Smoked Pink Salmon Recipe

By Langdon Cook June 7, 2013


This article originally appeared in the July 2013 issue of Seattle magazine.

From Fat of the Land

Begin with a simple brine of brown sugar, salt and garlic—which is really all you need—with a dry brine being easier and less messy than a wet brine.
4 cups dark brown sugar
1 cup pickling salt
1 head garlic, cloves peeled & chopped
Black pepper to taste

Mix the dry brining ingredients. Generously cover each piece of salmon (I cut pink salmon fillets into thirds), then place skin up in a nonreactive dish. Refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours. The brine will have become a soupy mess after water has been leached out of the fish. Gently rinse off each piece and allow to air-dry on paper towels for a couple of hours until a pellicle forms—the tacky (not wet) outer layer of flesh that is so loaded with flavor.

For the actual smoking, I use a Weber Bullet, but it’s possible to employ a regular gas grill in a pinch. A water pan is essential for keeping the fish from drying out. For wood chips, I like to use fruit trees: apple or cherry if I can get it. Alder is good, too. If not green, the chips need to be immersed in a bucket of water for 30 minutes, then tossed on the coals in handfuls. Everyone has his or her own theories about temperature and smoking duration. Hot smoking will always be quicker than cold smoking. Because pink salmon fillets aren’t thick, I usually figure on smoking for about an hour, and even with a small amount of coals, maybe an hour and a half at most.
The last step is vacuum sealing. I’ve kept properly packaged smoked salmon in the deep freeze for two years without any appreciable loss of flavor or tenderness.


Read Langdon’s “The Pink Salmon Are Coming.”


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