1. Some of the links on this forum allow SMF, at no cost to you, to earn a small commission when you click through and make a purchase. Let me know if you have any questions about this.

a little help from newbie

Discussion in 'Fish' started by salmoncatcher, Dec 6, 2010.

  1. salmoncatcher

    salmoncatcher Newbie

    hello everyone , im new here and new to smoking meat.. if i could get a little help it would be greatly appreaciated, i recently bought the big chief electric smoker from walmart, i have plenty of fresh caught salmon and figured id try smoking.. what is the interval for adding the wood chips, and if this isnt a great smoker and someone can steer me in the right direction id be very thankful... thanks
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2010
  2. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Welcome to SMF!

    I haven't had the pleasue of smoking Salmon myself (sounds great though), nor any experience with the Little or Big Chief Smokers. I know there a a few users of the Chief here, so someone with experience should be along soon. The only thing I know about them is what I've read, and fish or jerky is the extent of their limitations. I'm guessing the higher temps can't be reached due to the low output heating element, so ribs, butts, brisket, chickens, etc, would be a no-go.

    As for adding smoke wood chips, as long as you can see or smell smoke coming out the vent, you're still smokin'. It will depend on the size of the smoker and chip pan, but typically a small handful will last for several hours in my small gas rig. Oh, I don't soak the smoke wood in water, either. Many manufacturers recommend thids, but I've found better ways to control the smoke by adjusing the amount of air and/or heat which they are exposed to. Sometimes placing the chips into a foil pouch will work, if not exposed to direct heat, of putting them into a seasoned tin can (burned out), then set it next to the heat source...if it smokes too much, just put the cut-out lid back on the can over the chips.

  3. dalton

    dalton Smoke Blower

    hello and welcome to smf!!  lots of great folk here and lots of help available...   I am a newbie myself but have many years experience with smoking salmon.  the last 5 years or so my only smoker has been a big chief so I can offer some suggestions.  smoking salmon like anything else depends on what you want it to taste like...   some poeple like their smoked salmon to be very sweet,and some (like me) prefer salty to sweet.  this is all about the brine!!  my brine is VERY different than most.  I brine for a very short time but a VERY concentrated brine.  my smoked salmon has been very well recieved by every one who trys it

    for comparision experimantion sake here is my basic recipie...   and yes the brine time is in minutes not hours.  and you use the same brine mixture twice. 

    I fillet the salmon and cut the fillets into 2 or 3 peices depending on the size of the fish.  then I cut the chunks into strips about 1" wide.  this allows me to arrange the strips on racks putting the same average thickness together on the same racks.  then I brine the strips


    2 gallons water

    3 cups morton canning and pickling salt

    ¼ cup soy sauce

    ¼ cup gran garlic

    I usually make the first gallon as hot as I can get it out of the tap and disolve the salt and garlic in that then add the second gallon of Cold water and the soy sauce.  then the strips go in. 

    Brine first batch for 8 minutes second batch for 12 minutes

    place on smoker and allow to dry for dry for  45-60 min ( i have  fan I place infront of the racks) 

    the last few years I have only had a big chief to use so I put them in and Smoke until done..  about 6-8 hours depending on thickness, outdoor humidity, and outdoor temp. I add my alder chips every 2-3 hours or so.  I pull it when it feels done which is a very subjective thing for me.  but its firm but not hard and starts to break apart when bent. 

    please keep in mind that I learned to smoke fish from an alaska natvie family that has been doing it for generations the same basic way.  I have made only a few modifications to suit my personal preference.  upuntil I joined this website I had never even considered checking internal temp or mesureing my smoker temp or any of the the other "scientific" practices I have learned here.  this fall when I smoke my salmon I will be doing those things just for the purpose of knowledge if nothing else. 

    most poeple brine for 12-24 hours.  I learned diffrently!   but to each their own.  lots of folks use alot of "sweet" additives, brown sugar, mollases, white sugar, maple syrup, etc...  again depends on what finished product you want.  some poeple do a dry brine and that is ok too but this is just my tried and true recipie.  very basic and traditional alaskan type recipie.  my suggestion is try a few small batches and decide what you like.  as far as teh smoking goes with the chiefs it realy depends on the outside temp and humidity.  for me when it is about 55-65 outside and not raining then it takes about 6-7 hours but if it is colder or raining then the time gets much longer.  just depends on the thickness of the strips.  you can do whole fillets but I like the strips for many reasons.  again just my personal preference. 

    experiment and have fun. 

  4. adiochiro3

    adiochiro3 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Good advice from Dalton there.  A lot of experimenting to get to know your rig and discover what you like.  I don't mind the sweeter side of Salmon -- a bit of brown sugar is nice.  But I also will just hot smoke the fish with salt and pepper until flaky. 

    I generally prefer my salmon and trout a bit dry, as I like it on bagels or with crackers and cream cheese.  I rarely use a brine myself because I hot smoke.  The original main reason for using a brine is to to kill harmful microorganisms; flavors can easily be added in rub or marinade form instead.  Hot smoking cooks the fish and kills the bugs, so no need for all that salt unless you are cold smoking IMHO.
  5. dalton

    dalton Smoke Blower

    thanks james....  I appreciate the kind words...   just a couple thought based on your post.

    i don't have to worry about bugs and stuff to much here in ak, no parisites to speak of here, lucky for me.  IMHO marinade and brine are the same thing just different amount of time.  rub = dry brine, and yes they work fine as well.  as far as all the salt, my smoked salmon lasts for months vacum packed and in the fridge, years in the freezer.  salt cures the fish AND preserves it.  if you don't let it sit too long in the brine then it won't be over salty.  yes when you are cold smoking the salt has a different use as well. 

    I did leave out the point that the chiefs are unable to cold smoke,  they have an internal temp cutoff of 160 and always are working to maintian that temp (albiet unsuccesfully if the outside temps are below 55 f) 

    cold smoking is a different world altogether and takes days or more likely weeks to accomplish so most folks don't have the patience to see it through, but for those that do the reward is high!!  cold smoking is all about the drying not the cooking. dried cold smoked salmon is often referred to as "squaw candy" and has a very different texture and flavor.  some like and some don't!  I personally love it but hard for most poeple to do succesfully.  when we did it at my uncles fish site it took 12-18 days, and never got above 75-80 deg. 

    just my 2 cents

    keep experimenting and find what YOU like.... unless you are tying to sell your smoked fish then what you like is most important!!  

  6. salmoncatcher

    salmoncatcher Newbie

    WOW.. thanks for the priceless info, its really great to see you folks help a newbie and almost write a book on how to smoke, gives a newbie like myself the confidence i need to keep going, i do have to say i did smoke some chum salmon i caught this weekend.. i brined it for 24 hrs, only because i didnt have time to start the smoking process sooner , basic brine solution and then i smoked it for almost 12, the thinner pieces were done but the thicker pieces werent, so i let it smoke longer, ill check it in the morning , but the thin piece i tried was delicious, i couldnt belive it, i think i found a new hobby and a ton of confidence thanks to you guys... thanks soo much,

  7. thebarbequeen

    thebarbequeen Smoking Fanatic

    I'm afraid there's no such thing as  a "little help" around here!  Ask and ye shall receive and then some - It's a great place to learn and share.  I change up my brines all the time. For an Awesome salmon tutorial, you gotta ask the Bear - search for Bearcarver's salmon here on the forum.  I'm still figuring out the salmon, since there's smoking to have it for dinner and smoking to save it, and there's so much to learn about it.  I like my salmon to have some spiciness over sweetness. It's one of those fish that can handle a lot of flavor.  Looking forward to hearing more from you and what you discover!  Welcome, and Cheers!