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Smoked salmon à la Grisell

PostPosted: Tue Mar 09, 2010 5:36 pm
by grisell

This is smoked salmon similar to the one that can can be bought sliced and vac-packed for 50-60 €/kg or more. It comes out very soft and mellow, with an excellent delicacy in texture and taste. I don't know if this is the original or the best method, but it is the one I have ended up with after years' of experiments. It should be treated as a fresh product and will keep for about one week refrigerated at 0-4 C/32-39 F or several months in the freezer.

If using salmon that is not farmed, it should be frozen below -20 C/-4 F for a few days before or after smoking in order to kill possible harmful parasites.

The quality of the salmon is extremely important for the result with this method. Use nothing else than the freshest and best product. A good test for freshness of fish is that really fresh fish smells - nothing. The larger the fillet, the better the result.

The salt is also important. Use iodine-free, all-natural salt, i.e. sea salt or mountain salt. I use Himalayan pink mountain salt or Irish sea salt, because that's what is available to me. Use the best you can find. Fine or coarse doesn't matter.

Serving suggestions:
On toast au naturel or with a drop of lemon only. It also tastes great with avocado. Or in sushi.

Do not rinse the fillet. Pat it dry with absorbing paper. Remove all bones with a pair of tweezers. Calculate 65 g/1 kg fillet (1 oz/1 lb) of salt + 1/2 tsp (not more!) of freshly ground white pepper per fillet. Rub the flesh side of the fillet carefully with salt and pepper and put in a non-reactive (glass, plastic, stainless steel) tray. Cover and refrigerate for 48 hours, as cold as possible (ideally -3 to +2 C/29-36 F). Turn around every twelve hours. Do not pour off the liquid that forms. Take up the salmon, rinse thoroughly and pat dry again.

Smoke the fillet immediately thereafter for 16-24 hours at 16-24 C/61-75 F. Do not at any moment let the temperature rise above 30 C/86 F, since that can separate the fat. Refrigerate the salmon again for two days before consumption for the best result. Trim off the hard outer layer before slicing thinly. Refrigerate or freeze.

PostPosted: Tue Mar 09, 2010 5:41 pm
by wheels
Thanks Grisell

PostPosted: Tue Mar 09, 2010 8:05 pm
by jenny_haddow
Thanks indeed, I have a couple of sides ready to be smoked. I shall give your method a try.


PostPosted: Thu Mar 11, 2010 5:08 pm
by Jogeephus
That looks good.

PostPosted: Wed Mar 17, 2010 6:23 pm
by kletsbets
Why is it so important to use iodine free salt? Can you explain that to me?

PostPosted: Wed Mar 17, 2010 8:09 pm
by saucisson
Sometimes the iodine can taint the meat with a metallic flavour.


PostPosted: Thu Mar 18, 2010 12:05 am
by Ianinfrance
Hi Grisell,

Every time I go to the fishmonger's I've been looking very longingly at the whole salmon, and hesitating. Anyway. Just a couple of questions. You say " Turn around every twelve hours" Could you explain to a dumbo what you mean by this please. If I bought a whole salmon and filleted it, then obviously I'd have two fillets. Would you be inclined to salt them "flesh to flesh" and head to tail, and then turn them so that the one on top is now on the bottom etc. If salting a single fillet.... turn end to end, or top to bottom?

Secondly, smoking temperature. You say "Smoke the fillet immediately thereafter for 16-24 hours at 16-24 C/61-75 F." It's still quite cold here at nights, is there is reason to smoke as warm as 16°C.? I smoked my gammons at around 5-9°C. I had been thinking of doing two batches of oak for my salmon in my CSG (which would give about 20 hours), both at night, to keep my temperature reasonably low. However, I've also seen it recommended to smoke a bit warmer, ending up at around 28C or so.

Any comments, please?

PostPosted: Thu Mar 18, 2010 1:32 am
by grisell
I haven't thought so much about why it should be turned over. Maybe it's not necessary, but my theory is that it helps in distribution of the salt. Also, since there will be a brine, it should be turned over so the whole piece can come in contact with the brine. Sure, if you have two fillets, you could lay them flesh-to-flesh. Some people like to put pressure onto it, but I think it makes the product hard and I personally like it soft. If you normally use some other method for salting the fish, stick to that. I don't think it matters so much.

The "immediately thereafter" means that it should not be left in room temperature (e.g. in the kitchen) for too long while waiting to prepare the smoker or fire. You as well as I know that if you have laid your hands on a super-fresh fish, it can deteriorate in a few hours in the wrong temperature if it is in contact with air. The recipe is written in a way that it should be instructive for beginners, too.

I couldn't get my smoker below 16 C, so I have no experience of smoking at colder temperatures. It may be even better! I failed once when I smoked at 25-35 C. The fat dripped off the fillet which came out dry like tinder. Hence the warning for high temperatures.

Oak is the optimal choice for salmon, I think. The slightly sour scent goes well with fish. I've tried alder (also good), birch (ok) and hickory (no!).

Good luck if you decide to make it. Keep me (us) updated. Don't hesitate to ask if you have more questions, and I'll do my best to try to answer.

PostPosted: Thu Mar 18, 2010 1:37 am
by grisell
BTW, 16-24 hours gives a mild smokey taste. This is how I like it and why it is so critical that the fish be absolutely fresh. Anyone who likes a stronger taste should of course smoke longer.

PostPosted: Thu Mar 18, 2010 7:24 am
by Richierich
I smoked 2 sides of salmon for Christmas and the temperature never got above 7C in the smoking chamber, I smoked for a full run of the CSG and got a great product, I think it is also important to consider weight loss in this too, lower temperatures will take longer to achieve the same weight loss as higher, but I found that an overnight rest in a fridge got me close enough to by target.

I don't know what others think about 20 hours, but in my relatively small box, about 1m tall by 300mm deep and 400mm wide gave a good product with less than that, I guess it would follow that the larger the chamber the more time you will need.

And a picture too....


PostPosted: Thu Mar 18, 2010 8:18 am
by grisell
Oops! Sure, I forgot about the fact that smoke times can vary immensely depending on the smoker. What's 24 hours in my smoker needn't be 24 in yours. Well, then, it's best to try for oneself.

PostPosted: Thu Mar 18, 2010 1:31 pm
by Batman
Most of the timings and temperatures need to be seen as guides, you need to get familiar with your own smoking setup. Unfortunately trial and error seems to be the only way.

Even when you see reports from arguably very similar equipment eg Bradley smoker, there is still quite a lot of variation reported. Add to this, my view of what is just right might be over or under-smoked to you. Enjoy the learning :D

PostPosted: Thu Mar 18, 2010 11:59 pm
by grisell
Well, there seem to be many ways of achieving it, but the main features of "my" salmon recipe are:

1. Freshest and best salmon possible
2. Only natural sea salt, 65 g/kg fillet and a speck of white pepper (that means no sugar or any other spices)
3. No pressure during salting -> mellow product
4. Consistently low temperatures -> preservation of freshness
5. Lightly smoked -> mellow taste

You all have excellent ideas on how to make it. BTW, many years ago I bought smoked salmon in the tax-free store in a Russian airport. It was luxuriously packed and shockingly expensive, something like US$ 200/kg. I think it was called Balik. The quality and taste partly explained the price, and this recipe is quite similar to how I remember the Balik.

As you may know, the area shown in the picture below is very fatty. It probably has to be cut off in order to be able to cut nice slices of the fillet. Don't throw it away! Many people like it. Trim, bag and freeze. I think it's delicious. You know that in sushi making, different parts of the tuna fall into three cathegories depending on the fat, and they are used in different ways. Enjoy experimenting with this part of the salmon! I know I will.


PostPosted: Fri Mar 19, 2010 12:20 am
by grisell
Found it!

- look at the prices... :shock:

PostPosted: Fri Mar 19, 2010 12:57 pm
by saucisson
£126 for a thin central fillet :shock:

This is interesting:

in addition, the temperature of the smoke is, secret and constant. Meteorology has a significant influence on the entire smoking process; atmospheric pressure and hydrometry actually induce the smoking parameters.

Apart from the fact the temperature is a closely guarded secret :roll: :)