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Old 09-08-2008, 09:36 PM   #1
Lemon Lime
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Join Date: 02-18-08
Location: Olathe, KS
Default Smoked Whole Salmon

My nephew is getting married and my sister has asked me to smoke several "whole" salmons for the event. I have some wonderful recipes for smoking salmon fillets but could use some advice on how to smoke a whole salmon. I guess it's for the aesthetics (sp?) or she wants the presentation of a whole salmon. Any help out there
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Old 09-08-2008, 10:32 PM   #2
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Join Date: 09-11-07
Location: Seattle

This is a recipe I developed with a nod to several of my neighbors when I lived in the floating home community of Seattle. What I like best about this is it leaves the salmon firm, but not dry and hard like some - nor is it soft like lox. This is a photo of a salmon side - with the tail, head and belly portions removed to provide even thickness and make a good fit in the smoker. If you have a larger smoker, I used a Char-Broil H2O smoker so the size was limited, you could put the entire salmon on it - but I do recommend you consider trimming it so you get a consistent product. One thought - I used a wild Alaskan Sockeye salmon - and this is a fairly inexpensive product in Seattle - that many grocery stores sell as a whole salmon for about $4.99 a pound.

Salmon is high in beneficial oils, low in saturated fat and cholesterol – and easy to prepare in so many ways. This recipe results in a moist fish that is delicious served as an appetizer or side courses at a party. (The filet pictured is about 12" long.)
Prep time: 1 hour & 8+ hours curing
Cook time: 1+ hour depending upon heat of smoker and size/thickness of salmon
Serves: 10+ as appetizers

1 3-5 lb filet side of salmon more than 1+ inches at the thickest part and about 12 inches long
2 cups brown sugar
½ cup pickling salt
1 3oz. Bag of commercially prepared “crab boil”
1 Tbsp black strap molasses
Have fish monger remove pin bones from salmon
Trim the thin parts of the filet – the last 3” of the tail and the belly area if you wish – use them in soup or scramble with eggs for breakfast!
Rinse the salmon filet under cold running water and pat dry with paper towel
Combine brown sugar, pickling salt and contents of crab boil bag into bowl – dry mix together.
Add enough water to these dry ingredients to make into a semi-dry wet slurry - just beyond the texture of wet paste.
Place salmon filet in large 2” deep dish or largest size sealable plastic food bag and coat the flesh with the slurry.
Cover the dish tightly with plastic wrap or seal the bag and place in the refrigerator overnight (8+ hours)
2 hours before you are ready to smoke the fish, remove from refrigerator
Scrape off the slurry mixture and place into wire sieve to drain – the desired outcome to save all of the little pieces of crab boil
Place salmon filet flesh side up on baking sheet and pat dry. (Do not rinse)
Spread the remaining bits and pieces of crab boil on the fish flesh
With great restraint carefully criss-cross a very thin line of black strap molasses on the salmon flesh – over the top of the crab boil pieces
At this point you have two choices:
A. Allow the toppings on the fish to dry naturally until “tacky” to the touch – takes quite a while and not recommended
B. Use a hair dryer on low setting to speed up the drying process until the toppings on the fish are “tacky” to the touch.
1. Prepare your smoker to a temperature of approximately 250F. For this dish I recommend alder or cherry – or a combination of both. Prepare and use in your smoker per instructions of the manufacturer
2. Make certain the grill grates are clean of all debris from previous cooking.
3. If you use a “wet” smoker – this dish is perfect for this type of device. If you use a “dry” smoker consider maintaining a bowl of water in the smoker to help preserve the moist texture of the fish.
3. Use your hands placed in support under the fish filet to lift and place flesh-side down on the grates so the grates cross the fish side-ways (not length-wise.)
4. Close smoker and maintain even temperature and smoke for between 1 – 2 hours depending upon the heat of your smoke, the number of filets you are smoking and the thickness of the fish
5. Remove grate from smoker (use gloves to protect from heat!) with fish still on it and place an 18” baking pan on the top of the fish – then “flip’ the fish and grate so the baking sheet is on the bottom
6. Remove the grates from fish – the grates will have heated and ‘split’ the fish (see photo) giving an appearance of having scored the flesh with a knife.
7. Place in refrigerator to hold until ready to serve with dark breads, sliced red onions, cream cheese, lemon wedges, capers, etc.
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Old 09-09-2008, 02:22 AM   #3
somebody shut me the fark up.

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Join Date: 01-14-06
Location: At home on the range in Wyoming

Originally Posted by Lemon Lime View Post
My nephew is getting married and my sister has asked me to smoke several "whole" salmons for the event. I have some wonderful recipes for smoking salmon fillets but could use some advice on how to smoke a whole salmon. I guess it's for the aesthetics (sp?) or she wants the presentation of a whole salmon. Any help out there

From an avid fisherman's point of view, I can see where your sister is coming from as far as having a whole fish with the head and tail intact, although from experience I can tell you that most folks don't share that opinion. That said, she knows what she wants, but maybe she is not considering the downside to serving a whole smoked fish......

First off, the skin on a whole one is not as attractive as say the side above garnished with multi colored peppercorns, (that was a smooth plug wasn't it?), and you either have to deal with the skin disposal at the serving table OR you have to de-skin the up side. If you do de-skin for serving, you expose the gray/dark layer of fat, so that is what you see. If you don't de-skin, guests really butcher the fish trying to work off the skin before plating any fish.

Next is the bone issue.... a fillet can be de-boned 100% and serves very easily, just by flaking. A whole fish will have both the pin bones and rib bones intact. Bones can be another big turn-off for many folks, they try to leave them on the serving platter and when they do get a piece of fish to their plate, they search for more bones or just try to eat around them. If you are serving sauces (especially thicker white sauces), they can hide pin bones, until you swallow one or two. (this does not usually require the Heimlich maneuver, but may require some dry cleaning if the choker is drinking red wine) Now.... once the up-side has been eaten, you either have to lift out the head, ribs, backbone and tail or flop the fish over, which is another hassle. You will notice quite a bit of waste from a whole fish left on the serving platter, compared to serving a fillet.

Okay, that is my two cents. For the rest of the answer, no matter wich way you decide to go, tell us what kind of smoker you have. That will really help when the suggestions start coming in.

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Old 09-09-2008, 02:34 AM   #4
somebody shut me the fark up.
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Join Date: 07-11-06
Location: Norco, Ca.

Sorry no help to offer.
Low and Slow.....

The Prontologist is in...
Ok let's see your Butt!
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Old 09-09-2008, 09:00 AM   #5
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Join Date: 10-17-06
Location: Oklahoma

Keep some real lemon juice nearby for the bones....if somebody swallows a bone and it gets lodged a swig of juice will softn it up a bit....
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Old 09-09-2008, 09:11 AM   #6
big brother smoke
somebody shut me the fark up.

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Join Date: 05-03-06
Location: Ventura, CA

You might want to suggest to her to cook one whole salmon for show and serve the fillets to the guest. Thirdeye stole most of my .02

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Old 09-09-2008, 09:12 AM   #7
somebody shut me the fark up.
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Join Date: 08-13-03
Location: St. Peters MO

Looks like you already got some great advice. But's here's an alternative to fillets to consider. It's steaks. If you smoke the head and tail along with the steaks, you can reasseble on a platter for presentation purposes.
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Old 09-09-2008, 01:46 PM   #8
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Join Date: 08-18-08
Location: Corte Madera, CA

Agree with Big Brother. Smoke one whole for looks and then fillets for flaking and gobbling.
CB's method looks real good too! Can's argue with a guy from Seattle about smoked salmon.
The Costco here usually has real fresh salmon. Both Sockeye or King. The King is going to have more fat. Some folks like the extra fat fo flavor. Not sure if they have a Costco near Olathe but sure you can find some good fish somewhere near by.
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Old 09-09-2008, 02:11 PM   #9
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Location: Geneva, IL

Agree with above.

Whole filet with pin bones already removed is easiest to cook and eat.
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