I cannot describe how excited I was to make this! It took about two days but come on, home-smoked salmon? Worth it. I based this off of Alton Brown’s home smoked salmon recipe, however the “smoker” is much different than what he used and so is one of the ingredients.
For this to work, you absolutely need to make sure that the salmon is as dry as fathom-ably possible in order to get a nice smoke on it or else it will just steam, which is not what you want.
For starters the smoker, you can take on pan you want, but make sure that it’s at least 4 inches tall maybe 5 just to make sure. Also you are going to need a nice flat surface on which to put your salmon while its “brining”. I used a metal steamer and oiled the skin of the salmon a bit before placing it on the steamer to avoid it from sticking. I have attached some photos and hopefully they will be helpful in showing you how to make a home-made smoker.
We will be using a dry brine made with salt, honey powder or honey, and black pepper. i like to use honey rather than sugar because its much sweeter and you end up using less of it. I also like the flavor more of honey than actual brown sugar (which is what Alton Brown’s version called for). I might also add that when I talk about a salmon fillet, i mean a WHOLE salmon fillet. don’t make the same mistake I did and cut the salmon in half and use the same recipe (i.e. 1/4 cup salt and 1/8 cup honey) to brine about 1/2 of what I thought a whole salmon fillet was. We’re talking the whole “almost as long as my arm” salmon fillet. Of course if you are only using half of a salmon fillet then feel free to cut the recipe in half (not exactly sure what 1/16 of a cup is or how to measure that but good luck).
- 1/2 a salmon fillet (meaning a very short piece of salmon cut from a bigger piece)
- 3 tbsp. honey or honey powder
- 1/2 tbsp. of crushed black pepper
- 2 tbsp salt (heaping tablespoons!)
- a brick (this is actually somewhat necessary, a heavy book is a nice replacement as well or if you have a nice pie in the firdge that has a smooth bottom and is till in the pie pan, that works too)
- a nice wide and shallow plate
- plastic wrap
- a handful or two of wood chips (alder, hickory, apple, cedar, etc…… but NOT mesquite)
- mix together the pepper, salt, and honey
- pat dry the salmon completely. this is very important, the salmon must be dry
- rub onto both sides the salt/honey/pepper mixture and place in plastic wrap then put on a plate a place the brick on top (this allows for that nice flat appearance that smoked salmon always has). make sure the plate has some depth as a little bit of liquid will come out of the salmon. Place in the fridge for a total of 16-24 hours flipping the salmon halfway through (its not too big of a deal but I would still do it).
- After refrigeration, take out the salmon, dump any liquids that escape, and rinse of the salmon (so its not too salty), pat it dry completely and let it sit for about 1-3 hours or until it dries completely and begins to form a nice glaze on top. You should both be able to see this glaze and feel it. The salmon should feel a little sticky and slick. NOTE*: do not put it back into the fridge for this step or else it will never glaze over, place it in a cool and dry place like your kitchen counter or something
- start your “smoker”. heat up the pan with the wood chips in it (see above for how to make a home-made smoker using just your pots and pans) and wait until you begin to either smell r see the smoke rising from the pan. Or you can rely on scent to tell if its ready. it smells like burning wood.
- Place your fish on the steamer or metal surface of choice but oil the skin a bit first to prevent it from sticking.
- “Smoke” in medium high heat for about 30-45 minutes depending on how thick your salmon is. Always check for done-ness
- If your salmon does come out a little too salty for your taste you can always put it in the fridge and use it for a nice and wonderful salad, otherwise enjoy!
this recipe was altered for 1/2 a salmon fillet. For a whole one just use about 1/4 cup salt, a whole tablespoon pepper, and maybe a 1/4 cup honey or honey powder (remember honey is much sweeter than sugar).