In the UK if you refer to smoked salmon, then we are usually talking about ‘cold smoked’ salmon. This is very much the traditional way of smoking salmon – and is often referred to as the ‘Scottish or Nordic method’ in countries where ‘hot smoking’ is the norm. We have covered cold smoking salmon elsewhere. Briefly, the salmon is cured for up to 24 hours and then smoked ideally below 20C for around 6 to 12 hours. Cold smoking doesn’t actually cook the fish, so it’s left with an almost raw-like texture. This is the most common form of smoking in Northern Europe and on the East coast of America.
Before going any further I need to say that both methods of smoking salmon are great, but the end products are very different. Hot smoking salmon is a specialty of the Pacific Northwest of the US. The salmon is cured or just brined and then smoked at 50-80C for around 4-8 hours to get the core temperature of the fish to around 70C. The salmon is therefore both smoked and cooked giving it its flaky texture.
We have got into the habit this summer of hot smoking the tail end of sides of salmon – partly as it is a great way to use this less than prime portion of the fish. The night before wanting to cook all you need to do is mix together the sugar, salt, garlic and pepper and cover the salmon with a generous coating on both sides. This should ideally be done in a nonmetallic dish that will allow the salmon to sit flat in the base. The dish is then covered and put in the fridge overnight.
In the morning a lot of the salt and sugar will have gone into solution as it has drawn out liquid from the salmon. This is now simply washed off well (or will retain too much salt) and the salmon dried and placed on a trivet and put back into the fridge for a few hours to let the surface dry further and produce an outer pellicle. It is this pellicle that takes up the smoke when cooking. At his stage the salmon will feel stiffer and have a richer and darker colour. Some suggest wrapping the salmon in a clean cloth for the first hour (e.g. the BGE UK website) but this is not something we have seen the need for.
It is now a good time to soak your cedar plank, and if using wood chips as opposed to chunks, to soak them too. From now on everything is really easy, especially if you have a digital controller to manage the temperature of the Egg and monitor the core temperature of the fish. You can of course cook this dish without a digital controller – simply set the BGE up for indirect cooking at 80C with the beech chunks in place. Place the salmon on a cedar plank in the EGG and away you go. Keep the EGG temperature at 80C and after around 4 hours you will have hot smoked salmon.
It is even easier if you have a digital controller like the DigiQ DX2 BBQ Guru or the CyberQ Cloud or similar. If cooking in a Large BGE it is also well worth cooking more than one piece of salmon. It is really only necessary to put the food temperature probe in one of the pieces. But if you have something like a CyberQ Cloud with multiple probes, take the opportunity to use multiple probes. Which ever you use set up the Pit Fan and plug the wire with the crocodile clip into the ‘Pit Temperature’ port and the wire with the probe into the ‘Food Temperature’ port. Insert the temperature probe into the thickest part of the salmon, and attach the clip to the stainless steel grid. Set the controller to a pit temperature of 80C and a food temperature of 70C. Run the wires over the the legs of the plate setter to protect from any flare-up. Close the lid of the EGG and leave for around 4 hours until the controller tells you the core temperature is 70C. And that is all that needs to be done!
Serve hot in portions or flaked into a salad. There are so many things that you can do with it cold too – more of these later – but in the meantime “give it a Google”.
What ever you use it for, I am sure you will love the salmon cooked this way!
Hot Smoked Salmon - Cedar and Beech Smoked
Cured Salmon side or part side smoked on a cedar plank over beech smoke
- 1 side of salmon (scale quantities up or down dependent on the amount of salmon used)
- 200g dark muscovado sugar
- 100g salt
- 4 cloves of garlic, crushed and finely chopped
- 1 tsp cracked black pepper
- 2 chunks of beech wood for smoking (or smoking chips)
- 1 Cedar smoking plank
- Step 1 Mix together the sugar, salt garlic and pepper and cover the salmon with a generous coating on both sides in a nonmetallic container. Place in the fridge overnight.
- Step 2 In the morning, wash the curing mix off the salmon and pat dry. Place on a trivet and put back into the fridge for a few hours to let the surface dry further and produce an outer pellicle.
- Step 3 Soak the cedar plank, and if using wood chips as opposed to chunks, soak them too.
- Step 4 Set the BGE up for indirect cooking at 80C with the beech chunks in place. Place the salmon on a cedar plank in the EGG (and if using a temperature controller set the Pit temperature to 80C and the Cook core temperature to 70C.
- Step 5 Close the lid of the EGG and leave for around 4 hours until the controller tells you the core temperature is 70C.
- Step 6 Serve hot or cold