Homemade Smoked Salmon

I really dislike smoked salmon.  However, my wife loves it nearly as much as she loves me (quite a bit… I don’t want to give the wrong impression!).  Now that we have a smoker I decided to see if I could recreate her favorite “Salmon Candy” that she used to get at Whole Foods in NYC.  After doing some research online, I decided to dive in and give it a try.  The end result was impressive and she absolutely loved it.  Hooray for the good husband!

Step 1:  Brine the fish.

I looked around the web for a brine recipe that would recreate the flavor of Salmon Candy, and couldn’t find anything.  I put together the following for 1.5 pounds of salmon:

5 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 Qt. COLD water
2 oz Kosher salt
2/3 c. brown sugar
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
3-4 Tbsp Tamari

Once the salt and sugar were dissolved, I dropped in the fish and covered the whole container.

Step 2:  Let sit overnight.  For a saltier fish, brine for 24 hours, but LESS THAN 48!!

Step 3:  Air dry the fish on a rack in an area below 70F.  I put it in front of the air conditioner vent to ensure this was the case.  Dry for two hours so the pellicle forms.  Due to the brine, the fish will be OK at this temperature.

Step 4:  About an hour before the fish is done drying, start soaking the wood.  In this case I used Alder wood.

Step 5:  About 20 minutes before the fish is dry, start the smoker, load the box, and get the heat up to about 200F.

Step 6:  After 2 hours (don’t go past 2 hours), place the fish in the smoker and smoke the fish at the lowest temperature possible.  Ideally 160F, but I can’t get mine to go lower than 180F.  At the higher temperatures the fish “sweats”, which is what you DON’T want.  Be sure to sop up any “sweat” (aka, fat) with a paper towel every 10 minutes or so.  Once the fish reaches an internal temperature of 145F I turn off the smoker and moved them to a rack to cool, and then covered and refrigerated.

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The New Smoker: Smoked Babyback Ribs

Now that I am enjoying the country life (temporarily) I decided to embrace the moment and buy a smoker.  I’ve always loved true BBQ, and if you factor in my wife’s lust for smoked salmon, a smoker is a wise investment.  For $130 I ended up getting the smoker.  The initial assembly of the Smoker was relatively painless and within 30 minutes it was ready to go.  From that point all I had to do was connect the propane tank, load the smoker box with wood chips, start the fire, and let the “seasoning” process begin.

Now that the smoker is properly seasoned, it’s time to kick off some real smoking.  The first recipe?  How about babyback ribs for the 4th of July.

Step 1:  Prepare the Rub

In this instance I used the following (all measuring is APPROXIMATE):
4 Tbsp Sweet Paprika
2 Tbsp Chili Powder
1 Tbsp Garlic Powder
1 Tbsp Onion Powder
1 Tbsp Dry Mustard
1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper
1 tsp Kosher salt
2 tsp ground black pepper

Mix all together and apply to the ribs.

Step 2:  Apply the rub.

Step 3:  Load the smoker box with wood chips (soaked for at least 20 minutes), fill the water tray, and start the burner.  Allow the smoker to warm up and begin smoking.

Step 4:  Place the meat on the racks, spacing evenly.

Step 5:  Keep heat as low as possible.  I cooked at about 200-225F for about 5 hours.

Step 6:  Once meat is at least 160F, remove from smoker and grill.

And the final product on the grill: