Cold Smoked Salmon - Why So Much Variance on Brine & Smoke times?

Discussion in 'Fish' started by jazzy, Jan 14, 2012.

  1. jazzy

    jazzy Newbie

    I've read about a dozen or more instructions on cold smoking salmon.  There are some basics common to all:

    a) Salmon needs to be frozen a 0F for a week to kill parasites.

    b) Smoker temp can't go above 90F (or it cooks)

    Like hot smoked salmon I've found the brine recipes and time ALL OVER THE MAP. Mainly on the smoking times.  I've seen brine times of 2 hours to 12 hours.  But more interesting is the variation in smoking times.  Some people say as little as 2 hours, where as some sites say 2-5 days!

    My guess is the brine time and smoking time are disproportional.  I believe the traditional cold smoked salmon created by Naitive Americans  had no brining time (may have just splashed with seawater) but they cold smoked it for several days.  In this case it is the smoke and moisture removal that is acting as the preservative.

    In cases where people are brining their salmon overnight and smoking it for less than 6 hours, they are relying on the salt/sugar concentration to preserve the salmon and less on the smoke.

    Then there is Lox which you can create just by brining and no smoking at all.  

    Anyone done some comparisons?  It would seem to me the better tasting product is the one that isn't too salty.  This would be the shorter brine time combined with the longer smoking time.  But you wouldn't want it to be too smokey either.

    My dry brine time for hot smoked typically is only a 1-hour brine for 1.25-1.5" thick previously frozen pieces. Longer and it ends up more like Salmon Candy.  (I like a light taste)  I'm thinking of going with a 2-hour dry brine on the cold smoke and smoking it at 80F for 18 hours.  Based on all the techniques I've read, this represents sort of a 'middle of the road' strategy I think.

    Any insights are appreciated.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2012
  2. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

  3. adiochiro3

    adiochiro3 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    A lot of those frustrating variations are simply variations in personal tastes of the cooks.  bbally & Al's methods are a great place to start.

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