Tom’s Smoked Salmon

This salmon makes a welcome appearance for parties and holiday meals at Glover Gardens.
This salmon makes a welcome appearance for parties and holiday meals at Glover Gardens.

The Grill-Meister is also a Smoke-Meister.  His wood-smoked salmon is truly awesome.  He started making it years ago with a recipe that came with his first electric smoker and then experimented with different variations.  The White Zinfandel in the brine is a must, he says, having been disappointed when he used other wines or liquids.  (I think he may have found the world’s only good use for White Zinfandel, but that’s another story.)  Tom’s Smoked Salmon is a holiday and party appetizer staple at Glover Gardens, year-round.

Even people who don’t like fish think Tom’s Smoked Salmon is awesome.  It’s just that good.

This recipe is based on the use of an electric smoker that uses wood chips.

Tom’s Wood-Smoked Salmon

Start with 1-2 skinless and boneless fillets this size
Start with 1-2 skinless and boneless fillets this size

1-2 long boneless and skinless salmon fillets; about 3 lbs.

Note:  have the fishmonger remove the skin for you; it’s much easier than doing it yourself and makes for a cleaner and more attractive finished product

Brine:

⅓ cup sugar
¼ cup salt
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 cup white zinfandel wine
1 cup water
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. Tabasco

Note: Tom’s spice mixture is amped up from the recipe he started with, and we like it that way.  Dial it back a bit if you want a milder flavor, or increase the amounts for an even zestier kick.

Cut salmon horizontally across the fillet into chunks that are about 2-3 inches wide. Combine all of the brine ingredients in a large bowl, then add the salmon, ensuring that all of the pieces are immersed in the brine by putting plastic wrap directly on top and then placing a plate on the wrap to push the salmon into the brine and keep it there.

Refrigerate the bowl of salmon in brine for eight or more hours or overnight.

Prepare the smoker and set it to 180-185°F, following the instructions to add wood chips (preferably hickory, alder or cherry) during the pre-heat.  Remove the salmon from the brine and pat dry with paper towels.  Lightly spray the wire racks with non-stick spray.  Arrange the salmon pieces on the racks, ensuring that the pieces on each rack are similar in size and thickness.  When the smoker is ready, place the thickest salmon pieces on the bottom rack and the thinnest ones on top.

Smoke for 2-3 hours, depending on the thickness of the salmon, until it is firm (but not stiff) to touch. Thinner pieces may be removed first, then you can reduce the temperature to ~150-160°F and smoke thicker pieces an additional 1-2 hours. Times and temps may vary depending on smoker, salmon thickness and individual preference.

Tip: If the chips stop producing smoke, crank the temp back to 180+, and then lower it again after the smoke re-starts. Keeping the temp as low as possible creates smokier salmon without drying it out.

IMG_0516
Tom’s Smoked Salmon is a marvelous appetizer in any season.

The Little Chief is a great first foray into wood-smoking.
The Little Chief is a great first foray into wood-smoking (their photo).
This is the current smoker the Glover Garden Grill-Meister uses to create smoky goodness.
This MasterBuilt is the current smoker the Glover Garden Grill-Meister uses to create smoky goodness (Amazon photo).

Tom started his wood-smoking journey with a Little Chief electric smoker.  It’s a little workhorse and is still going strong 20 years later at our cabin in the Rockies. The current smoker at Glover Gardens is a MasterBuilt version with a window and electronic controls (click here to see the exact model; he recommends it).  Another blogger shared some good information about electric smokers:  click here.

There probably won’t be any leftovers, but if there are, you could make our Smoked Salmon Spread (or dip) or try this recipe for a next-day salad.  Or you might want to make a double batch, so that you can use a pound of the salmon to create Bon Appetit’s Smoked Salmon 7-Layer Dip.

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