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Smoking Times question

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 



I've been looking at some of the salmon smoking threads and I see that people are talking of smoking salmon fillets for 4 1/2 hrs +  and at temps of 145' - 200'


I'm still new to this and not sure about temps and times. I usually smoke my fish for about 25 mins and check it every 5 mins or so after that. I have smoked salmon fillets and some large trout fillets, all about the same size as the fillets I saw pictured, in a small hot smoker and it only took 30-40 minutes, as for the temp they were smoked at I have no idea. Are all the threads I'm reading talking about cold smoking or why are they in for so long?




post #2 of 12

Hi Dave


You will find a lot of different ways of smoking salmon on here. Most of the US guys prefer a hot smoke which slowly cooks the salmon as it smokes. Others (and my preference) is to do a cold smoke and then cook the salmon just before eating. Both involve curing the fish but the smoking methods then differ. I usually cure mine for 2 hours and then cold smoke overnight (~8 hours)


If you want to see a comparison of some of the common cures used then this thread may help




Beware of most of the cure recipies here though as the US guys tend to have quite a sweet tooth and many of the cures produce too sweet results for the UK pallet. I find that a salt:sugar 1:1 gives the best results but if you like it a little sweeter then try a 1:2 cure. In my opinion 1:4 makes it taste like a candy bar.


If you are going to cold smoke then I recommend that you use a dry cure. One of the reasons for curing is to help preserve the fish for longer and a major part of this is the removal of water. The dry cure will result in 8-10% weight loss whereas the wet cure will actually add water to the fish and so may also require the addition of Nitrite in the cure.

When hot smoking this is not as much an issue as a long hot smoke will result in the added water from the wet cure being removed.


Hot and cold smoking salmon produce very different end results. One of the most important steps though is the cure and it is all about getting the balance of salt and sugar right. Once you have achieved that then it will taste good either hot or cold smoked.


I hope this helps



post #3 of 12

Wade has you pretty much covered.  Personally, I only cold smoke salmon that I intend to can.  The following is how mine is done.


Mr T's "Smoked Salmon From Go to Show" w/Q-View


As far time to smoke it all depends on your smoker as how long to apply smoke as the smoke density and color will determine this.  Experience will help you there.  Start slow and build up to your desired taste.



post #4 of 12
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the replys guys, all very helpful.


Wade. You say you cold smoke your salmon and then cook it. My only experience with cold smoked salmon is the shop bought stuff on blinis or wrapped around soft cheese. Obviously I'm not expecting results like the commercially smoked stuff but that's kind of the product I'd be trying for. Can I ask how your cold smoked salmon differs from the stuff I have bought and why you cook it before eating?


Sorry if these are daft questions but my only experience of smoking is hot smoking,  cooked in the hot smoke then eaten. My understanding of cold smoking is that it imparts the flavour of the smoke without cooking then you cook whatever it is before eating apart from cold smoked salmon which is cured then cold smoked and eaten.


If I can get my head around this I'm sure I'll have a better understanding of the process




post #5 of 12

Hi Dave


Curing salmon was traditionally done to preserve the fish (inhibit bacteria growth) and increase its shelf life. This can be done in a number of ways but the traditional cure uses a combination of 3 microbiological inhibitors


  1. Removing available free water
  2. Increasing salinity within the fish
  3. Using smoke as a mild antiseptic


Some also add Nitrite as a bacterial spore inhibitor.


Traditional cold smoked salmon uses a combination of the above however with hot smoked salmon an additional preservation step is used - the heat used to cook it.


With traditional cold smoked salmon the free water is reduced to a level where bacterial growth is severely inhibited. This extends the shelf life considerably however it still needs to be kept chilled and eaten within two to three weeks if it has not been frozen. The texture of traditional smoked salmon is firm and very oily


"lightly" smoked salmon fillets have more free water and so there is less of a preservative effect. These have a longer shelf life than fresh salmon though should also be kept chilled but eaten within one to two weeks, unless frozen. The texture is much firmer than fresh salmon and has a firm texture similar to a tuna steak.


These days though the main preservative effect in the cured salmon is through the removal of water and the increase in salinity. The smoke is more a flavouring, although it does have antibacterial properties.


The main differences in the types of salmon is in the length of the cure and the amount of water that has been removed. To get traditional smoked salmon (the sliced stuff) the cure and smoke need to reduce the weight of the fresh salmon by ~18%.

The way I prefer to cure the fillets result in a ~10%-12% moisture loss. The closest (but inferior) commercial product would probably be the "lightly smoked salmon fillets" that you can get on the fresh fish counter at Tesco and Waitrose. Once cured and smoked these can be chilled or frozen and are then cooked at 180 C for 12 minutes in the oven or BBQ.


Below are a couple of links that you may find helpful.




  • Hot smoked salmon you can eat straight from the smoker (cooked)
  • Traditional cold smoked salmon you eat raw (~18% weight of water removed)
  • "Lightly" smoked salmon fillets you eat cooked (~12% weight of water removed)


I do hot smoke some salmon and I do produce quite a bit of traditional smoked salmon. The majority of salmon I produce though are the "lightly" smoked salmon fillets as this is what people seem to prefer.


Originally Posted by BigD 2129 View Post

Obviously I'm not expecting results like the commercially smoked stuff but that's kind of the product I'd be trying for. Can I ask how your cold smoked salmon differs from the stuff I have bought and why you cook it before eating?


Don't talk rubbish Dave. After a couple of goes you will be producing traditional smoked salmon that rivals anything that you can buy in the supermarket. Thumbs Up


I hope this helps



post #6 of 12
Thread Starter 

Hi Wade


Thanks. That makes a lot of sense when I see it laid out like that.


So, (.. more questions.. lol  ) 


1)  Do you actively weigh your fish before and after smoking or is that just until you get experience of how long to smoke and how it looks?


2)  Most of the threads I've read talk of smoking until x' cent/far temperature is attained. Is this more important or as important as the weight loss as I rarely see anything about the weight loss in any

      of the threads?



Thanks again


post #7 of 12

Big D,  Wade is giving you some very good advice.  Good post Wade.  When I first started smoking salmon, more years ago than I care to count, the % water activity was calculated, now the fish is brined and smoked the same way every time and the % water activity is presumed to be in a accepted range.  I agree that % water activity is rarely mentioned in the forums nor the % salinity of their brines, but those who cure responsibly do know about it.  Start out doing it correctly as Wade is guiding you and you will be producing a fine product in no time at all.


Enjoy, Tom

post #8 of 12

I do weigh it now as I sell some of it commercially. I need to do that for batch control documentation. Before that I just did it by eye. You get a feel for the firmness and the colour.


Most of the US salmon you read about on here is hot smoked. The temperature mentioned is when the salmon is cooked. This is done slowly and can take a while.

You really only really need to monitor weight loss when you are doing a traditional cold smoke. It is interesting though to see the effects of different curing methods - especially if you are sad like me LOL.

post #9 of 12

Thanks Tom

post #10 of 12
Thread Starter 

Thanks Wade.


I can see why you would weigh it now and have to have stricter controls if you are doing it commercially due to rules and regs. but if you were smoking for yourself you would do it by eye and feel. That's great, another little gem of info tucked away.


Yes Tom, plenty of tips and help from Wade. All much appreciated.


Thanks guys


post #11 of 12

Hello Dave.  My two friends have you well sorted.  Both know their stuff.  I made a joke one night about smoking lettuce and within two days Tom had posted a "how to" for smoking lettuce.  Reading through Tom's threads are worth the effort.  His "how tos" are GREAT!  I met Wade at last years meet.  We both admitted we were a bit dubious of the other so I watched him closely as he smokes food.  I would be PROUD to take his food to any Texas BBQ I have ever been to and he makes some great salmon.  I usually try and take tha piss with him a bit so it's breaking my heart I can't do that here.  :th_crybaby2:  Both these two guys are on my short list of my "go to" folks when I am asked a question I can't answer.

My Great Grandfather used to do all the curing, smoking and sausage making but I was too dumb and young back then to bother learning.  His recipes and methods were lost when he died.  I was spoiled growing up and living in Texas as so much of this stuff was readily available so I never bothered to learn how.  I am just starting to get into curing myself and Wade is helping me along.  Saturday I started my English 7 yr. old grandson on his smoking adventure.  It was just some burgers but we had to start somewhere.  I think it is very important we try to pass these skills on to the next generation.  Both my American daughters do a fine job on a smoker.  One daughter is even teaching her husband.  Enough of my ramblings.  Good luck with the salmon.  Keep Smokin!


post #12 of 12
Thread Starter 

Hi Danny


Thanks, they have been very kind to me with lots of useful information.


Such a pity that you weren't able to pick up the experience of your G. Grandfather but you obviously have the bug passed down from him so all is not lost. Good to hear you are passing on your experience and enjoyment to your kids and grandson. Unfortunately in our grandparents time they just did things naturally and didn't write much down for us to look back on. I don't know anyone I can ask about smoking, so it's great that I've found such a friendly forum with people ready to help answer what must seem at times like daft questions but we all have to start somewhere I guess lol. Lots of fishing friends tell me they have tried smoking but not taken it any further than a small hot smoker and some trout and then it's usually tossed to the back of the shed or garage. I did meet someone from Peebles and he showed me his set up....  He did a LOT of smoking and ran courses so you can imagine what type of smoker he was using, it was huge, but as usual this was years ago and we lost touch.




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