Alder Smoked Salmon a Traditional Favorite of the Pacific Northwest
Smoked salmon slow cooked using alder wood for the source of smoke will produce a unique tasting fish, synonymous with the Pacific Northwest.
Anyone that has a fish smoker from the most basic model all the way to the top of the line bbq smoker can experience what quality smoked fish is all about.
There are five species of pacific salmon indigenous to the waters of the Northwest. All of them work very well in the smoker. My favorite is King Salmon. They have a very high fat and oil content which translates to flavor, which is exactly what you’re looking for.
Whichever type of salmon you decide to smoke, it should be the freshest you can get your hands on. Once you have your fish, it needs to soak in a brine and air dry before it goes in the smoker.
The brine can be as simple as 1-cup of salt and 1-cup of sugar, mixed until dissolved in 1-gallon of cold water. You can add spices, herbs, juices or sauces to the brine to create your own unique flavor of smoked fish.
Cut the fish in pieces of equal size and thickness then place them in the brine, making sure that they are totally submerged. How long do you brine the fish? There is no right answer. It just depends on how you want your fish to taste. Some people like it very salty, others like it slightly salty.
Using the basic brine previously described, about four to six hours will deliver a slightly to medium salty flavor with a hint of sweetness. Make sure to brine your fish in the refrigerator to prevent spoilage.
When the brining is done remove the fish, rinse with cold water and pat dry. Arrange the fish on a drying rack of some kind, leaving a little room between each piece. Let it air dry until it is slightly tacky.
Now place the fish in the smoker, again leaving a little space between each piece. A non stick spray on the racks will help when removing the fish from the smoker racks. I like to use alder wood for smoked salmon. It gives the fish a sweet mild smoky flavor.
The fruit woods such as apple and cherry work very well also. Hickory and mesquite are a little more intense so be careful with those.
Start smoking your fish at about 120 degrees for the first hour, then slowly raise the temperature to 180 degrees over the next hour or so. Continue to smoke the fish for another 4 to 6 hours, keeping in mind that the outside temperature will affect the cooking time.
The fish should be slightly firm to the touch and flake easily when broken apart. Desired doneness is entirely up to you and your taste.
Just about everyone uses a different brine and various smoking times that work for them. So be bold, experiment a little, you never know, you might come up with a very special smoked salmon.