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Cold-Smoked Salmon

My wife calls this my latest fixation, and she's not wrong.

Ingredients

  • 1 salmon filet (I buy Costco's farm-raised Atlantic salmon)
  • Farm-raised to help avoid parasites, but generally if the fish has been deep-frozen after it was caught, you'll be fine here
  • Approximately 1oz kosher salt per pound
  • Approximately 0.5oz sugar per pound

Process

Cure

  • Unwrap the salmon and dry it with clean paper towels
  • Mix salt and sugar together
  • Sprinkle a thin layer the shape of your filet in the bottom of a pan, baking sheet, or foil boat
  • Put the salmon on top of the salt and sugar mixture in the pan
  • Sprinkle the remaining salt and sugar on top of the salmon, ensuring good coverage
  • Wrap the pan and put it in the fridge for at least 6 hours, but I usually do around 24 hours (This depends on how salty you would like it to be. Generally, longer = saltier)

Salmon in a 9x13 baking dish coated in kosher salt and sugar

Prep

  • After the curing time, remove from the fridge and from the pan
  • Rinse the salmon and then dry it thoroughly with clean paper towels
  • Place the salmon on a wire rack
  • Place it back in the fridge, uncovered for an hour or more

Cured salmon on a wire baking rack, dried and ready to smoke

Smoke

  • In your smoker (I use my Traeger, but really you can use any clean and vented box), collect some wood chips or pellets and put them in a smoke tube or small foil pan
  • Light one end of the chips on fire and let it burn for a little bit, then blow out the fire. It should still smolder and smoke after this.
  • Place the smoke tube or pan on the opposite side of your smoking container from the vent. (For me this is the left side of the grate)
  • Place your salmon and wire rack next to the smoke source
  • Let it sit in the cool smokey environment for 4-6 hours depending on how smokey you like it

Salmon on a wire rack in a (dirty) Traeger smoker with a smoke tube smoking to the left

Finish

  • Remove from the smoker and wrap in plastic wrap
  • You can eat it right away, but with a day in the fridge it'll taste even better
  • Cut the filet into smaller chunks and wrap them individually. I like to keep one thawed and freeze the rest, taking a frozen one out when I finish the thawed one.
  • Eat however you might like. Plain, on a bagel, in a bowl with rice, in sushi, or any other way you feel.

Sliced cold-smoked salmon on top of rice with chunks of cucumber in a bowl

That's a lot of steps! But it really doesn't take much active time. I've also done this process with steelhead trout and I would imagine other fish would work great too.

I started doing this after I realized that buying a package cold-smoked salmon every week was pretty expensive for not a lot of fish. I'm documenting it here because I keep talking about it to folks and having a simple link to share is easier than describing the process every time.

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food recipe