- rock salt
- white sugar
- paper towels
- non-stick spray
- large plastic tray or plastic bucket
- Alder chips
- Filet the salmon or steelhead on both sides of backbone from the head to the tail, then cut the filet into chunks about 3 to 4 inches wide.
- Wash the chunks in cold water and place a layer of the washed chunks in the bottom of the large plastic tray or plastic bucket. Cover this layer with rock salt, add another layer of the fish chunks and cover this layer with rock salt. Continue doing this with the rest of your salmon or steelhead chunks.
- Let the chunks remain in the rock salt for about 60 to 90 minutes, the thinner pieces for 60 minutes, and the thicker pieces 90 minutes. After the salting time is up remove the chunks from tray or bucket and thoroughly wash off the salt in cold running water.
- On a table or counter top spread out newspaper 4 or 5 sheets thick and then cover with a layer of white paper towels. Place the washed fish chunks on the paper towels skin side down. Sprinkle with small amounts of pepper and sugar. Allow the chunks to sit about 4 hours. Spray the smoker racks with non-stick to prevent sticking during the smoking process. Place all the thicker chunks on one or two racks and the thinner chunks on the other racks and place the racks back on the paper to remain drying over night. This allows a glaze to form on the fish that is necessary for proper smoking.
- Place the smoker on a cement pad or patio blocks in an outside location where it is not affected by cold temperatures, wind or rain. Do not place smoker on any type of a wooden base. Pre-heat the smoker with a pan of Alder chips for about one hour and then load the smoker. Place the racks with the thicker chunks in the bottom slots of the smoker and the racks with thinner chunks on the top slots of the smoker. Leave a small space between the fish chunks to allow the smoke to pass and smoke all sides of the chunks.
- Add fresh Alder chips. After one hour remove the chip pan discard ashes and add more chips. This will need to be done
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every hour, four or five times during the smoking process. After 4 or 5 hours, check the fish to see how it is doing. The chunks should be drying out on top and turning a golden dark red color. If not, add another pan of Alder chips and smoke for another hour. You can check for complete smoking by using a fork to open up one of the thicker fish chunks, the meat should be the same lighter color all the way through and the outside should have a nice golden red color. On warmer days you may only need about 4 to 5 pan of chips to complete the smoking process. During colder weather it may take up to 7 hours or longer to complete the smoking process but try to only use 6 pans of Alder chips. If you use too many pans of Alder chips the fish tends to get a very smokey taste
Tips and tricks on hot smoking
- To get a good hot smoke cure of the fish, the temperature inside the smoker needs to reach approximately 125 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a meat thermometer inside the smoker to check the temperature. Use gloves or a hot pad to remove the hot top lid of the smoker. If you find that your smoker is not reaching the proper temperature, you can easily make a box to enclose the smoker that will hold in the heat and raise the temperature. Go to a building supply store and purchase a piece of 4x8x1/2 inch thick styrofoam insulation board with aluminum foil on both sides. The insulation board is inexpensive, lightweight and easy to cut with a sharp knife. The sides of the box can be held together with duct tape. Allow 2″ spacing between smoker and the sides and the top of the styrofoam box. Cut out an opening at the bottom of the box for the smoker chip pan. The top piece of the box can be held in place with a small rock or brick.
- Always use approved electrical extension cords when using the smoker.
- The fish on the bottom racks will smoke faster than the fish on the top racks, so you may need to remove the fish on the bottom if they are ready. Continue smoking the fish on the top racks.
- When you first take the fish out of the smoker, do a taste test with some white wine, cheese and crackers; this is when smoked salmon is at its best.
- If you want to freeze your smoked fish use a vacuum packer. Place two or three of the chunks in vacuum packer bags while they are still warm and vacuum seal. Place in the refrigerator for 3 or 4 days, this will help the oils and moister in the fish to permeate the meat with the smoke flavor. Freeze the bags and try to consume within 6 months.