Smoked fish fillets - Salmon, Cod and Haddock. Q-View

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Master of the Pit
Original poster
OTBS Member
SMF Premier Member
Apr 12, 2013
Kent, UK
Following on from some of the fish smoking threads in the hot smoking section I promised to create a Q-View of last nights smoke. I am not sure if these belong here as they are all actually eaten hot however the smoking part of the preparation is always done cold.

I went to our local fresh fish mongers yesterday lunchtime and saw what he had that looked good. I came away with a large whole side of Cod, 2 sides of Haddock and 2 sides of Salmon.

The first thing to do is pin bone them all and trim them if necessary

Next to mix the dry brine. I have experimented with different concentrations of wet brine over the years and different mixes of dry brine. What I have found works best for me is a dry brine mix of 2 parts of Caster Sugar to 1 part of fine un-iodised fine cooking salt:

For curing I split the fish into two separate batches.

For the Salmon I used the following:
  • 1.0 Kg white Caster Sugar
  • 0.5 Kg Fine Cooking Salt (non-iodised)
  • 1 small bunch of fresh Dill - chopped
For the Cod and Haddock
  • 1.0 Kg white Caster Sugar
  • 0.5 Kg Fine Cooking Salt (non-iodised)
The Salmon has quite a strong natural flavour and so can take some quite powerful herbs whereas the Cod and Haddock are both quite delicate fish and I did not want to mask their natural flavours. Even though I used Dill here I often use fresh fennel leaves or fresh fennel seeds when they are available.

For each of the cures mix the Sugar and salt well and for the salmon mix in the chopped Dill

Make a base layer of 2/3 of the dry brine mix with chopped Dill ready for the Salmon

Lay the Salmon flesh down on the cure mix

Cover Salmon with the remaining 1/3 of the mix. Less mix is needed towards the thinner tail part of the fillet

Repeat the process for the Cod and Haddock but without the herbs

Cover with plastic wrap and leave to cure for up to 3 hours. For thin fillets or skinless fillets you only need to cure for 2 hours however additional time is required if the skin is left on.

The test is to lift up the fillet and gently press the thickest part with your finger. Once sufficient moisture has been removed it should have become firm to the touch.

After the 3 hours you can see how much moisture has been removed from the fish

When you tip the pan you can even pour it.

Thoroughly rinse the salt off the fillets under cold running tap water taking care to also rinse any cracks or crevices free of salt. Also remove any little bits of chopped herbs that are sticking to the side of the fish. These do not affect the flavour but can look unsightly once the fish has been smoked.

The texture of all of the cured fish will now be very different to original fish. The flesh will be much firmer and denser and you will see that the Salmon flesh has gone from pink to a deeper shade of orange.

At this point I sliced the Salmon fillets into individual portions to ensure that the maximum surface area of the fish is exposed to the smoke. This can be done either before or after curing to achieve different end products.

If sliced before curing then the texture of the Salmon once cooked will be dryer and denser as more of the moisture will have been removed. This produces great party finger picking firm chunks.

If sliced after curing slightly less of the moisture is removed and the cooked fillet is softer and more silky. This is best when eating the salmon as component of a meal.

Now to the smoker. In case there is a limit to the size of an individual post I will continue in the next box...
Because I am only doing a small amount of fish here I smoked it in my offset stainless steel drum smoker.

Please excuse the other BBQ bits in the background - we have not cleared this area of the garden since winter. The Red Weber 22.5" with the Pizza mod that you see in the background is over 15 years old and is still going strong!

Load the smoke generator with Oak pellets and get it alight.

Load the smoke generator into the fire box

Before placing the cured fish in the smoker allow it to rest for 2 hours in the fridge.

Please ignore the poorer quality of the next few photos but it had got dark by this time and the camera went into night mode...

Load the bottom layer of Salmon into the smoking chamber

Add the spacer rack and load the upper layer with the Cod and Haddock

Note that the fish is skin side up. This is because in cooler weather moisture droplets sometimes form on the inside on the chamber and can drip onto the fish. This does not cause any problem with the flavour however it does spoil the aesthetics of the finished fish if it drips onto the flesh.

Next morning the smoker is still going strong...

The fish was smoked for a total of 15 hours with the temperature staying between 6-10C 42-50F

Vac Pac the smoked fish and label before freezing

As mentioned at the beginning of the thread, this fish is cold smoked however it is designed to be eaten hot. It can be cooked either in the BBQ/Smoker or in the kitchen oven. Today I simply cooked it in the oven for speed.

To cook, simply place on a lightly oiled baking tray, uncovered, and bake at 180C 360F for 12 minutes.

I hope some of you found this post interesting and even possibly informative.


Thanks Redneck69. Once you see it in pictures it becomes much less scary to attempt
hi wade

cracking job mate i love the offset 

i finished a prototype controller today and i made a new charcoal basket for the uds and i have the battle scars to prove it lol i  sliced my thumb with a stanley knife cutting a hole in the controller box i stuck stainless wire in one side and out the other on the same thumb twisting wire to hold basket together and then tried to remove the other thumb with my mini grinder

joys of DIY smoking 
Thank Paul

LOL - Yes DIY can be quite dangerous at times. I think that is probably why we are born with a spare thumb on the other hand

Any photos of the control box you can share yet?
i will post a picture of it later it does not look pretty as i used a clip top food container as i could not find a reasonable project box but it seems to be able to do the job these pid controllers are cleaver bits of kit
Sorry to revive a long dead thread, but I did not want to start a new one for the exact topic I'm interested in. 

Wade, you said you heat the fish prior to eating it, but is it necessary or is the fish as it is considered "edible"?

I'm looking to make my own lox and wonder if this is the correct process.

Thanks in advance,


There are a variety of different ways to make lox.  When I do my lox, I end up cold smoking it after it's been cured.  Use the search bar up top.  It will become your friend.

Sorry to revive a long dead thread, but I did not want to start a new one for the exact topic I'm interested in. 

Wade, you said you heat the fish prior to eating it, but is it necessary or is the fish as it is considered "edible"?

I'm looking to make my own lox and wonder if this is the correct process.

Thanks in advance,

Hi Don

Yes this is the way to produce the traditional smoked salmon (or Lox). It is all to do with the length of time is has been cured/smoked and how much of the water has been removed from the fish. You check this by weighing the salmon fillet whilst still fresh and then again after smoking and to get traditional smoked salmon you are looking for a total weight loss of about 17-18%. The "short" light smoke above gives a weight loss of about 12% so not quite there. Smoke it for another 24-36 hours then this method will get you what you are looking for. I smoked  6 sides of salmon like this for this Christmas to slice and give away as presents.
Again, there is a variety of ways to make lox, smoked salmon,,,,,, whatever.  Just depends on one's definition.
You may also find this thread useful. It compares a number of different curing salt/sugar combinations that people have used on here. It will give you an idea of the water loss with the different types of cure. These just show up to the end of the salt/sugar cure stage - with a quick overnight smoke. Leave in the smoker for longer and you will get that weight loss up to the desired 17-18%  
Thanks Leah. You are welcome over any time 
Hi Wade, followed your link from my first post, and yes this all looks superb, loving the clear instructions,pics and method. 

You have some excellent looking heavy duty kit there, way to go i think !

Thanks again !

Excellent advice and easy to understand, thanks Wade.

I am going to smoke  half a fillet in the next week or so but the girls want it thinly sliced so they can have in on bagels, is the curing process the same, does the smoking time need to be adjusted at all ?


Hi Martyn. That method is for lightly smoked salmon fillets rather than the traditional cold smoked salmon. Those fillets are smoked salmon steaks that need to be cooked before they are eaten. The difference between the steaks and the traditional smoked salmon is the water content in the fish. For the steaks we remove water which is equivalent to 5-10%of the weight of the fish whereas for the traditional salmon we remove ~18%. For the traditional smoked salmon you should look here...

The method in the link shows cold smoking Trout but Salmon is done in exactly the same way.

I make and sell the traditional smoked salmon commercially and since I posted that thread I have modified the salt cure part of the process to minimise the salt uptake into the fish. I now salt them on wire racks to enable the water that is removed from the fish to drain completely away underneath.

These trays are full gastronorm size - but you can so the same on a smaller scale by simply resting a wire rack on top of a roasting tray.

If you are smoking a ready filleted salmon side then do not attempt to hang it in the smoker as the flakes are likely to pull apart under its own weight. These are best smoked laying flat on the wire rack.

Main steps for traditional smoked salmon in a nutshell...
  1. Salt sugar mix - 50:50
  2. Lightly coat both sides of the salmon with salt sugar mix. Place covered on a wire rack in fridge and leave for 24 hours.
  3. Rinse in cold running water and pat dry with a paper towel. Leave uncovered in the fridge to 2 hours
  4. Place in smoker for 24 hours. Ensure good air flow and a temperature of ~20 C (~70 F). I usually use Hickory smoke but Oak is god too.
  5. Place in fridge and chill for several hours before slicing.
I just wished as an 11 - 16 yr old working in a fishmongers I'd taken more interest in the curing and smoking of the fish, they'd been doing it the same way for 80+ years, i used to mix the cure in an old enamel bath, put all the fish in, leave for the day and then at the end of it put them on oak poles and into the smoker that was blacker than a black thing, put a couple of scoops of i assume oak dust at the bottom of the smoker, light it and then take it out next morning.
Smoked salmon was a weekend treat, take a pack home to munch on whilst watching the generation game ...
Still I can fillet a fish and skin the fillet once prepared, the old man there taught me well

Oh the good old days
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