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Smoking Salmon HELP !

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
OK guys & girls,
I need some Salmon Smoking help:
A few weeks ago I smoked some Salmon fillets in pieces, with the thinner pieces on the top shelf. The following is the brine I used:
1 1/2 qt of water
6 oz of Ken's Teriyaki Marinade
6 oz of Kikoman Soy Sauce
4 oz of non-iodized salt
10 oz of brown sugar
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper

I brined it overnight, rinsed, patted dry, and air dried in the fridge on racks.
Then I cold smoked (no heat) for 2 hours with Smoke Daddy.
Then I transferred it to MES at 140* for 2 hours
Then to 180+ for 1 hour
Then 200* for 1 hour
Turned MES off when Salmon was at 144* internal.
Internal temp coasted up to 149*

I didn't take any pictures of that batch, but it tasted OK & seemed to be about what I was looking for.
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Then I ran into a publication out of Oregon State.
Smoking Fish at Home------Safely
Here's the link:

You can read it for yourself, but they basically say:
You must bring your fish to 160* and hold it there for 30 minutes.
You should not bring it to 160* before 3 to 5 hours.
You should bring it to 160* between 6 and 8 hours.

So after reading that, I did 3 more fillets (last ones in the freezer).

I did all of the same prep work & used pretty much the same brine mix, but the following is the smoking temps & times I used this time:

BTW: Outside temp was 50*
Cold Smoke at 85* for 1 hour
100* for 1 hour
110* for 1 hour
120* for 1 hour
Switch to MES
Go to 140* for 1 hour
160* for 1 hour
180* for 1 hour
Salmon now at 140* internal
225* to finish (about another 1 1/2 hours)
Removed Salmon after 30 minutes of 160*

This batch also tastes fine, but it is more like cooked fish inside, with an outside that is a little on the dry/tough side.

Pictures of this batch are below.
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I read so many different ways & temps you should take it out at that my head is spinning.
Could someone please tell me the temps to use, how long, and what temp to remove from the smoker, for a safe to eat, good smoky tasting Salmon ?

I need to know this soon, because my son just brought a whole mess of NY Salmon home last night(Picture of some of them below).

Cutting skin off after smoking:

Salmon pieces after cutting skin off:

Fresh and flopping NY Salmon:

Thanking you in advance,
post #2 of 14
Well I am not an expert on smoking Salmon, or even fish, but I would suggest that along with the many responses you will probably get here, to PM one of our members, ERAIN. He does lots of fish and they always seem to turn out fantastic. Pics looks great, but that last one looks like there is something missing, I can't quite put my finger on it......Oh yes, I remember now. Im not in the photobiggrin.gif. That looks like it was allot of fun, wish I was there with ya.
post #3 of 14
there's smoked fish, and then there is smoke-cooked fish - the difference between the two is that the former is usually preserved with a curing brine, but but still needs refrigeration. the latter is simply cooked with smoke flavor.

smoke-cooked fish lasts about 2 days in fridge, i think. smoked fish will last about two weeks. either way, it should be refrigerated, frozen or canned if you plan to keep it for a long time.

i don't consider myself an expert, but that's how i've been doing it and i've never got sick. here is a link to some more information that might be helpful:

post #4 of 14

I dont usually check the temp of salmon when I smoke it but the salmon that I have checked, when it gets to the dryness and firmness that I like, is around 140*+/-. I often smoke my salmon for 10-12 hours at about 125* and finish it with the smoker temp around 200* for a short while just to try to make sure all the fish is heated to above the danger zone.

I dont want to sound like Im being negetive in any way but Im curious about some things stated in this thread. Keep in mind I have never caught an Atlantic salmon, only Pacific species, so they may be different I guess.

You say in your post that your cutting the skin off the smoked salmon, all the salmon I have ever caught and smoked have a thin layer of fat between the skin and the meat that allowed the skin to be pulled off easily without using a knife. Is the skin always that difficult to remove? The "live" fish in your picture have hooked jaws and black skin which is telling me that the fish are spawned or spawning when caught and may not have any fat left on them or any color in the meat. That could be why the skin is difficult to remove. I never keep fish in that condition I always return them to the river so mother nature can have her way with them to reproduce and/or feed the other creatures in the river/ocean. When they get close to spawning the protective layer of slime on their skin is often missing which allows harmful bacteria to penetrate the skin and it begins to deteriorate. You will see flaps of skin hanging off the fish or missing in places.

Here is how I smoke salmon.
Most important is to start with fresh, clean, healthy fish in premium condition, as with any meat product. Remove any sign of blood and any loose membranes, bones or other body parts that you normaly dont eat. Cut the fish into 1 1/2" strips from back to belly, if I catch a large fish thats #30 or more I cut it lenthwise at the thickest part of the meat then into strips. Leave the skin on and let the person eating the fish remove it(it keeps the meat from drying out).

4 cups +/- Dark Brown Sugar.
1 cup Kosher salt. Diamond brand because it dont have any anti clumping agent.
1/4-1/2 cup garlic powder.
Use less sugar if you dont like it so sweet.

Dredge the fish in the dry brine and make sure every bit of the fish is covered in a layer of the dry brine, as much as will stick to the fish. Pile the fish into a container, plastic bag or whatever non reactive contaner you have. I brine the fish for 1-3 days while overhauling the fish at least once a day and if I have time twice a day. I use a turkey baster to baste the fish with the liquid that the salt bings out of the meat twice a day. I think the basting distributes the salt more thoroughly which brines the fish more evenly.

Smoke the fish at about 125* untill it reaches the flavor,dryness and firmness you like. Finish at about 175-200* for 20-30 minutes.
post #5 of 14
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the replies. I'm still looking for more, including that "ERAIN" that Meat Hunter mentioned. I think I've seen him along the way, holding a nice fish, but I can't find his full name to email him.
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TasunkaWitko------That link you included----I think you forgot to include it.

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Hell Fire Grill,
You can peel the skin off the Salmon here too. It's not hard to do, but I like to cut a little more off, because the darker meat under the skin is one of the places the toxic crap is stored (mercury or PCBs), particularly down the middle of each side. Also I like to make it easy to avoid that dark stuff for those I give smoked Salmon to. I don't like to tell my sister, "Don't eat the dark stuff under the skin), I just get rid of it myself. All fish have mercury & PCBs, and it gets worse every year. These have quite a bit of fat in/on them too. These Salmon are spawning, but there are no flaps of skin hanging off of them. There is a lot of slime on them (like any trout or salmanoid I ever caught). I use a 1/4 ratio of vinegar/water to make it easier to scrape the slime off. Maybe that's what they are like (falling apart) after they spawn, but people have been eating these & treating them as big prizes for at least many decades. We like to freeze them at zero degrees for at least 21 days, or cook them before eating to destroy any parasites that they tell me all fish have. I'm freezing these, but I really don't want to cook them. I just want to know the best way to smoke them.

I'm still looking for a "length of times/at what temps" from someone who makes great "smoky" smoked salmon often.
post #6 of 14
Thats what I posted a recipe and method for great "SMOKED" salmon not BBQed. If you cant get a great smokey flavor in 10 -12 hours than maybe its time to trash the watt burner.

post #7 of 14
whoops - sorry bear, here's the link:


but to be honest, i really like the look of what hellfire does. with his permission, i'd like to copy that and add it to my website, giving full credit to him, of course.
post #8 of 14
Its all yours TasunkaWitko.

In my original post I forgot to mention rinseing and drying the fish.

I like to rinse by filling my container with water, a plastic meat lug made by cambro, and swishing the fish around gently to remove most of the brine from the fish. But not all of it, you want to leave a glaze on the fish.

To dry it I pat the meat side and the skin side almost dry with a cotton towel. When the towel gets damp rinse and ring it out, or use paper towels if you like. Just pat the meat gently dont try to rub the moisture off. Then let a fan finish the pellicle untill the fish has a good sticky layer covering it. Dont let the fan dry out the pellicle. There is no hard and fast time for this because the weather and other conditions make so many variables.
post #9 of 14
many thanks, HFG - i incorporated those additions above and the pic into the method and turned it into a post - here's the link should you want to check it out:


many thanks ~

post #10 of 14
Thread Starter 
Thanks guys,
So far I'm gonna go with Hell Fire's recipe (GREAT QVIEW), but I'm still taking others into consideration. I have plenty of Salmon to try.

Hell Fire,
Do you catch your Salmon in the ocean?
The ones we catch in NY never see an ocean. They live in Lake Ontario. They go up various rivers to spawn.
I would assume if you catch Pacific Salmon anywhere other than in the ocean, they would be on a spawning run also, but I'm just assuming that, because I was only ever on the Pacific coast one time, for two hours, while changing planes coming home from Vietnam. I would also assume it would depend on the part of the run they were on when you catch them, as to how good the meat would be. The Salmon are spawning now in the Salmon River in NY. Then next month the Steelheads & Browns go up the same river and eat a lot of the Salmon eggs. That's when we catch some real nice Browns & Steelies.

Any more recipes out there. I'll take all the ideas I can get.
post #11 of 14
post #12 of 14
Thread Starter 

New York King Salmon

In case anyone wanted to see NY King Salmon closer up, here are 19 fillets. There is also one or two Coho fillets in there too, also from The Salmon River, near Pulaski NY.
Sorry we didn't get any good pictures of them whole, but it got dark & the boys had them all filleted & on ice before it got light again.

Yes these are on a spawning run, but they look & taste good. The inside is nice & pink:

The skin side doesn't look black when they are in the light. The picture at the beginning of this thread of them on the rocks, under the trees make them look much darker than they are. Note: The bottom right package of two fillets has a Coho fillet in it (the upper one of that pair):

post #13 of 14
Occasionaly I fish in the ocean but most of my salmon are caught in the Columbia river. About 75 miles from the ocean. Yes they are in the river to spawn but it only takes 2-3 days for them to get here and the fall fun still has sea lice on them when we catch them. They are generaly very bright and show no sign of being ready to spawn.

Here are some links to smoked salmon.



post #14 of 14
Thread Starter 
Okay, that might be why ours don't deteriorate very fast. The whole trip they take in the Salmon River is only about 8 miles from their lake home. We catch them about 3 miles from the lake. Plus they live in fresh water all of their lives, and spawn in fresh water. The Pacific Salmon live in salt water all their lives and have to spawn in fresh water. That must be a hard hit on their bodies. I know if you take a salt water fish out of a salt water aquarium, and put it in a fresh water aquarium----bye-bye to him.

Much different for our Shad run. They leave the Atlantic near Philly, and travel through 200 miles of fresh water Delaware River to spawn. Amazing creatures!

Thanks for the links, and thanks to everybody else for the help. I have 5 pounds of pork loin brining right now.
I guess I'll do what I read a few places, and keep these Salmon fillets below zero for 21 days before smoking any of them, unless anyone can talk me out of that one. They say that will kill any parasites if you're not going to cook them.

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