Originally Posted by Weevil
I agreed to smoke a salmon for my in-laws even though I haven't done one before. Up to now I've been sticking to pulled pork with some experimentation with ribs and chicken. After reading through some of the posts in this forum, I'm likely to follow AKhap's method here: http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/t/127170/hot-smoking-salmon-throwing-down-the-gauntlet
However, the caveat is that I need to have it ready by 2pm and don't see myself being up at 5am to do the 3.5-4.5 hours of prep work and then a low smoke at 140-150 degrees. I have no idea how long the smoke would take. Heck, I'm not even sure if I can get my Master Forge smoker that low....
So while I will follow AKhap's instructions to a tee for the brining and formation of the pellicle, my question is what will happen (and how long will it take) if my smoker is about 200 degrees instead? Will this pretty much ruin/dry out the salmon by the time it gets to the 140-145 degree internal temp? Or should I be ok and it will just get done sooner?
I'd prefer not to screw this up for my in-laws but on the other hand don't want to be up before the sun is up to get things started. :-)
Thanks for the tips/suggestions/wisdom!!
There is a lot of confusion about cooking salmon! There are three primary ways of applying smoke to fish;
Cold smoking to produce an uncooked product like smoked lox or dried fish (squaw candy as it is usually called here). It uses essentially no heat.
Kippering or hot smoking as in the method I detailed. The product is mostly eaten cold or warmed slightly. It needs to be smoked and cooked a long time. and if it were not protected by the pellicle it would dry out way too much in that time. This is also the way it is done for canned smoked salmon which is only done about half way through the drying process and then either pressure canned or packed in Mylar retort bags and also pressure-cooked.
The third style is plain old grilling hot. You do not need the pellicle because the fish will only be on the grill for 8 minutes or so. The searing done by the hot grill will prevent a lot of moisture loss, also. Adding smoke is optional and this is where the confusion arises, I guess.
Combining methods is usually a recipe for disaster.
If they truly want smoked salmon then do it ahead of time and warm it before serving. If they want grilled fish with smoke then do it at the last minute.
A bit of chopped onion and garlic softened in a skillet in a LOT of butter with a shot of Worcestershire Sauce makes an outstanding simple baste, hot peppers optional. Flop the filleted pieces flesh side down on a hot grill for about 4 minutes. Then flip them onto the skin side and baste. At about 4 minutes the fish should be done. Some do not like their fish quite that rare, but that is where we aim for ourselves.
When removing the pieces slip the spatula between the skin and flesh and lift it free of the skin. I leave the collars on salmon and the front pieces may resist the urge to come off clean from the skin. I think the best part is the fatty muscle that moves the fins, which is why I leave the collars on.
Hope this helps