Cold smoked salmon is salmon that has been dry-cured in salt, and then cold smoked at a temperature lower than 80-100 degrees Fahrenheit, which results in a beautiful fish with a velvety smooth and firm texture. This is what makes it different from hot smoked salmon which is brined and hot smoked, and is much flakier and juicer, and can be eaten with a fork. It is a delicacy that has been used in different Northern cultures for centuries.
Cold smoked salmon can be served with brined capers, on grilled toast, in salads, with diced onions, freshly chopped dill, and more.
Here is an easy recipe that will allow you to make delicious cold-smoked salmon easily at home.
General information for the cold smoked salmon recipe
Yield – 8 to 10 servings
Tools and materials required – a Horizon Ranger smoker or similar, a cold smoke generator, alder or wood smoker chips
Ingredients for cold smoked salmon
- Fresh King salmon fillet from the head end of the fish – 2-3 lbs.
- Kosher salt or coarse sea salt – 1.5 cups
- Brown sugar – 1.5 cups
Suggested garnishes for the smoked salmon
- Hard-cooked egg – chopped
- Red onion diced
- Capers – brined and drained
- Lemons – sliced
- Fresh dill – chopped
- Sour cream
- Toasted or grilled toast points
Step-by-step instructions for preparing cold smoked salmon
1. Getting and prepping the fish
Choose fresh and thick fillet, such as King salmon fillet which has a beautiful marbling. Fillets from the head end are more suitable for cold smoking.
Check the fillet for any pin bones and sharp ends with your fingers, and remove any leftover bones with tweezers or pliers.
2. Prepare the cure and cure the salmon
Combine the salt and brown sugar in a bowl and spread about 1/3 of the mixture in a baking dish that can fit the fillet. The fish should have about half an inch of the cure extending from all of its sides. Then cover it thoroughly with the remaining cure until it is completely covered. Curing
the salmon or any other fish helps prevent the growth of bacteria, as well as to season it. You can add other seasonings to the cure, such as chopped dill or coriander. You can also use this brine for smoked salmon to enhance its flavor.
3. Letting it cure
Cover the dish with plastic wrap and let the fish rest in the cure for 24-48 hours in the coldest part of your refrigerator.
4. Rinsing the salmon
Use running water or soak the fish in the water to rinse it off and reduce the saltiness of the salmon. Drain it well and then pat it dry with paper towels.
5. Drying the fish and forming the pellicle
When you have dried the fish, place the fillets with the skin down on a wire rack on top of a sheet pan. Let the fish dry in the refrigerator or hang it or place it in a drying cage in a cool and ventilated place of up to 40 degrees Fahrenheit (which is the safe temperature for storing fish
according to the FDA.) This will help create the pellicle on the surface of the fish. This natural protein coat will allow the fish to be infused with more smoke and will help protect it from being cooked too quickly. The pellicle should form for about 4 hours and can be seen once the fillets start feeling tacky.
6. Set your smoker
Follow the instructions of the manufacturer of your smoker to set it up. It is recommended that you use a cold smoke generator for this process. The target temperature is below 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Depending on the smoker you are using, you can achieve that without fire in the firebox, and with the help of a smoker tube with wood pellets. If the temperature outdoors is above 70 degrees, you can help the cold smoking process by filling the pan beneath the wire rack with ice, but make sure that the salmon is at about an inch or more above it.
7. Smoke the fish until ready
Cold smoking the salmon can take about 12 to 24 hours. You should smoke it until it feels leathery and semi-firm and has a bronzed surface. The ready cold-smoked salmon will look translucent when it is sliced.
8. Chill it and serve the cold smoked salmon
After the salmon is done, wrap the fillets in butcher paper and let it chill, and rest in the fridge for at least 4 hours prior to serving. You can leave it overnight for the best results.
Before serving the smoked fish, slice it into very thin slices and serve it as preferred.