Cold Smoked Salmon

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I’ve had a tabletop smoker for hot smoking for years and I use it often, for instance to make hot-smoked salmon or hot-smoked scallops, or to smoke a brisket or a ham hock before cooking it sous-vide. Such a smoker does two things at the same time: cooking (it is basically a small oven that gets pretty hot inside) and smoking. It takes 15-20 minutes to cook to food, so that is also how long you can smoke it without overcooking it. You can’t make ‘smoked salmon’ (i.e. salmon that is only cured and smoked, but not cooked) with it, as you can only generate smoke by heating up the entire smoker.

Now I have a new contraption, which is a “cold smoke generator”. It is basically a ‘maze’ that is filled with smoking dust and then lighted on one end. The smoking dust will burn very slowly in about 10 hours, generating smoke but hardly any heat. You can put this smoke generator in any closed but ventilated space, such as an outdoor grill. For cold smoking the temperature should not be above 30ºC/85ºF, so it is ideal to use in winter time. If you want to smoke something for more than 10 hours, you can simply fill it up with smoking dust again and continue to smoke.

I hadn’t realised this “cold smoke generator” would be so easy to operate and work so well, or I would have bought it much sooner. I tried it with salmon, and the result was amazing. The process starts the same as gravlax, and then you simply fill the cold smoke generator with smoking dust, light it, and wait for 10 hours. The result is amazing, much better than most store-bought smoked salmon. The traditional (Swedish) mustard sauce that is great with gravlax, is also great with this. Here’s what I did…

Ingredients

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The recipe can be scaled to any amount of salmon

500 grams (1.1 lbs) fresh salmon with skin [100%]

250 grams (.55 lbs) salt [50%]

50 grams (1/4 cup) sugar [10%]

2 Tbsp fresh chopped dill

1/2 tsp juniper berries, minced

1 Tbsp black peppercorns, crushed

cold smoke generator + enough smoking dust to fill it

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For the mustard sauce

3 Tbsp Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp fresh chopped dill

3 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp lemon juice

1 Tbsp powdered sugar

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preparation

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Combine the salt, sugar, dill, pepper, and juniper berries in a shallow container that is just big enough for the piece of salmon. Stir to mix.

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Cover the salmon with the mixture, then cover the container and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, but better is 24 or even 48 to cure the salmon.

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This is the same as for gravlax; the salmon will be cured: it will release some juices and firm up.

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Rinse the salmon under cold running water.

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Pat the salmon dry carefully with paper towels. It is important that it is completely dry.

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Fill the cold smoke generator with fine smoking dust (oak) and light it with a small candle.

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Put the smoke generator in a grill or other closed but ventilated space together with the cured salmon.

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Remove the candle after a couple of minutes…

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…and close the grill.

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Keep the grill closed to keep in all the smoke. The dust in the smoke generator will burn up slowly, following the ‘maze’.

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The grill will stay cool.

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In the meantime you have plenty of time to make the sweet mustard sauce. Combine the mustard, dill, sugar, salt, and pepper in a bowl.

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Whisk to mix.

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Add a single tablespoon of olive oil…

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…and whisk to incorporate. Repeat with the other two tablespoons of olive oil.

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Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

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By the time I was ready to serve the salmon, the smoke generator hadn’t even completely burned up yet.

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The salmon had obtained a very pleasant smoky flavor. I bet it would be even better after 24 hours of cold smoking, which is what I’m going to try next.

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Slice the salmon thinly on an angle.

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Serve it with the mustard sauce.

Wine pairing

This is great with many white wines, especially oaked ones that are not too heavy like a white Burgundy. Also champagne works very well.

Flashback


I find recipes with butternut squash are often lacking in taste, or don’t taste of squash. This spaghettini with butternut squash and sage is not only very tasty but also tastes of butternut squash.

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16 thoughts on “Cold Smoked Salmon

    1. Sempre di più… 1 planetaria, 2 robot, 1 frullatore ad immersione, 2 affumicatori, 2 per cuocere sottovuoto, 1 per sigilare sottovuoto, 1 macchina per gelato, 1 affettatrice, 1 macchina per sfoglia, 1 friggitrice, 1 per fare pane, 1 spremiagrumi…

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  1. That looks excellent Stefan. Commercially, here in Ireland, some of the producers smoke for 10 hours. The Quinlan’s in Co. Kerry, for whom we are doing a bit of work, smoke their wild salmon for between 20 and 24 hours. It is an awesome product. Yours looks excellent. I really approve of you knife skills.

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  2. Happy New Year Stefan! Looks absolutely delicious. I love how you always have cool cooking machines and material – must be quite something to smoke cold something for 10hours long. I’d love to try it out … only need to find a cold smoke generator and a bbq as good as yours 😉

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  3. Hi Stefan,
    I’m enjoying your blog immensely, you are very talented, and your photography is stunning. If you want to add a food photography tutorial it would be well received!

    I tried cold smoking salmon recently (I forgot to add ventilation to the cardboard box I used which ended up warm smoking the salmon instead) and the instructions called for a 12 hour Pellicle formation period in the fridge after washing the salt off.
    Did you do this too? Or did it work well without this step?

    Here’s the instructions I followed.
    http://www.smoker-cooking.com/coldsmokedsalmon.html

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    1. Hi, thanks for the nice message. I don’t think of myself as a photographer, but I have learnt a lot over the last three years so perhaps I may do a tutorial after all.

      I skipped the pellicle formation and it still came out great. With the pellicle it will certainly *look* better though.

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  4. Hi, Stefan

    Thank You for your blog with many tips for a sous vide freshman. My absolutely favorite way to make salmon nowadays is to combine elements of this recipe: graving -> cold smoking with sous vide cooking inbetween (36-40 C/25 minutes). I use cold smoking time only about 1 hour and then let flavour mature in the refrigerator overnight. At 36 C fish remains still sliceble with a sharp knife, but is nicely softened. I also use a little bit less salt as in common graving. When smoking is quite light also for example asian flavours can be combined with this dish.

    In Finland is available commercial electric smoke generator:

    http://www.savusampo.fi/

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    1. Hi Mika, glad you like the blog. I actually prefer salmon at 43C because it becomes so wonderfully buttery. I like your idea of cold smoking it first, I’ll have to try that. What other things do you like to prepare sous-vide?

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