Today, I smoked salmon. I LOVE smoked salmon, and I was very excited to try it out, since I now own a smoker. I started at about 11:00 am, with the already thawed salmon fillets.
The Salmon: Skinless frozen fillets from WalMart. Pretty cheap, and only about 3/4 inch thick at the thickest points. This was 1 lb (four 4oz portions).
The Brine: AKhap’s brine, found on this forum, here: http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/t/127170/hot-smoking-salmon-throwing-down-the-gauntlet. I used 1/4 of a gallon of water, 1/2 cup of brown sugar, and 1/4 cup of non-iodized salt, boiled it, then cooled it. I brined the fillets for exactly 90 minutes.
After their 90 minutes in the brine, I rinsed them with cool water, and patted them dry. The fillets then spent 3 hours under the box fan at a distance of about 12 inches, blowing full-blast to form a pellicle. According to Wikipedia, A pellicle is a skin or coating of proteins on the surface of meat, fish or poultry, which allow smoke to better adhere to the surface of the meat during the smoking process.
Pretty awesome set-up, eh? Box fan over the laundry room sink. I assure you, the fillets didn’t come into contact with anything dirty, although it may appear otherwise.
Here’s one of the fillets once the pellicle had formed. See how it’s darker, shiny, and slightly more translucent on the outer layer?
Three hours under the fan formed what I imagine is a nice pellicle. I have no idea, really, as I just learned what a pellicle is, and this is my first smoking of salmon. It looks lovely to me.
They went into the preheated smoker at 140°F with hickory chips. The internal temperature of the fish was supposed to be 140°F, and it reached that temperature in a surprisingly short time – only two and a half hours. I brought them inside and set them on the stove to cool. Apparently, that white stuff oozing from the tops is another indicator that it’s ready.
I couldn’t resist, and I busted into one of the fillets when it was almost cooled down. The flavor is spectacular, but the pellicle is kind of tough. I am wondering what I can do in the future to prevent the tough pellicle. In any case, the endeavor was more than worth it, because it’s really delicious!
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I’m happy to report that Rich and I bought a smoker with some of our wedding money! It has been great learning all about smoking meat, and other things. Now I’m DYING to get the cold-smoking attachment, so I can smoke cheese, and make lox!
The smoker came in a huge box from Amazon.com. We removed it from the box, and Rich assembled it. It seemed to be a super easy assembly – less than 10 minutes.
The first thing I did was read the little booklet that came with it. It told me about how to use the smoker, and had a few simple recipes. It also told me that the smoker MUST be run outdoors, and MUST be on the ground. No tables for THIS smoker. I decided that the greenhouse is the perfect place to smoke stuff. Warm during the day in the winter, and protected from the wind and rain. AND, most importantly, there is power, and I wouldn’t have to use an extension cord (another ‘no-no’ according to the smoker book). It arrived on October 23, and I seasoned it on November 2nd. It was a long wait.
‘The first thing to do’, said the book, ‘is season the smoker’. Now, I’ve seasoned skillets before, but I didn’t know what might be involved in seasoning an electric smoker. It was easy. 1) Plug in the smoker. 2) Turn it up to its maximum temperature (which is 275°F). 3) Run it for three hours. 4) 45 minutes before the end, put a cup full of wood chips (I got hickory) into the chip receptacle. It worked, it smoked, and it smelled deliciously of campfire.
On November 4th, I did my first ‘smoke’. My Mom and Dad had brought us 2 pork shoulders (AKA ‘pork butts’ – not sure how swine shoulders are the same as butts, but I want you to know there is a HUGE difference between MY shoulders and MY butt) from Sam’s Club in Grand Junction, CO. They paid for the meat, with the agreement that they would get half the smoked meat at the end. They had no idea how much meat they were in for!
I rubbed the shoulders with a rub recipe I got from Dana (she’s the friend who did the food for our wedding reception). It was super easy to make. Here they are, rubbed. I rubbed them the day before, and plastic-wrapped them and put them in the refrigerator over night.
The day of the ‘smoke’, I got up at 7:00 am, clumsy and incoherent, and went out in the freezing cold (31°F – UGH!) and preheated the smoker. I took the shoulders out of the fridge for an hour while the smoker heated up. Apparently, they cook better when they start at room temperature. While I waited for those two things to happen, I covered the two drip pans from the smoker with foil, for easy cleaning later. This was recommended by many people on the Smoking Meat Forum that I joined. These people all seem very friendly, and very willing to help. After the smoker was heated, and the meat was closer to room temperature, I put the shoulders and drip pans into the smoker, added hickory chips to the chip burner, set the temperature to 225°F, and went back to bed. AAHHHHH.
I added chips again when I got up, and though I wasn’t supposed to, I sneaked a peek inside. The shoulders were starting to form their ‘crust’, and smelled magnificent.
My Mom and Dad came over mid-afternoon to see what the new smoker was all about, and I showed them how it worked.
At 8:45 pm, the smaller shoulder was finally done (internal temp: 205°F for pulled pork). I removed it from the smoker, and left the larger shoulder in there to finish, because at that point, its internal temp was only 175°F. I took the smaller shoulder inside, and wrapped it in foil, and set it in the oven (turned off, of course) to rest for a while. As you can see in the photos below, it formed a beautiful (and I can assure you, delicious) crust.
At 11:00 pm, the second shoulder was FINALLY done. I took it out of the smoker, shut the smoker down, took out all the drip pans, and closed the greenhouse doors, so the coyotes wouldn’t be able to get to it. I brought it in, wrapped it in foil, and put it into the oven as I took the other shoulder out.
I prepared to ‘pull’ the first shoulder. I unwrapped it, and with two large forks, pulled it apart completely. It shredded fairly easily, and became pulled pork. It’s amazing how much meat came from just one of the shoulders! When I was done with that one, I wrapped up the meat, and put it into the fridge, and next to it, I put the other shoulder, to be pulled the following day. I took it to my parents’ house, and my Mom helped me shred the second one. The amount of meat was incredible. The shoulders, together, started out at 16.5 lbs. After all was said and done, we got just over 8 lbs of pulled pork. That’s a LOT of meat! Here it is:
I loved using the smoker, and I love the end product! I can’t wait for my next ‘smoke’! *probably salmon*.
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