smoked salmon flaked
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Smoked salmon has been a tradition for centuries. Wherever salmon has been caught, the smoking process has been essential for preserving the fish and enjoying its intense fatty and oily flavor. So, quite naturally, there are many recipe variations and techniques to produce smoked salmon. With this recipe, we take a page out of the pastrami playbook and add pepper to the salmon during the smoking process. And no, it’s not too spicy, and here’s why. We soak four types of pepper (black, white, red, and green) in water for 15 minutes to soften them up and then scatter them on top of the salmon before smoking. During the smoking process, the smoke combines with the pepper, making each bite of smoked salmon burst with piquant pepper and salmon flavor.

WHY YOU SHOULD TRY THIS OFFSET SMOKER SMOKED SALMON

smoked salmon flaked
  • A unique twist on traditional smoked salmon – The salmon is finished with a blend of 4 whole peppercorns: black, white, red, and green. This brings an entirely new and unique flavor to traditional smoked salmon.
  • Inexpensive to make – Buying smoked salmon from a grocery store, a gourmet food purveyor, or even online can be very expensive. And the portion size is tiny. So, smoking your own whole salmon filet and creating your own unique flavor is relatively inexpensive.
  • Elegant presentation – The finished smoked salmon is a beautiful piece of art to behold. The four different colored peppercorns, along with the finished silky texture, create a brilliant and elegant presentation. With the addition of a few traditional condiments (discussed below), your family and guests will be so thrilled that you chose them to serve this.
  • Uncomplicated smoking process – This is literally one of the easiest recipes to smoke with your offset smoker. It takes only 1½ to 2 hours to smoke, depending on the thickness of your salmon filet. So, just set it on your grill grate and forget it! Really!

INGREDIENTS FOR OFFSET SMOKER SMOKED SALMON

  • 1 2½ – 3 pound whole skin-on salmon filet
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh diced ginger
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1½ cups water
  • ¼  cup honey
  • ¼ cup mixed whole peppercorns – black, white, red, green

DIRECTIONS FOR MAKING OFFSET SMOKER-SMOKED SALMON

1. Bring your offset smoker to temperature – You will want to maintain a temperature of roughly 250 degrees throughout the entire smoking process.

2. Gather the ingredients – Combine the sugar, salt, ginger, allspice, cloves, and bay leaves with the water, stir and bring to a gentle boil. Let cool for 15 minutes. Pour hot tap water over the peppercorns and allow them to soak for 15 minutes.

smoked salmon ingredients

3. Pour the brining mixture over the salmon – Rinse the salmon filet in cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Place the salmon in a shallow-rimmed oven tray, skin side down, and pour the brining mixture over the salmon. Spoon the brine over the salmon until the salmon is completely wet. Cover the salmon with aluminum foil.

smoked salmon with brine in pot

4. Place the salmon in the refrigerator – This is a two-step, 16-hour refrigeration process. First, leave the salmon covered with the foil for 8 hours, occasionally spooning brine over the salmon. Secondly, remove the foil and pour off the brine into your kitchen sink—no need to keep the brine. Place the salmon uncovered back in the refrigerator for an additional 8 hours.

salmon in tray with brine

5. Remove the salmon from the refrigerator – Place a large sheet of aluminum foil on a cutting board large enough to hold the fish. Spray cooking spray on the foil. Place the salmon on the aluminum foil. With a pair of scissors, cut the aluminum foil around the salmon, following the outline of the salmon.  

salmon on foil after brining

6. Brush the salmon with honey– Completely brush the salmon with the honey. This helps the peppercorns stick to the salmon. Scatter the peppercorns evenly over the salmon and gently pat the peppercorns to help them stay in place.

honey on salmon with peppercorns
salmon with peppercorns

7. Place the salmon onto the smoker – Take the cutting board to your offset smoker and slide the salmon off the cutting board onto the grill grates. Smoke the salmon at roughly 250 degrees for 1½ to 2 hours. You will know when the salmon is finished when the temperature is 140 degrees in the thickest part of the filet.

salmon on grill grate

8. Remove the salmon from the smoker – Using your cutting board again, slide the smoked salmon onto the cutting board. Allow the smoked salmon to rest uncovered for 15 minutes.

finished smoked salmon

VARIATIONS AND SUBSTITUTIONS FOR OFFSET SMOKER-SMOKED SALMON

Try different brines – Different brines will impart different and enjoyable flavors to your salmon. Although most brines have a combination of sugar and salt as their base, try adding different combinations of pineapple juice, orange juice, lemon juice, soy sauce, ginger ale, ginger beer, white wine vinegar, cider vinegar, champagne vinegar, or sweet sherry.

Use another kind of fish – Other types of fish with a fatty, oily texture are traditional and preferable for brining and smoking—white fish, trout, mackerel, bonito, wahoo, bluefish, and mullet. Just remember, if you choose to smoke any of these varieties of fish, the size of the fish will affect the time it takes for the fish to be brined and smoked. Smaller fish = less time, and larger fish = more time.

Additional condiments and garnishes – Caviar and smoked salmon run in the same family: elegant, exquisite, opulent, luxurious, delectable, luscious, sophisticated, and expensive. A combination of additional condiments and garnishes that enhance and accentuate the exotic flavor of smoked salmon (and caviar!) are chopped red onion, capers, sour cream, crème fraiche, fresh herbs such as dill, thyme, and chopped chives, and crumbled hard-boiled eggs. And let’s not forget the blini and toast points, too.

Pro Offset Smoker Tip #1 – There is a good chance that your salmon filet will need to be trimmed, so remove the thin portions on the side of the filet. You only want the thick part of the filet for brining and smoking. But don’t throw the trimmings away, OH NO! Put these pieces in the brine, too. Then, spray a small wire oven rack with cooking spray, place the trimming on the wire rack, and place the rack nearest to the heat as close to the hotbox as possible. In about 15 minutes, you will have the most delectable little snack to keep you satisfied until your smoked salmon is ready to come out of the smoker. You’re welcome!

TIPS AND TRICKS FOR  OFFSET SMOKER SMOKED SALMON

Follow these simple tips and tricks to make smoking salmon easier:

Coordinate the time from the refrigerator to the grill grate – The timespent in the fridge is 16 hours. So when do you put it in the refrigerator and then start smoking in a 24-hour period? I have it worked out for you! Place the brined salmon in the refrigerator in the afternoon at 2 PM, then pour off the brine in the evening at 10 PM; that’s 8 hours. Place the salmon back in the refrigerator uncovered for another 8 hours, so it’s out at 6 AM. Fire up your smoker soon after that, and you’ll be having your sublime smoked salmon for brunch!

ALWAYS use foil under the salmon – The foil does NOT impede the salmon from getting the smoke it needs; it keeps the salmon from falling through the grill grate, and it ensures that the salmon stays in one piece and does not break up as you slide it on and off the grill grate. No matter what you’ve heard elsewhere, if you try to smoke your salmon on your grill grate without foil under it, you’ll wish you had heard this from me first.

Heat the honey in the microwave – Pour the honey into a small microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 15 seconds. This will soften up your honey enough so you can easily brush it on the salmon.

Place the salmon in the smoker on the hour or half hour – This will help prevent you from asking, “Do you remember what time I put the salmon in the smoker?”

Place the salmon vertically on the smoker – Place the salmon on the offset smoker vertically, not horizontally. This will ensure the smoke flows over the salmon evenly from tail to head, so the entire filet receives smoke at the same time.

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Offset Smoker Smoked Salmon

Servings: 10
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 2 hours
Marinate + Refrigerate: 16 hours
smoked salmon flaked

Equipment

  • 1 Offset smoker
  • 1 Oven Tray shallow-rimmed
  • 1 Aluminum Foil cut to fit the salmon fillet
  • 1 Kitchen Brush

Ingredients 

  • 2½ – 3 lbs. salmon fillet
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. fresh ginger, diced
  • 1 tsp. allspice
  • 1 tsp. cloves, whole
  • 3 bay leaves, whole
  • cups water
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup peppercorns, whole, mixed (black, white, red, green)

Instructions 

  • Bring your offset smoker to temperature – You will want to maintain a temperature of roughly 250 degrees throughout the entire smoking process.
  • Gather the ingredients – Combine the sugar, salt, ginger, allspice, cloves, and bay leaves with the water, stir and bring to a gentle boil. Let cool for 15 minutes. Pour hot tap water over the peppercorns and allow them to soak for 15 minutes.
  • Pour the brining mixture over the salmon – Rinse the salmon filet in cold water and pat dry with paper towels.Place the salmon in a shallow-rimmed oven tray, skin side down, and pour the brining mixture over the salmon. Spoon the brine over the salmon until the salmon is completely wet. Cover the salmon with aluminum foil.
  • Place the salmon in the refrigerator – This is a two-step, 16-hour refrigeration process. First, leave the salmon covered with the foil for 8hours, occasionally spooning brine over the salmon. Secondly, remove the foil and pour off the brine into your kitchen sink—no need to keep the brine. Place the salmon uncovered back in the refrigerator for an additional 8 hours.
  • Remove the salmon from the refrigerator – Place a large sheet of aluminum foil on a cutting board large enough to hold the fish. Spray cooking spray on the foil. Place the salmon on the aluminum foil. With a pair of scissors, cut the aluminum foil around the salmon, following the outline of the salmon.  
  • Brush the salmon with honey– Completely brush the salmon with the honey. This helps the peppercorns stick to the salmon. Scatter the peppercorns evenly over the salmon and gently pat the peppercorns to help them stay in place.
  • Place the salmon onto the smoker – Take the cutting board to your offset smoker and slide the salmon off the cutting board onto the grill grates. Smoke the salmon at roughly 250 degrees for 1½ to 2 hours. You will know when the salmon is finished when the temperature is 140 degrees in the thickest part of the filet.
  • Remove the salmon from the smoker – Using your cutting board again, slide the smoked salmon onto the cutting board. Allow the smoked salmon to rest uncovered for 15 minutes.

Nutrition

Serving: 5oz.Calories: 290kcalCarbohydrates: 34gProtein: 23gFat: 8gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0.001gCholesterol: 62mgSodium: 100mgPotassium: 691mgFiber: 2gSugar: 28gVitamin A: 83IUVitamin C: 0.4mgCalcium: 68mgIron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: BBQ
Tried this recipe?Mention @drizzlemeskinny or tag #drizzlemeskinny!

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About Keith Morrison

Chef Keith has been a cook, restaurateur, and food writer for nearly 50 years. Since graduating of culinary school, Keith has completed classes at the world famous Le Cordon Bleu Paris, and has been a chef, manager, owner, consultant and recipe developer for dozens of restaurants and catering companies.

One of Keith's many cooking loves is BBQ in general and the Offset Smoker in particular. Keith has participated in competition BBQ for many years.

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