Cold Smoked Salmon

Cold Smoked Salmon

If you’re a fan of smoked salmon, you’ll love cold smoked salmon. This delicious smoked fish is perfect for a light lunch or dinner. In this blog post, we’ll show you how to make your own cold smoked salmon at home. We’ll also share some recipes that you can make with your smoked salmon. So, if you’re ready to get started, keep reading!
Cold Smoked Salmon

What Is Cold Smoked Salmon?

Cold smoked salmon is basically salmon that has been cured, usually with salt or brine, and then cold or warm smoked. Cold-smoking generally only takes a couple of days, whereas hot smoking can take up to several weeks.

Cold-smoked salmon is also called Nova style lox because it originated in Nova Scotia, Canada. It’s typically prepared by seasoning the fish with salt or brining it overnight to draw out excess moisture. You can buy some varieties imported from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland due to their long traditions of producing this type of fish for export to North America. However you will seldom see them in your average grocery store unless you live near the ocean (or if you’re lucky enough to have a nearby Scottish or Irish shop).

Traditional cold-smoked salmon is cured with a dry mixture of salt, sugar and sodium nitrate. The amount of time required for curing depends on the thickness of the fish. A couple days is sufficient for thin fillets; up to two weeks or longer is needed for thicker ones.

Smoking occurs in small batches that are typically cooked over burning hardwood sawdust, but some producers use other sources of heat such as steam or hot air. You can even buy electric smokers suitable for smoking everything from mackerel to beef these days.

A common question about smoked salmon is whether it’s raw or has been cooked in any way before it’s prepared for sale since the smoking process doesn’t always cook the flesh thoroughly. The method of curing and cold smoking salmon naturally preserves the fish and kills any harmful bacteria that might be present in undercooked or raw salmon.

Step-by-Step Guide: How To Make Cold Smoked Salmon?

Making cold smoked salmon is easy and fun, but there are a few things you need in order to get it done correctly.

At its simplest, cold smoking involves placing wood in a firebox and allowing the heat from the smoke and smoldering wood to gently cook food by exposing it to thin blue smoke for an extended period of time. Cold smoked salmon is a popular dish in kitchens all over the world.

Also, smoking can add to flavor and texture of food products by combining heat with the chemical reaction brought on by exposure to smoke from burning wood. In addition, cold smoked foods should continue to be stored in cool conditions because it will spoil quickly.

What You Will Need to Get Started

Before you begin making cold smoked salmon, there are a few pieces of equipment that you should have. If you don’t already have them, there are many places online where you can buy what’s needed at reasonable prices. The most important piece is the smoker itself. There are two main smokers used for cold smoking foods: an electric smoker and a water smoker.

An Electric Smoker is an appliance that has one or more heating elements inside, which are used to heat wood chips, pellets, or chunks to generate smoke for cooking foods. The heating element gets hot enough to produce smoke without creating flames or heat high enough to cook the food. You can buy either type of smoker at almost any home improvement store. They are available in sizes with power ranging from about 700 to 1,500 watts. Electric smokers are great for making cold smoked salmon because you can regulate the heat by turning the electric elements on or off.

Water Smoker or water pan is an appliance that has a smoke pan and a heat source (most commonly an electric heating element) located directly underneath it. You can buy water smokers in many home improvement stores or online.

Smokehouse, Smokette, Smokerator, WSM (Water Smoker), Brinkmann Smoke ‘N Grill are some of the most famous smoker brands that provide smoker salt to food enthusiasts in order to make delectable dishes like cold smoked salmon.

The firebox is the compartment where you put dry wood and start a fire to generate smoke. For cold smoking, you’re not going to want a big electrical heating element in this box. It’s just going to take too long to cool down after adding new wood for it to continue generating smoke.

Primary Components of a Simple Cold Smoker

The following are all of the components you need for a cold smoker. The primary differences between electric and water smokers is that electric smokers don’t have a water pan, so they will need to have something placed in the smoke pan to elevate the product being smoked above the heat source. This can be a water-tight container filled with ice or anything that will allow the product being smoked to be elevated above the heat source.

It’s also important to keep in mind that no matter what kind of smoker you’re using, it should always either be on a flat surface or placed on something sturdy enough to support it. Whatever you use for placement should also be heat-resistant.

The components of a cold smoker are listed in this order: 1) Electric or Water Smoker, 2) Smoke generator (wood chips, pellets, chunks), 3) Cold smoke box with rack to hold the food being smoked, 4) Heat source used to generate smoke (electric heating elements or water pan). It’s important that none of these components are placed directly on top of any of the others. [2]

How To Make Cold Smoked Salmon? – Step By Step Guide

  1. Add your favorite spices to salmon fillets and let sit in refrigerator for at least 6 hours, then rinse off with fresh water before placing on cooling racks inside cold smoker box. This will cure the fish so it’s not just plain raw salmon, but also has the flavors of your added spices.
  2. Prepare your cold smoker by plugging it in and adding some wood flavor pellets or chips to the smoke generator (powder coated steel box with small door on top for adding flavor enhancers). Close lid of cold smoker securely before smoking salmon fillets.
  3. Place salmon fillets skin side down (if it has skin) on racks inside cold smoker box, making sure they are at least 2-inches apart from each other to allow smoky air flow around them. Close lid of smoker securely and turn heat on low or medium if you’re using an electric water smoker since you don’t want to cook the fish curing it, only generate flavorful smoke.
  4. Add wood flavor pellets or chips every 30 minutes to the smoke generator box to produce smoky air that will be pulled through cold smoking salmon fillets. Keep lid closed and heat source on for 1-1/2 hours, then check with fork to see if salmon is done (fork should easily pierce it without resistance).
  5. Remove racks of smoked salmon from inside smoker and place in refrigerator for at least 8 hours before removing skin off of fish and cutting into individual pieces ready for use or storage in freezer bags or vacuum sealer bags. Salmon can be stored in refrigerator up to 2 weeks, but not longer than this since it could develop an unpleasant taste if left too long past its prime. 
  6. Always save your leftover wood chips, pellets, or chunks to use again later. They can be re-used up to 3 times before the smoke flavor intensity will begin to weaken.

You can now enjoy delicious cold smoked salmon anytime you want with these simple steps!

Can You Eat Cold Smoked Salmon Raw?

Cold smoked salmon slices are raw, but it is fully cooked through. Cold smoking the fish only adds flavor to the raw salmon. The temperature of cold smoking does not need to rise beyond 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius). That doesn’t mean you can serve the smoker salmon without freezing it first. According to food safety guidelines, all seafood should be frozen at a temperature of -4 Fahrenheit (-20 Celsius) or below for a minimum of 24 hours before being consumed. You can also properly heat the smoked salmon in an oven, over a grill or with hot oil in a frying pan.

Are Smoked Salmon Slices Cooked?

This is a question that we’ve received recently. The answer depends somewhat on what you mean by “cooked”. If you’re specifically asking whether or not smoked salmon slices will burn if held over a fire, the answer is no. Smoked salmon slices are technically cooked already when they are being smoked in the smoker. If you’re asking whether or not it is safe to eat, then the answer is that it depends on your personal preference.

If you choose to eat smoked salmon slices in their raw form, it is important to buy quality food in order to minimize risk of illness due to bacteria. It’s also important to be aware of the signs of bad smoked salmon, such as a slimy texture, odour, or discoloration. In general, it’s best to eat only pre-packaged and sealed deli meats unless you can verify that they have been kept at a proper temperature.

How To Eat The Smoked Salmon Recipe?

You have many options on how to eat this recipe depending upon your own personal preference and taste buds! The smoked salmon slices can be eaten by themselves, on a bagel or cream cheese, on a sandwich or in a salad. It’s also great on crackers and tortilla chips with guacamole, sour cream and lime juice!

How Long To Cold Smoke Salmon?

Cold-smoking fish is an ancient method of preserving seafood. In this process the food is not cooked but simply salted then hung in screen-covered boxes from which wood smoke circulates over them for days. This results in beautifully marbled pink fish with an intense smoky flavor throughout. This process does not heat above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius). If you want to cook it further after smoking, do so before eating because uncooked cold-smoked fish is not safe to eat.

How Long Should I Smoke Salmon?

When it comes to smoking salmon, the only thing that matters is how you like it! Some people like their smoked salmon moist and tender, while others like it dry and firm. The best way to smoke salmon is by using a brine solution first, but if you don’t want to bother with this process there are other things you can do.

You could soak the salmon in salt water for up to 20 minutes before you smoke it. The brining process helps remove excess moisture from the meat, so if you are one of those people who doesn’t want their fish too moist… this is a good idea. Brining also gives your salmon that signature salty flavor that everyone loves!

Tips On Making The Cold Smoked Salmon

  1. Keep the salmon cold at all times, even when preparing. Keep it in the fridge or freezer up until you are ready to smoke it.
  2. Do not smoke over mild direct heat – this would overcook the outside before still leaving the center raw. Instead, place a drip tray half filled with water underneath your smoking apparatus to keep things cool.
  3. Keep the temperature of your smoker or grill as low as possible – anything above 100˚F will cook the salmon too much and you’ll end up with something dry and unappetizing. Ideally, aim for temperatures between 70 and 90˚ F (21 to 32˚ C).
  4. The smoke time depends on the size of your salmon, but you will need to smoke it for about 2 hours.
  5. You can tell if the salmon is done by poking at the thickest part with a fork – it should break apart easily and not feel raw inside. It should also flake apart without too much effort.
  6. If you are planning on using the smoked salmon in several dishes then you might want to consider cold smoking over hickory or oak wood shavings or chips that provide more intense flavor than fruit woods like applewood or cherrywood. Cold-smoking means smoking your food without bringing it above 90˚ F (32˚ C). If you don’t have a smoker, use your grill on its lowest heat setting.
  7. Cut the salmon into thin slices before serving – this allows all of that delicious smoked flavor to be tasted by your guests.

Cold Smoked Salmon vs Hot Smoked Salmon

Cold-smoking salmon results in a firmer fish than hot smoking, which yields something similar to lox found at your local deli. Cold smoked salmon usually has less salt content too since it’s not cured for as long as hot-smoked lox would be. If you’re buying cold smoked salmon online or from an upscale grocer, you will often see it labeled as Nova or Scottish smoked salmon – the latter being a common variety with a strong smoky flavor.

These days you can find more than just cold-smoked and hot-smoked salmon on store shelves. In Japan they have been making kama-sutra smoked salmon for many years, which is basically fish that’s been lightly seared from a hot smoking process followed by cold smoking at lower temperatures to reduce moisture loss. The result is a product with a beautiful sheen and intense smokiness, but not as firm as traditional cold-smoked fish.

Factors To Consider When Choosing Salmon For The Smoker:

Here some factors to consider when choosing salmon for the smoker.

When it comes to purchasing salmon, obviously there are many factors that influence you decision. Fresh wild caught fish will always be the best tasting and healthiest option available no doubt. But if you were forced to buy farm raised fish, here is how to make your purchase as healthy as possible…

  1. Freshness:

The first factor to consider is the freshness of the fish. Farm raised salmon should be eaten within 1-2 days after it has been caught because it can go bad if not kept cold enough. So, this means that if the fish is sitting in a hot truck for hours and you live far away from where it was caught, it’s not going to be very fresh when you get home.

And this is why buying directly from the fisherman or fish market is better than buying at a local grocery store, because there will be less time between harvesting and purchase.

  1. Composition Of The Diet:

The diet that the fish is fed should be as natural as possible. It would be ideal to have a 100% salmon diet, but this isn’t feasible because of cost and availability. The best solution is to feed the fish a combination of other small fish which feeds on algae rather than commercial pellets made from soybeans or other animal by-products.

So ask your local fisherman how their catch is being fed, what other types of small fish they are using and if there are any animal by-products included in the formula. If you can get an answer like “100% krill” then it’s even better.

  1. Smell:

Wild caught salmon should NOT smell fishy at all, and neither should farm raised salmon that are being fed natural diets. If the fish has a strong chemical smell or if it smells really fishy, then it’s not fresh and should be avoided.

  1. Color:

The color of the flesh is also very important. Wild caught salmon have a pinkish hue to them because they eat krill which is high in astaxanthin which gives it this deep pink color. Farm raised salmon that are fed artificial pellets will have grayish meat because they don’t get any astaxanthin in their diet so all you get is non-pigmented protein which isn’t good for your health at all.

  1. Product Of Origin:

One last thing I recommend doing is tracking down where your salmon comes from. If it’s possible, trace the boat where your fish was caught or find out who caught it and contact them to find out exactly which fishery it came from. If you can’t do that, then at least try to get your fish from a source with as little travel time as possible so the freshness is maintained.

  1. Fat Content:

The fat content of the salmon is also something to consider. Wild caught fish always have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids than farm raised fish because they eat natural prey (krill), which contains high amounts of omega 3’s. Farm raised fish are fed artificial pellets, so they don’t get any beneficial nutrients from their diet… But this doesn’t mean that it’s ok to just pick up any piece of farm raised salmon and start eating it. The levels of heavy metals in farm raised fish is a huge health concern, so there is definitely a “better” option.

  1. Price:

Finally, keep in mind that wild caught fish will always be more expensive than farm raised. Farm raised is a huge industry and controlled by very few companies which produce artificial pellets from all different types of food waste, whereas wild caught is an open fishery with limited quantities.

So if you want to eat high quality salmon every day but can’t afford it, I suggest alternating between the two styles of fish… And try to minimize buying farm raised as much as possible because what you’re getting isn’t good for your health whatsoever.

The only way that one could justify eating farm raised salmon would be if they were very poor or couldn’t find a trustworthy source for wild caught salmon.

Cold Smoked Salmon: What Does It Taste Like?

Cold-smoked salmon is usually more expensive than hot-smoked lox, but it’s also leaner and less salty. You can find cold smoked salmon that’s been seasoned with all sorts of different flavorings; everything from traditional cured seasonings like dill to more exotic toppings like wasabi or teriyaki sauce.

On the other hand, if you buy your cold smoked salmon online (or at an upscale grocery store) you’ll likely get plain varieties without any additional flavoring beyond salt (though some places do sell gravlax style fish with dill, lemon and vodka).

Traditionally fishermen would use Scotland’s famous malt whiskey for flavoring their cold-smoking process, but these days you’re just as likely to see smokehouses using local herbs and spices. For example, on the coast of Alaskan fishermen will cold-smoke salmon with alder wood or wild fennel.

Smoked Salmon: How to Serve It

There are all sorts of delicious ways to enjoy smoked salmon including the popular bagel with lox spread made by spreading cream cheese mixed with lemon juice and red onions onto a bagel half; then topping it off with sliced smoked salmon (assorted capers are often added for extra flavor). Other favorite concoctions include traditional Greek salads like tzatziki (cucumber yogurt dip) that use smoked salmon instead of fresh fish.

What Type Salmon Should I Use For Cold Smoked Salmon?

 

Cold-smoking salmon is a favorite around here. It tastes just as good as hot smoking your salmon, but it doesn’t require any heat at all. Plus you only have to wait one day for smoking, rather than four or five days of hot smoking.

In order to cold-smoke your fish, first you need to make sure you can find a type of salmon suitable for cold smoking. What kind of salmon should you use for cold-smoking?

Here’s what you need to know:

#1) You Can’t Cold Smoke Farm Raised Salmon

The farm raised fish are fed food pellets that make them fat, which in turn makes their flesh flabby and soft. If you cold smoke a farm raised salmon it will taste terrible because the fat goes rancid during the smoking process and it has an unpleasant smell and flavor.

#2) You Can Cold Smoke Most Types Of Wild Salmon

Some wild salmon is still flaky and fatty enough to make good smoked fish (like king or red salmon), but not all wild salmon can be cold smoked. You cannot cold smoke most types of coho or pink salmon, for instance. Those types of fish are generally too lean and will come out tasting terrible. If you’re using a particular type of wild salmon to make gravlax or lox, then you should not use it as a candidate for cold smoking either.

#3) Use Salmon That’s A Few Weeks Old

The older the fish is, the better it will work for cold smoking. Fish that is freshly caught needs to be cured as soon as possible–preferably within 24 hours–in order to avoid spoiling it in transit from the sea to your kitchen. After three weeks, though, the fish will be cured, and its flesh will be firmer, less fatty, and more flavorful. It’s also easier to de-bone the fish after it has been curing for several weeks; if you try to de-bone it too soon, the bones might shred apart in your hands.

#4) Avoid Using Whole Salmon

If you’re using an entire salmon (head on) instead of fillets or pieces then the flesh is thicker and may not absorb enough smoke flavor during smoking. If you use a whole salmon make sure that it has been butterflied first*, which essentially means splitting it open like a book so that there is no “lid”. The fish should lie flat when placed on racks and hit evenly by smoke.

#5) Skin The Fish (Or Not)

You can skin the salmon before or after brining, but it doesn’t really matter which way you go. If you do decide to leave the skin on then be sure to score the fish on both sides first so that the smoke flavor penetrates every part of your fish.

*Butterflying a whole salmon is not easy if you are inexperienced with sharp knives and delicate workmanship. I don’t recommend this activity unless you have some experience filleting large fish or if you want an advanced challenge for yourself–otherwise you might badly injure yourself, ruin your dinner plans/potential cold-smoked salmon, etcetera… 

#6) Use A Quick Method For Brining The Fish

When you’re making cold-smoked salmon, it helps to split the process into two separate halves: curing and smoking. Curing means that you soak your fish in salt brine for a day which makes the flesh firmer and less prone to spoilage during smoking. During this step, you should not use any heat at all! The smoking phase is when the salmon is actually smoked with hot smoke from an indoor smoker or outdoor smoker/barbecue grill. This phase only takes a few hours to complete.

If you don’t have time for a whole day of brining then try soaking your fillets overnight in a wet brine instead. The next morning just pat them dry, rub on the salt/sugar mixture, and put them in the smoker as soon as possible (preferably within an hour or two).

#7) Watch Out For Over-Curing The Salmon!

After a day of brining, your fish may come out too salty. If this happens to you then soak the salmon in cold water overnight and check it again the next morning. The texture should be back to normal after one night of soaking. If not, then submerge it for another night or two until the flesh softens up. Some people also like to soak their cured fish in sour cream overnight; I can’t vouch for this myself because I’ve never tried it and I’m not really sure how it would work…

#8) Use A Sugar And Salt Mixture

The word “salmon” is actually a reference to the fact that these fish tend to eat lots of salt-loving plankton in the wild. This is why it can be difficult at times to get your salmon just right during the curing stage; you might not be able to stop your fillets from tasting too salty after brining. The solution? Add sugar, brown or white, to your curing mixture! These both balance out the salt and make sure that your cold-smoked salmon tastes like…well, salmon (unlike overly salty bacalao ).

#9) Dry Before Smoking

When smoking any type of seafood with high moisture content (such as salmon), the fish must first be dried before it can absorb enough smoke flavors; this is true for cold-smoking and hot-smoking. If you try to put a wet piece of fish into the smoker then it will start to steam and you won’t get any smoke penetration at all. Drying your fish means that there should not be any liquid whatsoever on its surface. The flesh should feel dry, almost like leather, even if it came out of brine recently with some amount of moisture still trapped inside the cells.

FAQs

Do I Need To Cook Cold Smoked Salmon?

Small amounts of cold smoked salmon can be eaten ‘as is’ but usually goes well with some accompaniments. Most people prefer to heat it through or eat it on toast or a bagel with cream cheese. It can also be used as an ingredient in cooking, for example salads, pasta dishes, baked fish and omelets. The oil from the fish holds flavor well so try not to discard it once you have removed the salmon fillet from the smoker. Make yourself a batch of scrambled eggs or home fries by frying some potatoes until golden brown then adding beaten eggs and chopped pieces of smoked salmon. This will make wonderful brunch served with fresh squeezed orange juice!

Should Use Fresh Salmon Or Frozen Salmon For Smoked Salmon?

There will be little to no difference between using fresh or frozen salmon for smoked fish. Since the fish is being processed it doesn’t matter whether it has been previously frozen as long as you are going to cook it before eating. Many people prefer to use wild-caught Alaskan Sockeye or king salmon since these types of salmon have a much lower fat content and firmer flesh which means they hold together well during smoking and result in a better tasting product. It is definitely advisable though to use a high quality fish if you plan on serving the smoked salmon ‘as is’. The oil from an average farmed Atlantic can easily ruin your dish so try not to incorporate pieces of low quality fish into your salmon salad.

Why Smoke Salmon?

Cold smoking is just one step in the process of making smoked salmon. There are actually two different ways you can prepare fish for smoking: hot and cold smoking. Although both techniques use smoke, they have very different cooking temperatures. Hot smoked fish is cooked at a temperature that falls somewhere between 200-250°F whereas cold smoked fish does not cook the fillets at all before eating, it simply cures them so any bacteria on the surface of the fish will be killed by the salt or sugar cure mix without being fully heated during the process of smoking, thus creating a completely raw product. Both forms of processed seafood are perfect for serving with some corned beef hash but only cold smoked salmon is recommended to be used in made dishes and recipes.

What Temperature Do You Smoke Cold Smoked Salmon?

You will be cold smoking salmon at a very low temperature, somewhere around 90-100°F. The reason for this is if you were to use a higher temperature the fat from the fish would render down and leave large globs of yellowy goo floating around in your smoker or grill which doesn’t make for a pleasant eating experience! In addition, the lower temperature allows the flesh acts tenderizer, naturally breaking down some of the proteins within it causing it to become softer and easier to chew. Keep in mind that although this does result in a slightly softer end product it can still take several hours until fully cooked through. If you plan on serving the salmon as is, right from the smoker, then it can take up to 12 hours before it reaches your ideal consistency. If you’re planning on incorporating the smoked salmon into a recipe then reduce that time down to about 2-4 hours or until it reaches your desired level of done-ness.

What Is The Difference Between Smoked Salmon And Lox?

There is none. This labeling mistake comes from a combination of poor translation and marketing – there is no difference between the two terms – they are both used to describe ‘brined’ or cured salmon products. Smoked salmon refers specifically to cold smoked fish where lox will be hot smoked at a higher temperature so some of the fat melts away from the flesh which results in a more firm product. Lox is also typically brined with salt only, whereas smoked salmon can be brined using a number of different liquids or brine mixtures.

Does Cold Smoked Salmon Need To Be Heated Before Eating?

You can eat cold smoked salmon raw or cooked. If you plan on serving this fish as an appetizer then it is strongly advised that you cook it before eating to destroy any bacteria on the surface of the fillet (just like with any untreated meats). Although smoking does kill off most of the unwanted germs naturally, problems could arise if you were to incorporate pieces of fish that weren’t completely covered in your final product.

Is It Safe To Eat Cold Smoked Salmon?

Yes, absolutely! However, if you are looking for a stronger tasting end result then do consider cooking your cold-smoked salmon first. You will need to heat the fish until it reaches at least 145°F for 15 seconds because although high temperatures will kill off all the bacteria it will also destroy some of the flavour. If you plan on using cold smoked salmon as part of another recipe then there is no need to cook the fish first because any harmful bacteria will be killed off by the salt or brine mix during the smoking process itself. Why not try making some homemade bagels with cream cheese and Nova Scotia smoked salmon?

How Long Does It Take For Salmon To Cure?

A typical curing time for cold smoking salmon is between 6-12 hours depending on the thickness of your fillets. Once cured you can use this fish in a number of different recipes or serve it alongside corned beef hash to create an appetizing breakfast dish. Smoked salmon will keep for around seven days if stored correctly inside your refrigerator.

Conclusion 

We hope you enjoyed learning about the latest trend in smoked salmon, cold smoking. Cold smoking is a new technique for preserving and flavoring fish that has been gaining popularity over traditional hot-smoking methods due to its gentler process which preserves more of the natural flavor of food.

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