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

Discussion in 'Fish' started by mr t 59874, Jun 8, 2012.

  1. mr t 59874

    mr t 59874 Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    Before you can smoke them, you have to catch them.
                                                Mr.T’s Smoked Salmon

    Salmon has always been one of my favorite items to smoke. All types of salmon have been in my smokers at one time or another. From the Kings and hard to find Sable Fish or Black Cod to the small Blue Backs always in search of that one recipe and technique that people would crave for. After over 25 years of smoking salmon, the following has become my go-to method. 

    My favorite salmon to smoke is the Sockeye. Its deep red color and texture seem to do well canned or kept in fridge. Although the Kings and Sable have a wonderful flavor the Sockeye is well accepted and more economical.

    Please read:

    You will find that I do not get deeply into the specifics, science or safety issues of curing. It is your responsibility to make your food safe.  In order to adjust the salinity while ensuring my brines are within the safe zone for extended storage and consistent results I use a salometer like the following.|1003

    Question: Should I use fresh or frozen salmon?

    Answer: I prefer frozen with this particular recipe as the ice crystals formed in the fish while frozen seem to aid in the brine absorption after thawing.

    Question: Should I get salmon with or without the skin?

    Answer: The salmon with the skin on works best. The fish has a tendency to fall apart more readily without the skin.

    How long do you brine?

    Answer: Some will tell you that 30 minutes to 2 hours will be sufficient. The shorter time is fine if you are going to cold smoke for sushi, but that would be another thread. I brine from 16 to 24 hours in the refrigerator depending on the size of fish mostly for convenience, but I find the texture is more firm with the longer brine.

    Question: Does it go into the smoker after coming out of the brine?

    Answer: No. Give it a quick rinse and pat dry. Place on a wire rack and allow to air dry until a pellicle has formed on the entire surface. This will take two or more hours depending on the humidity in your area. A fan blowing across the fish will aid in the time needed to form the pellicle. The pellicle will cause your fish or meat to have a shiny surface which will assist in the smoke retention and also will help retain the fat in the fish.

    Question: What are the cream colored blotches I see on some smoked salmon?

    Answer: That would be fat that has seeped through the pellicle. No harm in eating it but for cosmetic purposes you may want to scrape it off after the fish has cooled.

    Question: Should I hot or cold smoke? 

    Answer: Hot smoke for the ready to eat. Cold smoke for sushi or if it is to be canned, again that would be another thread.

    Question: How long do you smoke?

    Answer: It’s not the length of time but the desired temperature we are looking for. Smoke at 200°F - 93°C to a minimum internal temp of 145°F - 63°C in the thickest piece for a period of 30 minutes minimum (FDA,2001). Cooking temp may be lowered once fish has reached 145°F - 63°C. Store at a temperature of 38°F - 3°C or less ( FDA,2001). 

    Question: What kind of wood should I use?

    Answer: Any of the light woods will work well. The preferred wood I use is Alder. 

    Question: How much wood should I use for one fillet?

    Answer: It’s always been my opinion that the smoker doesn’t know how much it’s holding. I use Approx. 3 oz. full or not.

    Question: What will the end result be and how can I use it?

    Answer: The salmon will be moist, neither dry nor juicy. It is not intended to be served as a main course. It's intended to be used as a finger food eaten alone or as a snack on crackers and creamed cheese or as a mouse. It also has endless uses as an appetizer. Will definitely be a hit at any potluck. Try different appetizer recipes and enjoy. It can easily be packed in a saddle bag or backpack and taken into the mountains. WARNING: Grizzly bears like both fresh and smoked salmon.

    Question: Would you share your brine recipe?

    Answer: Yes and I would be proud if you used it, and then let me know the results.


                              Mr. T’s Smoked Salmon Brine

    ½ cup canning, Kosher salt or Tender Quick (preferred), 3.0 oz. by weight.
    ½ tsp. Paprika
    1 ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
    1 ½ tsp. cayenne
    1 quart water
    1 Tbs. garlic powder
    2 cups brown sugar
    4 bay leaves

    PH 4.1

    Sal. 54% @ 60°F - 15.6°C salt and water only
    Sal. 84% @ 60°F - 15.6°C all ingredients combined

    Combine all ingredients and stir until sugar has dissolved.
    Place fish in a nonreactive container with brine and completely cover, then refrigerate. A zip bag works well at this point. If using a bag I overhaul or move the fish around two or three times during the brining period.

    History.  Looking for a smoked cured salmon recipe and technique that was delicious yet  uncomplicated took me decades and dozens of test to develop.  As I was getting close to what I was looking for, small tweaks were made on each consecutive test.  The result being a very irresistible product.

     The following are some of the tweaks that were made after getting close to what was desired.

    1. Brine.  I wanted a brine that would actually cure the salmon yet impart a very good flavor.

    2. Species of salmon.  Many different species were used including farm raised and wild caught.  The most used, considering cost and convenience was the Sockeye.

    3.  Brining time.   I was looking for a brine that would cure the salmon yet be able to take long periods without affecting the taste, mainly for convenience.  The longer brining time results in a firm product that helps in forming a pellicle and aids in keeping the salmon from cracking.  By limiting the cracking, less fat comes to the surface.

    4. Pellicle formation.   Test included different times, refrigeration and room temperature with and without a fan.

    5. Skin on, skin off.   As the skin helps hold the salmon together, I wanted the flesh to easily peel away from the skin.

    6. Cooking times and temps.   Many were made here until the desired moisture and firmness was found.

    7. Woods.  Many different species of woods were used.  Alder works best for us.

     In order to get the very best result, use Tender Quick in the brine, brine overnight, ensure you have a good pellicle, cook/smoke at 200°F - 93°C and do not let the salmon go above 145°F - 63°C at any time.  Any deviation will result in a less than desired result.

    When I smoke / cook salmon, the salmon is placed in a cold smoker (Cookshack 066) set at 200°.  The 200° temperature setting ensures the wood begins to smoke as the smoker begins to warm.   When the fish internal temp reaches 140°, (usually within 45 minutes) the smoker automatically goes to a 140° hold temperature.  During this time, the carryover temp will take the fish to 145° for the desired 30-minute rest.

    That’s it. Any questions just ask. Have fun and enjoy.


                                             Mr.T's Hot Smoked Salmon

                                                                      Salmon Thawed

                                                                     Sliced in Half
                                                                       Cut Into Sections
                                                                                In Brine
                                                     Air dried until pellicle formed
                                                                         In Smoker
                                                                  Ready for Packaging
    Members results.​
    Mr. T​
    It’s my opinion that these examples are what smoked salmon should look like. Isn’t it nice to know that results like this can be achieved without the long cooking times and multiple steps?
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2017
  2. dls1

    dls1 Smoking Fanatic

    That's a pretty impressive photo tutorial. Thanks for sharing. The pic from the boat is great, also. Beautiful scenery.

    How much salmon by weight will the quantities in the brine recipe handle? Is that the amount you used for the fish you smoked here?

  3. mr t 59874

    mr t 59874 Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    Thanks dsl,  The recipe will be plenty for a 2 pound fillet.  I doubled the recipe for the amount of fish here.
  4. Great into! I'm not lucky enough to be able to catch salmon in ny, but that looks amazing!!!
  5. That looks absolutely amazing! Thanks for the recipe and the tutorial! I've copied it and will be giving it a try soon.

    Smokeater207...I don't know where Northport is but I caught lots of salmon near Watertown!
  6. dls1

    dls1 Smoking Fanatic

    Mr. T - I assume that when you're finished you vacuum pack and refrigerate or freeze it. How long will it keep?
  7. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    You mentioned your Great Looking Salmon is best as a snack food or in a Dip/Spread...I would like to offer 2 of my favorite Salmon Spread Recipes since you shared your Brine...Thank You

    Give this a try....Good stuff!...JJ

    Gingered Smoked Salmon Spread

    1Lb Cream Cheese...Room Temp

    1/2C Mayonnaise

    1/4C Sour Cream

    1Tbs Soy Sauce

    1tsp Hot Sauce...Sriracha (Asian) or other

    1/4tsp Black Pepper

    1Lb Smoked Salmon...or other Smoked Fish, Flaked

    1/4C Chopped Crystalized Ginger

    1/4C Chopped Scallion

    Process the first 6 ingredients until smooth...

    For Fine Spread...add remaining and Pulse to desire consistency...

    For Chunky Spread...Fold in remaining with a spatula...

    For a Change of Pace!

    Substitute... Ginger and Scallons with...

    1/4C Chopped Fresh Dill

    2T Chopped Capers

    2T Chopped Fresh Chives
    thatcho likes this.
  8. mr t 59874

    mr t 59874 Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    dsl, Correct, the salmon that will be consumed in a few days if cling wrapped.  The other is vacuum sealed and refrigerated where it will easily keep for two to three weeks.  I have never frozen any because of the concern of quality when thawed.  If it is to be kept for a long period, it is pressure canned, that would be another thread though as the process is somewhat different.

    Chef Jimmy,  Thanks for the recipe.  Just got some canned salmon out and will try the Change of pace recipe for supper as we have fresh chives.
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2012
  9. thoseguys26

    thoseguys26 Master of the Pit

    Great Post! That's a beautiful picture on the lake... Now I need to go fishing. Cya work, I'm out! :)
  10. Yea Northport is on the north shore of long island ... Great fishing, but striped bass, flounder, fluke etc.
  11. jonboat

    jonboat Smoke Blower

    I catch and smoke a lot of salmon (Lake Ontario Kings). Until now, my brine has been a simple Kosher salt and brown sugar in water brine, but I've got some fillets thawing right now and am going to give this brine a try - sounds yummy!!!! I cook mine until they're on the dry-side and baste with maple syrup a half hour before removing from the smoker. I got the idea here on SMF - I believe the nickname is "indian candy". For smoke, I have a preference for apple.

    Thanks for posting this interesting sounding brine - I'll post back after I get a batch done and let you know how quickly the fillets disappear :biggrin:

    Another spread recipe you might want to try:

    8oz softened cream cheese
    1/2 cup sour cream
    1 tbs fresh dill
    1 tbs lemon juice
    1tsp prepared horseradish
    1/2 tsp salt
    1/4 tsp black pepper
    1/2 lb smoked salmon (crumbled)

    Mix the cream cheese until smooth, then add sour cream, dill, lemon juice, horse radish, salt, and pepper. Mix well, then stir-in the salmon.
    Some like this on crackers, or bagels... I make sandwiches with in on whole wheat toast. mmmmmmm.
  12. mr t 59874

    mr t 59874 Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    Jonboat, Thanks for the recipe will give it a try very soon.  Enjoy your salmon.  I'm thawing some king fillets now.
  13. mr t 59874

    mr t 59874 Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    Chef Jimmy,  Tried your change of pace recipe and it was very good.  Will try the original after we try Jonboats recipe as we both like horseradish. 

    Thanks for sharing.

    Mr T
  14. whiskeyfoot

    whiskeyfoot Fire Starter

    Recipe looks great!!  I'm planning to do some salmon for the first time today, so I may try this out!  One quick question, what temp do you recommend smoking at for this particular recipe?  Thanks!
  15. mr t 59874

    mr t 59874 Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    Wiskeyfoot,  200 deg.
  16. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Glad you liked the Recipe Mr T. The 1st one is different because the Sour Cream and Cream Cheese is tangy then in every bite there is a Pop of Sweet when you bite into the Candied Ginger...JJ
  17. shortend

    shortend Meat Mopper

    Wow, just tried this one with some fresh Copper River Sockeye. Enough salt to preserve any fish, and enough garlic to ward off any vampire! Both elements were way too strong. Just wrecked some pretty expensive salmon. Not sure if I even want to try to give this stuff away/. It's probably just goin' in the garbage. Don't want it reflecting on me. If I'm the only one who thinks this recipe is overpowering in these areas, let me know. For my tastes it most certainly does!

    I would like to take this opportunity to apologize for my quick and unfounded opinion of this recipe. I am discovering that I have developed a sensitivity to some foods that I've never encoutered before. Foremost of which is salt. Maybe even (heaven forbid) garlic. I certainly don't intend for my personal tastes to influence or discourage anyone else from trying this excellent recipe. So please, by all means, disregard my original comments and try it for yourself. I am going to try it again with some modifications that I should have taken into consideration in the first place. 

    Last edited: Jun 21, 2012
  18. mr t 59874

    mr t 59874 Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

     ShortEnd , I feel bad that you were disappointed in your results.   Never heard comments like this for the recipe. In an effort to discover the problem.  Not saying they were wrong, but would have to question your measurements.  Was table salt used in place of of non-iodized?  Was it wet or dry brined?  Did you taste it before applying to fish?  Was it rinsed before air drying?  

     The following are just a few comments from another forum that are more common.  


    Posted  June 06, 2011 07:22 AM

    Hide Post

    This past weekend, I was fortunate to find that the Fresh Market here locally had fresh Copper River Sockeye salmon. Based on Mr. T's posts on brining and smoking salmon, I decided to give it a try.

    It came out perfect! I smoked them at 180 on my pre-IQ4 FE100 for about an hour and a half using some peach pellets. Everybody loved it. It got served with a mushroom risotto and a broccoli gratin. Very nice meal! Thanks for all your help, Tom! I could not have done it without your instructions.



    Posted  June 12, 2011 10:17 PM

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    I bought 3 lbs of Sockeye Wild Salmon and used T's brine to the "T". Sorry about that.  

    After the pellicle formed, I sprinkled with salt, pepper, garlic, dill and lemon juice all over. Then sprinkled half of it with a dusting of brown sugar. Chunk of Alder in the smoker. 235* for 1.5 hrs. Pulled when internal hit 145* (Yep, I did it. 145*).  

    It was delicious. My Aunt and Uncle loved it. Oh, I brined it for 6 hrs.  

    Interesting. I tried a piece with and without the brown sugar and feel the brown sugar actually brought out more of the salmon flavor. The sugar actually made it taste richer. Does this fit with the experience of others?


    Posted  September 04, 2011 04:41 PM

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    Hey Mr T:

    I'm new to the forum but have been reading it as a lurker since I got my Smokette Elite 25 about 3 months ago. Wanted to let you know I made your salmon recipe for about a dozen people last night and they are still raving about it!

    I started with two large filets about 2# each, about 3/4" thick in thickest portion. Got them fresh last week, then froze them for 3 days. Thawed them, then mixed up your brine solution and brined them in a 2 gal ziplock bag for 24 hours, turning several times during the process. Rinsed with 5 exchanges of rinse water. Then placed uncovered on the Smokette racks in the refrigerator overnight for pellicle to form. Had to put then diagonal on the racks for them to fit. Before cooking I set the smoker to 250 and preheated with 3 pieces of alder until smoke was coming out the vent hole for 10 minutes, then turned the temp down to 200. I removed the filets from the rack and sprayed the racks with Pam, then put the filets back on and placed them in the smoker. After 65 min the internal temp was 140, so I dialed the temp setting back to 175 and waited 20 min. At the end the internal temp reached 145. I removed the racks and used two oversized spatulas to pick up each filet (slid off the racks perfectly without sticking) and place it on aluminum foil and wrapped them up and took them to the dinner (5 min away).

    They were a smash hit. Perfectly done, tender, and just the right amount of smoke. Even my friend who also has a 25 (an older model) and who prides himself on his smoked salmon was raving that my salmon was primo restaurant quality and wanted to know my secret. So I told him about your recipe on this forum, and he responded that he knew about the fourm but never read it, but now he will.

    Bottom line: your recipe is solid gold! I'm not going to waste my time trying other smoked salmon recipes unless you recommend them.



    Posted  September 26, 2011 06:28 PM

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    Just made my first fillet with a beauty of a sockeye. I ended up with an overnight pellicle formation (didn't really look any different) after a 24 hr brine.  

    Smoked up to 145 and then cut it. Let it rest for an hour and then wrapped up and rest more in the fridge for 8 hours and JUST when the wife got back scarfed down the first bites.  

    Last edited: Jun 18, 2012
  19. dls1

    dls1 Smoking Fanatic

    ShortEnd -- I'll take you up on your request for feedback.

    My wife recently got a 50% Group discount coupon for our local seafood store. Over this past weekend she picked up a couple CR Sockeye filets, each about 1.5 lbs, and I decided to try the brine recipe listed above exactly as presented. In short, we found the results to be excellent. I definitely will use use it again, but probably with a few minor tweaks.

    - Salt: Over the past few years I've developed a super sensitivity to salt, and pick up on it immediately if an item is over salted. The normal reaction is a burning of the tongue. When I ate the salmon I did notice a very negligible tingle, but nothing at all offensive or off putting. My wife and daughter didn't notice any saltiness at all. 

    - Garlic: As a family, we're enthusiastic garlic lovers. None of us noticed the garlic at all, and we all thought that more was needed. The next time I make the brine I'll add additional garlic, and will probably do so with garlic juice. I'll either add it with the powder, or increase the quantity of juice and eliminate the powder altogether.

    Since you and I have had opposite reactions, there's a few questions that I have:

    - Did you follow the brine recipe exactly as written (1/2 cup salt-1 TBS garlic powder)?

    - What type of salt did you use (Canning, Kosher, Table)? If Kosher, what brand?

    - How long was the fish in the brine? Mine was in 16 hours.

    - Following the brine, did you rinse and soak the fish thoroughly? After a thorough rinse, I soaked the filet for nearly an hour, changing the water once.

    - Have you prepared other salmon brines with success in the past? If so, how did they differ from this recipe with regards to salt and garlic?

    I guess this could be another example reinforcing that old term "Different Strokes For Different Folks"
  20. shortend

    shortend Meat Mopper

    Mr T & dis1

    Just a little follow up. Sorry, if I sounded a bit too dissappointed. I have a tendency to get a little too frustrated at first when something doesn't turn out. After a little chillin' out and rethinking things, I get a clearer head about it all. I followed the recipe as stated, but as with anything, I need to tweek it to my tastes. I used Morton's Kosher salt, but went by weight. 5.1 oz. I remember thinking at the time that the salt seemed to be a bit much. I used to be able to tolerate a lot more salt, and I'm having some trouble adjusting some of my cooking to it. Gotta make myself get used to the adjustment. I also used 1 TBS garlic powder. I've always loved garlic, and it didn't seem to be too much. Maybe I'm developing some sensitivity to that, too. Geez, I hope not.

    I brined the Salmon for about 18 hrs. Then rinsed off pretty well. This is another area where I may have gone wrong. I've noticed with most cures and brines lately, that I have to soak and change out water sometimes for several hours to get the salt content down to where I like it. Generally takes several fry tests. I've had bacon take as long as 4-5 hours of this process before I can get the salt level to my liking. The amount of salt I use, soaking, along with a fry test I think will solve the problems I'm having. The Salmon developed a beautiful glistening pelicle in about 2 hours using a fan. The smoking went well and was done in about 2 hours. Used Alder pellets. The color and amount of smoke was excellent.

    I have brined and smoked salmon many times in the past and never had any problems. This problem with sensitivities is just a new developement for me lately, and I'm beginning to find it with almost everything. Cures, brines, rubs, you name it and it's all too salty or strong anymore. It isn't causing any blood pressure problems, at least not yet. Just the taste, and it really sucks. 

    I'm going to give it another go with the necessary adjustments. The recipe really does look like a good one, with all the proper elements for a good brine.

    Thanks for the input and help thinking this one over.


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