
  • 2 Tbsp Fresh Lime Juice
  • 2 Tbsp Extra-virgin Olive Oil
  • Fish Rub - 1 Tbsp Each of:
    • Coarse Sea Salt
    • Smoked Paprika
    • Coarsely Cracked Peppercorns
    • Dark Brown Sugar
    • Chili Powder
    • Old Bay Seasoning

Ok, mix your lime and oil together and use your fingers to spread a small portion of it all over the bottom of your foil pan.  We don't want your salmon to stick to the grates of your grill so we're going to cook it in a pan.  We don't want your salmon to stick to the pan, so we're going to coat it with oil (and lime juice, to flavor the bottom of the filet).

Lay your fish into the pan (flat side down) and make sure it slides around when you jiggle the pan.  Pour the rest of the oil/lime over your fish and massage it into the filet.  Then liberally sprinkle the rub across the top.  Make sure you get an even coat of the rub over all of the fish.  Go ahead and get your fire going outside in your cooker, and aim for a temperature of 225 degrees F.

Pulling this fish off of your cooker when it hits the correct temperature is everything in this dish!  Seriously, it's as easy to under-cook this fish as it is to burn it so, you'll want to watch it carefully!  I inserted my thinnest temperature probe into the thickest part of the filet.  Push it in slowly, and watch the readout.  If you pulled this fish out of the fridge to prep it, you should stop inserting your probe when it reads 38-42 degrees.  Then you'll know you hit the cold spot.

When is it done?  Great question... Salmon is "done" at 140.  It's also done at 160!  Any degrees of doneness between these two temperature extremes is perfectly presentable and up to your own personal preference.  Me?  I'm a sushi lover so I'll aim for 140.  Some people like it a bit more firm so they shoot for 150.  Things start to dry out at 160 though, so be careful.

How long will it take?  Another great question.  Have a close look at my thermal readout during this cook.  The fish started at 46 degrees.  It climbed up to 91 in 30 minutes, in a cook chamber that was 227 degrees.  In the world of "Low and Slow Cooking BBQ," that's NOT a long time!  23 minutes later, it was done!  So, keep a sharp eye on it.  There are lots of factors at play here... humidity, size of the fish, quality of heat circulation, etc.  Do not just set a 45 minute timer and walk away.  Have an adult beverage, close the lid, and watch your thermometer!

When my digital thermo-probe said, "140," I double-checked it with my Thermapen.  It read "137.8."  No problem.  Cover the pan with foil, and place it in a 150 degree oven to keep it warm and to bring it up another few degrees.  Thirty minutes later, it was a perfect 141.2 degrees and ready for slicing and serving!

Have a look at the meat.  At 140, there is still a ton of moisture here, and the fish flaked perfectly.  It was nice and soft but not mushy.  I totally understand it this looks a bit "underdone" to you, if so, shoot for 150 degrees.  My guests were thrilled, and the leftover salmon still had plenty of moisture and turned my last heart of Romaine into an amazing Salmon Caesar Salad....


  1. I used a neutral wood (pecan), but tossing in a few chunks of dry cedar couldn't hurt! How's it going, Paul? :)


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