If you love hot smoked salmon but don’t own a smoker, then this recipe for hot smoked salmon is for you. This method involves rigging up a smoker in your kitchen (on a gas stove) using wood chips, aluminum foil, a round cake rack and a wok. The salmon that emerges has a big, bold smoky flavor with a little bit of a sweet-salty thing going on too.
The texture of salmon hot smoked this way, rather than in a real smoker, is moister and less flakey (expect the middle to look similar to what a fillet of regular cooked salmon looks like). So, it’s not exactly the same thing, but if you love a smoked flavor then you’ll love this salmon in its own right.
While you’ll be tempted to eat it right out of the smoker, hot smoked salmon tastes best when chilled. Served over a bed of greens, it makes a killer salad. The recipe specifies wild salmon, and by now most of you know exactly why: wild salmon has more healthy omega-3 fats and far fewer toxins than farmed salmon.
This method of smoking won’t send smoke billowing through your house; no need to pull the batteries out of the smoke detectors. But it will make your house and wok smell pleasantly smoky in a sitting-around-the-campfire kind of way for the next day or so.
Time in the Kitchen: 16 to 24 hours for brining and drying, plus about 20 minutes to smoke
1 pound wild salmon, skin on, 1 to 2 inches thick (450 g/2.5cm to 5cm)
1 quart cool water (950 ml)
1/4 cup kosher salt (75 g)
1/4 cup brown sugar (75 g)
1/4 cup coconut aminos (optional, for flavor only) (60 ml)
A large handful of wood chips. Alder, apple, cherry, oak or maple work fine. Don’t use mesquite, the flavor will overpower the salmon.
Wok with a lid
Cooling rack (to dry fish)
Round cake rack that fits inside of the wok
Cut salmon fillet into four even pieces. The salmon will cook best if each piece is generally the same thickness all over. In a large bowl combine salt, sugar and coconut aminos with 1 quart of cool water and stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Add the fish to the bowl and brine for 8 to 12 hours.
Take your fish out of the brine and pat it dry.
Put the fillets on a cooling rack set over a baking sheet, skin side down. This step is important to dry out the surface of the salmon before smoking. There are two ways of doing this. One, place the fish in a cool room under a ceiling fan or near a regular fan for 2 to 4 hours. Or, put the rack of fish uncovered in the refrigerator for 8 to 12 hours.
After the fish has completed the drying process, then make your smoker:
Line a wok with two big pieces of foil that hang over the edges by 4 to 6 inches (10 cm to 15 cm).
Add a thin layer of woods chips. Set a small round cake rack over the chips.
Place the salmon on the rack, skin side down.
Bring the sides of the foil up over the salmon, pinching the ends closed to form a tent in which the smoke can circulate around the salmon. The tighter the foil is sealed, the less likely that smoke will escape out into your kitchen.
Put the lid of the wok on tightly.
It’s a good idea to smoke one fillet alone first, to get a sense of what your ideal smoking time is both for the flavor of fish and the doneness. After you experiment with the first fillet, you can then smoke the remaining three fillets at the same time. As a guideline, use these smoking times and heat levels for salmon with a robust smoky flavor that is cooked all the way through. 1-inch thick fillet: Turn the heat on the gas stove to medium-high for 4 minutes, then down to medium for 12 minutes. 2-inch thick fillet: Turn the heat on a gas stove to medium-high for 4 minutes, then medium for 20 minutes.
You can peak inside to check on the progress, even break off a piece of salmon to try, and then re-seal the foil and keep smoking if it’s not done.
If the flavor of your first fillet turns out too smoky for your taste, then keep the fillets in the wok for a shorter amount of time and finish cooking the salmon in a 200 ºF/93 ºC oven.
Hot smoked salmon is fully cooked. Although regular hot smoked salmon (smoked in a real smoker) keeps longer, when using this specific method to smoke salmon, it’s best to eat it within a few days.