Sugar & salt plus salmon is a pretty good start. Add a bit of maple syrup, some wood chips and give yourself a few hours and you’ll have something spectacular: hot smoked salmon with a maple glaze.
It may take time, and a little effort, but it’s so worth it.
Hard to beat on a beautiful Summer’s day, hot smoked salmon is equally delicious warm, with fluffy new potatoes and butter-dipped seasonal asparagus or cold, with mayonnaise on toast or flaked over a leafy green salad.
It’s a dish I’d been looking to give a go for a while but what with two young children, a rugby career and fledging businesses to set up with my wife, Pannacotta and Elza James, it’d passed me by for a while. But when I got a Traeger, with a grill plenty big enough for a side of salmon, and such easy temperature control with the twist of a nozzle, my excuses had run out.
I’m also looking forward to hot smoking a side of salmon on my Kamado Joe – will be very interesting to see how the charcoal smoker compares with wood pellets for flavour.
A few little tips before we get to the recipe below:
- To wet brine or dry brine? I’ve seen and heard that question so many times since I first got into smoking and I have to say I don’t have an answer yet. For my first cold smoked salmon I went for a dry brine so decided here to give a wet brine ago. I’m going to keep experimenting but if you want to go for the latter, the recipe is here.
- Ideally use rock salt rather than a finer salt in the cure because its coarseness cures the meat without imparting too much saltiness.
- If you can, ask your fishmonger to pin-bone the fish for you. Otherwise, run your fingers along the fish and remove any protruding bones with a set of tweezers.
- Bring your cooking temperature up slowly – otherwise you’ll see a white substance appear on the salmon known as albumin. If that happens don’t worry, it’s completely safe to eat, just looks rather unappetising.
- Minimun internal temperature of the salmon is 62C but some argue that cooking to 75C allows for a more smokey flavour. I cooked this to 62C and it was delicious with plenty enough smoke for us.
what you’ll need
Equipment: large dish, for the brine. BBQ/Smoker – ideally with easy temperature control. Basting brush.
hot smoked salmon:
- side of salmon
- maple syrup
for the brine:
- 1 litre water
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup salt
- optional herbs, dill, etc.
Mix together the ingredients for the brine. Place your salmon in a large container and pour over the brine. Cover with cling film, place a tray on top of the salmon and weigh down with a heavy object before placing in the fridge for 12 – 14 hours, ideally overnight.
Take your salmon out of the brine and rinse. Place it skin side down on a cooling rack so air can flow all around and put back it in the fridge for at least 4 hours (you can keep it there for up 12 quite happily if you have the time). Your aim is to develop a pellicle, a skin that forms on the surface of the salmon that will attract more smoke to adhere and increase flavour.
the hot smoke:
Light up your bbq/smoker and bring it to around 60 – 70C.
Remove your salmon from the fridge and place on your grill. Smoke for 2 hours, basting with maple syrup every hour.
After 2 hours, bring your temperature up to 80C and smoke for a further 90 minutes. Continue to baste every hour.
Finally, bring your temperature up to 107C for another 30 minutes to 1 hour. You’re looking for an internal temperature of 62C or slightly higher.
Remove from the smoker. You can eat warm straight away or leave to cool, wrap and place in the fridge. It will keep for up to a week or can be frozen and will last for a few months.