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First cold smoked salmon

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

3 weeks ago I did my first cold smoke with some cheddar and it came out awesome.  I welded up an amazin knock off pellet tray of my own, mailbox modded my MES40 and it works awesome.  So now im going to try some salmon and a hunk of tuna.


Both are previously frozen store bought, 2 good sized salmon filets and a tuna steak for the heck of it also.   I read a lot on brine and cure recommendations and they are all over the map.  I have hot smoked and used a 2:1 brown sugar to kosher salt dry brine and it worked out fine.  This time I went for a wet to change it up and see how it goes.   I boiled up a half batch of brine from this recipe:




in one of my Teflon coated cooking pots, cooled it well bellow 40 in an ice bath then put the fish in and stuck it in the fridge.   It went in at midnight last night, I forgot the girlfriend worked early today my plan was to have her take it out at noon today so it was in there for 12 hrs, but I guess its going to be in there for 17 hrs till I get home. Now I see people say wet brine is a slower process than dry so maybe it wont be that bad, everyones brine time is all over the place too so im not sure.


Plan is to take it out as soon as I get home at 5:30 pat it dry then put them on a rack to cure in the fridge for 24 hours until I get home to start smoking them tomorrow evening.  probably doesn't need to go that long but again I've seen it go this long or longer on threads so im not sure whats right or wrong, or if there is a right or wrong. lol



Smoke time is going to be about 13 hours ill do it over night and pull it out when I get up for work Thursday morning.  I could go longer because I think she goes in later so she can take it out for then for a few more hours of smoke time.






So what do you guys think?  how far off am I or what?

post #2 of 10
Thread Starter 

well i got home pulled it out of the brine which would be around 17 hours in it total... its very soft and pliable, nothing like when i dry brined it in the past.   i thought it should have stiffened up and shrunk a bit too???


I rinsed it over cold water for a few minutes and soaked it in cold water in the fridge for 30 minutes I'm going to pull it from the rinse and put it on  a rack to sit in the fridge.   When i made the brine i cut the recipe i linked above in half and added a 1/3 cup more salt to it as it was boiling to make sure I had enough because I didn't have an egg to float to test it.


and i left the brine in the nonstick pot like a dope and just tossed the fish in it for the 17 hours... :(


I'm not trusting this and i am thinking about starting over and chucking the fish.  I am trying to get this ready for dinner on new years eve with the GF.  I am going to get a new piece of fish and do a dry brine and hot smoke it like I usually do I think.   I am chicken $hit when it comes to this stuff because I am so new at it and the "how to's" i see on the subject of cold smoking are so wide stretched i don't have a lot of confidence in what I am doing. 

post #3 of 10
Thread Starter 
post #4 of 10
Thread Starter 

this morning they look better.  stiffened up slightly too.   I am just going to hot smoke it up to 145 IT and be done with it.   Next go around I will get curing salt and follow http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/t/87043/making-lox-a-picture-guide exactly.


post #5 of 10

Hot smoking was definitely a smart choice rather than tossing. I'm just getting in to smoking salmon myself so not experienced enough to tell you anything definitively.


One thing I do know from my research on sushi to make it at home, is that where the salmon comes from is important regarding potential parasites. I haven't read anyone yet address this for smoking, the main focus seems to be on pathogens and curing them dead essentially, and handling the fish in a way that wont produce more or new pathogens. (again, this is just discussion because I am no expert on this).


Salmon can come from the ocean, river, somewhere in between and also farms. They typically run up in to rivers to spawn and die, then the young hang around for a while, get their system ready and head out to sea. Some salmon are fresh water trapped and have even been released and thrive in the great lakes.


From my research, ocean salmon are the ones that can be eaten raw. I suppose the young don't develop freshwater parasites or the parasites die when they become ocean fish. The thing is, parasites in ocean fish are large and you can see them when you cut in to the fish, where a fresh water fish parasite is microscopic.


This is why fresh ocean salmon can be eaten raw while fresh water salmon, and all fresh water fish must be cooked to be sure there are no parasites. So for me, if I'm going to cold smoke, I plan to use ocean salmon rather than salmon farm raised (unless its somehow certified as ocean farmed) or river identified salmon like "copper river" and such. Again I am no expert on salmon and welcome correction from anyone that is. I am just commenting and not suggesting you do what I do at this point.


But, there are concerns about bacteria that can cause spoilage. Gravlox is not even smoked per this recipe/method presented by Mario Batali:



He doesn't go in to sourcing the fish, which is my point. From what I have learned, you don't want to eat raw freshwater salmon and that method Mario shows does not cook or smoke at all, just cured with salt and sugar and put under pressure in the fridge for three days.


Sushi research can be as sketchy as trying to find consensus on brines, times, temps, etc. for smoking. One consistent thing you find is what might kill you or make you very sick..."might" not "will". With sushi, you will find that some will say ONLY very fresh fish must be used, but deep in the bowls of sushidom you can reveal that some of the best sushi chefs on the planet purposely freeze their fish to improve texture, much like you find here about the different characteristics of fresh and frozen salmon and how you should approach brining. The deeper little secret you will have a very hard time finding, is many sushi places bring all their fish in frozen. Yes, it was frozen fresh but may have been frozen for weeks before thawing and serving as sushi! It is still safe to eat, as is fresh caught delivered next day ocean salmon fillets. There is no fear of bacteria, you just slice it thin and eat it. Bacteria is what can develop if it is allowed to sit for a length of time and I assume that's the big fear with bacteria in cold smoked salmon.


I equate this to sushi because the big fear is getting sick. A lot of people are freaked out eating raw fish, but the reality is that the source of the fish and the freshness, even before it may have been frozen, matters, and the freezing of commercial fish is done in a deep freeze, not a home freezer...it makes a difference with bacteria. What I don't know is if the brining procedures we see for smoking salmon kills parasites as well as bacteria. That's why I say for myself, when I move to cold smoking, I am going to start with fresh ocean fish that is sushi safe (basically fresh or freshly deep frozen). Everything else I will hot smoke to safe temps until I know more.

post #6 of 10
Thread Starter 

I forgot to bump this with the results.  the bottom one wasn't that good, the top one was great.   firm enough to break up into chunks for the salad but moist and very good flavor.  hardly any salt taste, nice and sweet with good hint of smoke.




I also brined and smoked those venison steaks which came out awesome.





So I am giving the cold smoke another shot.   I got a nice big piece of coho frozen from trader joes.  thawed it out and began following http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/t/87043/making-lox-a-picture-guide  I found the curing salt finally at the Runnings store in town (much like a bass pro/cabala's if you don't know about runnings).   I basically mixed up the rub as it was written in the thread.  Made the brine, chilled it brined the fish for 30 mins then applied the rub.  I missed the bold green part about SKINNED fillets (it was midnight when I did all this work) so what I did was pat the dry mixture on both sides pretty, then laid the skin down on a 1/4" layer of the salts, took the extra mixed up and put it on top and packed it around the edges of the fillet, took a flat glass pyrex dish (I don't have a plank handy) put it on top of the meat side of the fillet, added a layer of ice cubes in the dish for added weight and set it in the fridge all contained in a flat plastic cake container you would bring a cake to a party in.  It went in the fridge at 11:50 last night.  I noticed you can slice the skin to let the rub penetrate better so maybe if its not all soup by the time I get home ill slit them and put it back into the salts to sit for another night to hit the 48 hour mark.


that's where im at sofar.

post #7 of 10
Thread Starter 

oh and the cheddar I smoked too which I also gave out as Christmas gifts.  I bought a big 5lb brick of the cheddar from Pricechopper for $30... nothing special about the cheese I got.   I cut them up into wedges, let them reach room temp, popped them in the smoker for 6 hours at 65 degs, pulled them, racked them in the fridge for a day, pulled them from the fridge for 8 hours, then vac'd them up.   3 weeks later gave them as gifts and kept a bunch for myself... every day I got a text or three "wicked awesome cheese! whens the next batch coming"!

post #8 of 10
Thread Starter 

I got it right this time.  I made a batch of the cure/rub as per: http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/t/87043/making-lox-a-picture-guide


Applied it all to one fillet, sat it in the refer for 48 hours.

Pulled it, put cold ice water in the same tub and let it desalinize for an hour.

Racked it in the fridge for 28 hours.

Smoked it for 5 hours ave temp around 70 deg.

Put it in the fridge overnight to chill, slice some this am and its pretty good.  I never had this so I don't know what awesome lox is supposed to be like.  Its hardly salty at all, pretty sweet actually (I used apple chips which may have helped there).  Its not dry at all texture is really good, it cuts very well and holds together even when cut thin.  I would say its a winner for my first time.  I brought a little bit to work and some crackers and my manager said it was way better than the store bought stuff so ill take that.




then this was after smoking:


post #9 of 10

Looks beautiful! Nice job!!

post #10 of 10
Thread Starter 

thanks Al!!!

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