Smoked salmon seems to involve a delicate and complicated process, but now you can learn how to get that nice smoked taste in a few simple steps.
- Choose your salmon. Get the freshest fish you can find. Seafood is different than other meats in that it only lasts a very limited amount of time. Ideally it should not be frozen or have ever been frozen, and should not have any "fishy" odor. If it is a whole fish, make sure the scales are still nicely laid flat and the eyes are clear, not milky looking. Cloudy eyes indicate bacterial growth.
- Prepare the salmon. If working with a whole salmon, you will need to prepare it for cooking. Begin by removing the head, tail and any fins on the body. Next, cut salmon in half from the belly; this may have already been done by the fishmonger, but if not you will also have to remove any internal organs, which can be thrown out.
Using a long thin-bladed knife, cut under the bone and as close to the bone as possible, separating the flesh from the skeleton. Lastly, cut the two large pieces of fish into smaller pieces and cut the skin off.
- Prepare your smoking area. You will have to do this outside on a fire or barbecue, because the smoke can be quite heavy. Set up a deep pan with wood shavings in the bottom. (The most commonly used kind is alder for its smell and flavor, but really, anything will work). Place a grill or cooling rack on top of the pan so there are several inches in between the wood and the fish. Get your wood heating up over the fire or barbecue and once it begins to smoke, place the fish on the grill.
The whole thing should then be covered to allow the smoke to accumulate and create a more intense flavor. It is a good idea to turn the fish over at least once during the cooking process, although it should be noted that once fish begins to cook, it becomes somewhat brittle and care must be taken when handling. The fish, depending on the thickness, should take about 15-20 minutes to cook through. If dried salmon is what you want, turn the heat down low and allow it to smoke for much longer.