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What's The Purpose of Making a Pellicle?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by pokey, Sep 26, 2010.

  1. pokey

    pokey Meat Mopper

    I've read that this is an important step for some reason. Someone said that with fish, salmon in particular, that without one, the smoke won't "take"; you're just cooking it with wood. Is this only important in cold smoking? What's the deal?

    Thanks in advance for any insight.
  2. richoso1

    richoso1 Legendary Pitmaster OTBS Member SMF Premier Member


    I hope this helps answer your questions.

    This is one step many beginning smokers fail to do, but drying your cured, brined fish in a cool, breezy place is vital to properly smoking it. Why? You need to form what is called a pellicle, which is a thin, lacquer-like layer on top of the fish that seals it and offers a sticky surface for the smoke to adhere to.

    You achieve this by resting the brined fish on a rack and putting it in a cool -- less than 65 degrees -- place that has good air circulation. If you'd like, run a fan over the fish at low speed.

    Let the fish dry this way for at least 2 hours, and up to three. Don't worry! The salt in the brine will protect your fish.

    This has worked for me and many others as well

  3. bbally

    bbally Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    It is also very important for the flesh density.  Forming the layer cuts down on moisture loss during the smoking, cooking process.

    It is important for cold smoking as well.  Lox will not cut correctly without the formation of this layer.  It is basically a protein layer that seals the flesh.
  4. Bearcarver

    Bearcarver SMF Hall of Fame Pitmaster Group Lead OTBS Member

    Hey Rich & bbally,

    I almost always put stuff I want to have pellicle on in my extra fridge over night, but it doesn't form pellicle all that great, probably because of lack of air movement. So I usually end up heating for an hour without smoke first anyway. What do you think about putting a small fan in that fridge, just to get the air moving?

  5. nwdave

    nwdave Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    Just a suggestion:

    Knowledgeable RV'ers have added tiny fans in their RV fridges to help circulate the cold quite effectively.  For me, I found a little toy fan that fills the requirement quite adequately, not a lot of air but enough, and it's battery operated.  Should work for you as well.  Yes, you could get a small baker fan (about the size of the fan in the back of your computer) but they move a lot of air, perhaps too much for your needs, but isn't one of the guidelines of this "hobby" is to experiment?
  6. princess

    princess Smoking Fanatic

    The top layer of proteins hardens as it dries and makes it easier for the smoke to stick to it and begin to soak in. Think of the flesh of the animal like the skin on the inside of your lip. It is normally moist. If I were to hand you a non-toxic marker, you could not draw on the inside of your lip the same way you can draw on your arm. But, if we dry your lip off with a paper towel (it would feel kinda tacky if we did) we could probably write on the lip skin now.

    In fact, that's what you want the meat to feel like: dry to the touch, slightly tacky and still flexible...


  7. alblancher

    alblancher Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    I understand why you would allow the pellicle to form before smoking when doing fish because smoke time is only a couple of hours.

    When cold smoking green bacon or other long/cold smoke meats is allowing the pellicle to form necessary?  I know some members will hang green bacon in the smokehouse, start a fire but not add smoke or leave the doors open to allow the pellicle to form.  Is that necessary?    Does smoke prevent the formation of the pellicle?  Does smoking with aged wood increase the humidity of the smokehouse to the point that it prevents formation of the pellicle.

    If you are using cold smoke with a wood fuel source do you need to allow the pellicle to form or will it naturally form during the first hour or two of being in the smokehouse?


    Don't you love playing with your food?
  8. Bearcarver

    Bearcarver SMF Hall of Fame Pitmaster Group Lead OTBS Member

    If you don't get pellicle to form on the outside before you put the smoke on it, the smoke could make the outside of your product wet, slimy & bitter tasting, like creosote.