Cold Smoked Salmon

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When I go to the grocery store to buy smoked or cured salmon I always wonder why it is so damned expensive. I can buy a fresh fillet of salmon here in Sweden for about $7.00 a pound but smoked or cured salmon is usually at least three times that price.

It doesn’t cost much to smoke or cure salmon.  Sugar, salt and herbs are not very expensive so the high price really doesn’t make sense to me.  In the past I have smoked food in a professional restaurant kitchen, but I thought it would be fun to find an easy way to do this at home and share it with you here on the blog.

Now we have a primer that covers everything you need to know about smoking food. Check it out. We think you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see how inexpensive and easy it is to do it yourself.

So, what am I going to do with my smoked salmon you ask?  Scramble up some eggs and toss in some smoked salmon bites.  Have brunch: classic cold smoked salmon with bagels and cream cheese, some red onion and capers.  Make it the center of attraction on a platter with pumpernickel, crème fraîche with a horseradish kick, some caviar, dill sprigs and lemon slices.  Do crostini with lemon and capers.  Let it dance through a salad.  Once you taste your smoky creation we don’t think you’ll have any problems coming up with creative serving ideas.


Cold Smoking Salmon

Start this recipe the day before serving, as the salmon needs to be refrigerated in brine for 24 hours. 

1/2 pound fresh salmon fillet, pin bones removed.
4 tablespoons dry brine
3/4 cups fine wood chips
Smoker or multi-layer steamer pot
Aluminum foil
Paper towels

Sprinkle half the brine evenly over the bottom of a deep serving dish. Nestle salmon on the brine and sprinkle the remaining brine evenly over the top.  Cover dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate 24 hours.
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Ready to smoke
A lot of smoke is produced from just a little bit of wood.  If possible, carry out the actual smoking process outside.  Even with open windows, your house will get very smokey.  Oli used a hot plate for the heat source.

Also, know in what order you are going to build you smoking tower (pot bases, flat steamer inserts, etc.) because once you get going you need to put it all together without delay.

  1.  Prepare the wood as described in our primer.
  2. Set stove burner to high. Spread wood chips evenly over bottom of smoker and place on burner when it has reached max heat intensity.
    i j
  3. In a few minutes the first thing you will see is an odorless gray steam. When it turns to a strong, brownish smoke it’s ready.  The next piece to go into Oli’s smoker is the pot with the steamer bottom.  To protect the fillet from direct heat and to absorb moisture from the fillet, he placed aluminum foil on the steamer then put a paper towel on top of it.  Leave some holes from the steamer bottom uncovered.
    k l
  4. Oli next added the flat steamer insert, placed the salmon on it and covered his smoking tower it with the lid.
    m n
  5. The first thing you will see is rising steam. Then thick, dark smoke.  If you have a glass lid, you won’t be able to see the salmon because of the smoke. When smoke seeps out from under the lid, let the pot stay on the smoker for 3-5 minutes depending on how smokey you want the salmon.  Don’t open the lid during the smoking process.
    q o
  6. Remove the upper part of the smoker from the base parts and wrap it in a towel for 4-5 minutes. This will increase the smokey flavor and keep the fish from getting too warm. You can skip the towel wrap if you don’t want a very smokey salmon.
    p r
  7. At last you have the final product. Remove the fillet and refrigerate before serving.
  8. It’s best to immediately clean the steamer very well with soapy water and a brush so you’ll be ready for the next time.
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Posted in Appetizers, Breakfast, How to do, Sides, Starter, Swedish Classic | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

A Home Smoking Primer

All You Need to Know About Smoking Food

Here is a primer that will show you how easy it is to smoke your own food.  Imagine making your own smoked fish, chicken, and meats.  It’s inexpensive and easier than you think. We’ll walk you through it and cover brining, smoking methods, types of wood to use and the utensils you need.

The next couple of posts will cover how to cold smoke and warm smoke salmon.  Then we’ll give you some smokin’ good recipes that are sure to be hits over the coming holidays, or for that matter any time you serve them.

BRINES:  Brining and smoking food go together.  There are two types of brines, wet and dry.  The following recipes give you basic ratios. How much you ultimately use simply depends on how big a portion of food you are brining.

Wet Brine
Wet brine is good for large pieces of meat and whole chickens or turkeys. Entire fish like salmon, trout and mackerel are wet brined.  Use a wet brine for shellfish still in the shell.  Once shelled, you use a dry brine.

3 cups water
1/2 cup salt
1/4 cup sugar
Bring water, salt and sugar to a boil in a medium sauce pot over high heat. Stir until dissolved.  Remove pot from heat and cool to room temperature before using.

Dry Brine
Dry brines are for smaller pieces of food such as boneless, skinless chicken breasts; salmon; trout and haddock fillets.

8 tablespoons salt
5 tablespoons sugar
Mix salt and sugar until well combined. Store in a cool, dry place.


There are two methods of smoking:  warm and cold.

Warm Smoking
Warm smoking will thoroughly cook the food.  If you are smoking fish, the internal temperature at it’s thickest part should reach 140-145 degrees F.  If you are smoking pork or chicken the internal temperature should reach at least 170 degrees F.  Check the temperature with an instant read thermometer.

Cold Smoking
The food does not thoroughly cook.  It remains raw and is served that way (salmon) or it is cooked after smoking such as you would do with sausages. It’s important to keep the temperature in the smoker as low as possible. The internal temperature when cold smoking salmon should not go over 90 degrees F.



Wood Chips
Always use hard wood.  Wood chips from most fruit and nut trees such as apple, pear, fig and cherry work well.  The most common woods are probably oak, hickory and maple. Avoid pine and redwood as they have too much tar. Never use wood from old pallets or woods that might have been treated with chemicals. Never use moldy wood. The point is, don’t use any ole’ wood.   Buy small bags of wood chips in the outdoor and barbecue sections of stores, some kitchen stores and even hardware stores.  There are lots of choices, chips come in different sizes and they don’t cost much at all.

Because Oli’s smoker is rather small, and he wanted to produce smoke quickly, he used very small wood chips.  

Preparing the wood
Before you start the smoking process soak the wood chips in water for 30 minutes.   Then place chips in a strainer and press to remove most of the water.  Chips will be wet, but not soaking wet. The ratio of wood to water and the soaking time will vary according to what and how much you are smoking.
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And finally, dump the chips onto paper towels and pat out excess water.
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The Smoker
The smoker Oli uses is really a stainless steel steamer that he bought at the Asian market for about $30. It is 11-inches wide and 14.5-inches tall including the lid.



Here are all the parts of Oli’s smoker (steamer).  #1 is the base pot.  This is where you put the wood.
Note: You don´t always use every part.  It just depends on what you are smoking and the method you are using.

Next you place #2, the flat steamer insert inside of the base pot. That’s where you would place chicken or other meat to warm smoke it over high heat.

#3 is a pot with a steamer bottom (the bottom is not solid).  This level would be used to warm smoke food using less heat.

This set up has one more flat steamer insert #4.  It can be used as the top piece for cold smoking because you want the food to be as far away from direct heat as possible and to be smoked in a short period of time.

An added bonus for Oli is that #5, the lid, has a glass top so he can see what’s smokin’.

That’s it.  You are ready to smoke.


Posted in Basics, Home Smoking Primer, How to do | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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