Prep 24 hrs
Cook 4 hrs
You have to plan ahead to make this but it's well worth the time and effort. It keeps well but never lasts long enough to have to worry about that!
- Buying the Fish: Buy tail sections and have the market fillet them for you, leaving the scales on the fillets.
- Prepping the Fish: In a large airtight container, completely cover the fillet (s) with equal parts kosher salt and sugar.
- Refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.
- When the fish has"cured" discard the sugar/salt mixture and the accumulated liquid and soak fish in ice water bath for 30 minutes.
- No need to refrigerate during this time.
- Next rinse in cold tap water to remove as much salt/sugar as possible.
- Pat dry with paper towels.
- Finally place the fillet (s) on an oiled grill rack (cooking spray works great) and let air dry for about 30 minutes.
- The fish should have a glazed appearance and be slighly sticky to the touch.
- The Fire: Follow the instructions for your smoker.
- Use a minimum of charcoal.
- The wood may be green, but use only hardwoods.
- Alder is the most traditional wood used to smoke fish, but it can be hard to find.
- Be sure to use wood chunks and not chips.
- Sears sells mesquite wood chunks that work well.
- Hickory works fine also.
- Once you have your chunks, soak in water overnight.
- Start the charcoal as usual allowing it to burn down until it's good and white.
- I usually start the fire about the time you set the fish on the rack to dry.
- When the fish has finished drying and the fire is ready, spread the coals out evenly and add the hardwood.
- Fan if necessary to get the smoke going.
- Depending on your smoker, the lid may need to be cracked slightly so as not to choke out the fire.
- The draft hole in the bottom of the charcoal pan should remain clear.
- Check it frequently.
- The Water Pan: Always use the water pan with your smoker.
- The fish is cooked by steam.
- The best things to add to the water for flavor are white wine, oranges quartered, apples quartered, tarragon and rosemary but you can just use your imagination and throw in whatever you like.
- Replenish the liquids in the pan as necessary.
- Cooking the Fish: Put the fish, skin side down,on the top rack position in your smoker.
- Fish will be done in about 1 1/2 hours but it's bettter when left up to 3 hours.
- The temperature shouldn't go higher than 225º.
- The low should be 150º.
- The fish is done when the thin end of the tail section starts to curl up.
- Remove the fish from the smoker and allow to cool to room temperature.
- Remove the skin.
- The fish that sticks to the skin is a delicacy and belongs to the person who worked so hard to smoke the fish (be careful, it's very rich).
- To Eat: Spread cream cheese on cracker and top with salmon, purple onion and capers.