Fillets 3/4 inch (2 cm) thick – or less – can be processed faster than thick fillets, but don’t hesitate to use thick fillets if that is all that is available.

If the whole fillets are too long to be processed easily, they can be cut into pieces of a more manageable size. In any case, the skin should never be removed from the fish when it is being processed. Removal of the skin will make the fish much more difficult to handle, and the appearance will suffer. Use very fresh fish or fish that has been fast frozen.

Cure

For 5 lbs. (2.25 kg) of fish

  • Tbsp. (45 ml) Bradley Demerara Cure (do not use more than this amount)
  • 1 tsp. (5 ml) white pepper
  • 1 tsp. (5 ml) garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. (5 ml) onion powder

Note: If the meat weighs either more or less than 5 pounds (2.25 kg), the amount of cure mix applied must be proportional to that weight. For example, if the weight of the meat is 2 1/2 pounds (1.15 kg), then each ingredient, including the Bradley Cure, needs to be cut in half. If more than one curing container will be used, it is best to prepare the cure blend to match the weight of fish in each container.

Day 1&2

  1. Measure all ingredients into a small bowl and stir until uniform.
  2. Place the fish in a plastic food container. If slits were made in the skin, rub some cure mix into the slits. Apply the rest of the cure to the fleshy side of the fish; apply the cure a little more heavily wherever the fillet is thick.
  3. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours. During this period, rub the surface of the salmon gently two times to redistribute the cure.

Day 3

  1. Prepare the smoker for drying at 100°F (40°C).
  2. Oil the skin side of the salmon with salad oil; this oil helps to prevent the skin from sticking to the smoking rack.
  3. Place the fish on the smoking racks with the skin side down. Dry at 100°F (40°C) in the smoke chamber (with no smoke) until the surface of the fish becomes dry and smooth to the touch. This drying will require about 1 to 2 hours for a salmon fillet
  4. Cold smoke at the lowest temperature possible for about 3 hours. Then, over a two-hour period, gradually step the temperature up to 170°F (76°C) to temper the flesh. Continue to smoke.
  5. Continue to smoke at 170°F (76°C) for 2 hours.
    Don’t go higher than 170°F (76°C); if this temperature is surpassed, the texture of the flesh might change to that of over-cooked fish. If the fillets are thin, they should be done after 30 to 45 minutes of additional smoking. Thicker fillets will require more time. An experienced food smoker can judge doneness by appearance, feel, and smell.
  6. Let the fish cool at room temperature for about one hour.
  7. Refrigerate the fish, uncovered, overnight.
  8. The next morning, the fish may be wrapped in plastic food wrap or be put in plastic bags.