Help - I've just done my first smoked salmon smoke with a smallish piece (700gm) and at the end of the process I have only 10% weight loss. The Salmon had been in the freezer for a month; I dry cured for 8 hours; let it dry in the fridge overnight and then Cold Smoked for 8 hours. 7% weight loss from cure, 3% from smoke. In retrospect the only thing I'd change is up the salt to sugar ratio in my salt/sugar dry cure. All the articles say I need 20% loss to be safe, although I've found some people who say they never achieve 20%. So what do I do with my Salmon. I guess I can cook a piece in the oven, I can use some in a smoked salmon risotto, but I want to try it as intended as cold smoked salmon - am I risking my life? The inside of the smoker did not go above 20c. Quick responses appreciated as I guess, if I need to cook it, I need to do it in the next 30 hours, the 10% at least buying me a day grace.
Smoked Salmon Help! - quick response appreciated
When did you weigh your salmon fillet? Was it after it had been thawed? The freezing and thawing process will have ruptured some of the cells in the fish and led to initial water loss before you began curing.
You only need to reduce the moisture content typically by 18-20% if you are making traditional smoked salmon. It is not really a matter of safety if it is slightly below this, however it will affect the storing time of the salmon. Anything over 15% will be fine but the closer you can get to 20% the better. If you weighed the salmon after it was thawed you will probably not be able to approach 20% additional loss.
If making traditional smoked salmon then 8 hours in the smoker will certainly NOT be sufficient. Depending on the air throughput through the smoker then it can take up to 2-3 days. It is important therefore to keep the smoker relatively cool during this period 8-12 C is fine but no higher.
If you simply want smoked salmon fillets then what you have done will be sufficient. With these there is less moisture loss and the curing simply firms up the flesh and the smoke gives it flavour. As the salmon will be cooked before eating you do not want to reduce the moisture levels too low.
I am assuming that the smoker is outside. If it is in the sun then the chamber will very easily get hotter than you want. If this is the case then you may want to smoke it at night when it is cooler. There is no harm in taking the salmon out of the smoker in the morning and storing it in the fridge during the day and continue the smoking the following evening.
Thanks for that Wade. I weighed the Salmon after it defrosted, just before the cure. I started the smoke at 6.30 this morning, but I suspect the beech dust I used burnt faster/hotter than the oak I've used previously, as I was surprised that the temperature climbed to 20c today, with the smoker in the shade. You say what I've done will be enough if I want smoked salmon fillets, do you mean for subsequent cooking, or eating some sliced as they are now?
It is difficult to give you specific advice without seeing the salmon however from what you have told me it is unlikely to do you any harm - however to be sure I would probably cook it beforehand. The fact that you have cured the fish first and have managed to reduce the weight by over 10% from fresh will mean that it is almost certainly safe to eat. Has it started to become oily to the touch? If so then that is a good sign.
Do not class this as a failure though. Smoked salmon fillets are wonderful. Once you have tried them you will find fresh salmon fillets quite tasteless and may not want to eat them again. I would start afresh with a new side of salmon but this time keep the smoker temperatures lower and expect to smoke for much longer.
People have their own methods. I tend to cure mine for a shorter period of time (~3 hours) and smoke for longer. I find that leaving it in the cure for longer can result in a much saltier tasting end result.
Here are a couple of links that may help. They are not for traditional smoked salmon however I use the same method but smoke for longer.
Thanks for the advice. We decided to save some of the salmon for a risotto, and have just had a few chunks fried as tempura with tempura veg. - highly recommended. I tried a sliver cold and it wasn't too far off. Given the freezing temperatures yesterday I was surprised I couldn't keep the temperature below 20c - this may be a problem with the Cardboard box design which probably is a better insulator than metal. So given the advice I think next winter I will do my smoked salmon as 2 overnight 10 hour smokes. My cure was 50:50 Sugar/Salt plus some 5 spice. For that reason an 8 hours cure did not leave it over salty, but maybe the higher sugar content meant it didn't draw out so much fluid.
I hope you enjoyed it. I bet it tasted good.
The new smoking times sound good but play it by ear as the air flow through the chamber will affect the moisture loss. You can even take the salt down a notch too - I use 1/3 salt and 2/3 sugar and it draws out the water well. Again purely a matter of preference.
After 2 hours in 1/3 Salt and 2/3 Sugar
Fresh fennel seeds (when in season) go very well in the cure as do fresh fennel or dill leaves at other times. Let me know how the 5 spice turned out as I would have expected that to be a little "heavy" for the salmon.
The 5 spice smelt fantastic but did not leave a heavy taste on the salmon, but that was probably my ratio ( 1cup of salt and sugar each to just a desert spoon of 5 spice.) This was a sneaky way of getting some aniseed taste in, as my wifes not a fan, so I avoid dill & fennel which I love.
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When you freeze fish you dry it out a certain amount of the moisture which is lost when you defrost. I found it best to use a fresh fillet. I usually use the tail end of the fillet, less pin bones to remove.
Cure mix is salt & sugar 3 to 1. I some times add some chopped Dill to the cure. Wash the fillet pat dry apply the cure and refrigerate for 4 hours. Cold smoke for 5 hours. It's all a matter of taste. So trial and error till you get a taste you like.
All the best Bill
Yes, fresh is always preferable however I find that previously frozen works fine as well. You just need to remember that for traditional smoked salmon, when calculating the moisture loss it should be from the fresh fillet weight and not from the thawed weight.
I'd have always gone for fresh, but many people point out that freezing for around 7 days kills a lot of the parasites that can exist in fish which won't be killed as you are not cooking the fish. However I see the FDA advice is -23c for 7 days, and home freezing rarely goes beyond -15c, so the best solution is "Fresh" at a supermarket that has commercially frozen and defrosted the fish - however as customers will unquestioningly go for Fresh, not prefrozen, this practise has become rarer. Or maybe I'm missing that these parasites ie. worms etc not bacteria, would be killed by the cure.
I see on Seafood Health Facts: Making Smart Choices, Balancing the Benefits and Risks of Seafood consumption, seafoodhealthfacts.org..
Balancing the Benefits and Risks of Seafood Consumption
Two types of parasitic worms can infect humans:
1. Anisakiasis ......
2. Tapeworm infections occur after ingesting the larvae of diphyllobothrium which is found in freshwater fish such as pike, perch and anadromous (fresh-saltwater) fish such as salmon.
During commercial freezing fish is frozen solid at a temperature of -35°F and stored at this temperature or below for a minimum of 15 hours to kill parasites. Most home freezers have temperatures at 0°F to 10°F and may not be cold enough to kill parasites because it can take up to 7 days at -4°F or below to kill parasites, especially in large fish. ...
Fish is also safe to eat after it is cooked to an internal temperature of 145°F for 15 seconds. Normal cooking procedures generally exceed this temperature. If a thermometer is not available to check the internal temperature of the thickest portion of the fish, the fish should be cooked until it loses its translucency and flakes easily with a fork.