Since I purchased a Rec Tec Grill I’ve been smoking and grilling all kinds of great stuff. Here’s one of our favorite recipes, Smoked Salmon.
If you have a Costco or Sam’s Club nearby I recommend checking there first for a nice thick piece in the 2-3 pound range. Cut it into whatever you consider serving sized portions, so that when it’s done each piece has nicely smoked edges all around and lots of flavor.
Next, you’ll need to make up a brine to marinate it. Brine is very simple to make, and my recipe is a modified version of the one you’ll find on the Rec Tec site here.
First, let’s explain what a brine is. According to No Recipe Required, brines work when the salt in the brine causes osmosis:
Osmosis, is a process where water moves out of cells. And because salt draws water out, we can use it to actually move water in and out of food… Most brines also contain sugar, to balance out the salt, and bring some additional flavor the party. You can also add many other flavors, like peppercorn, or other spices, herbs, or other flavoring liquids.
Unlike marinades, you need to brine for a long time (I never do less than 8 hours). Short periods will draw moisture out of food, without giving time for it to be pulled back in.
So, here’s the list for my modified brine:
- 8 cups cold water
- 2 cups brown sugar
- 1/3 cup salt
- THAT’S IT!
First warm up about half the water in a pot, then stir in the sugar and salt. The heat will ensure the sugar and water dissolve completely, but keep stirring constantly. After everything is dissolved, stir in the remaining water and let it cool down. You don’t want warm or hot water poured over your salmon or you’ll partially cook it!!!
After the brine cools, put your salmon in a deep baking pan and pour enough brine in to basically cover everything. Then use some plastic wrap to cover everything and stick it in the fridge for 12-24 hours.
Throw It On The Grill
The salmon needs to cook at a low temperature for a while in order to get enough smoke exposure. But the most important thing is not to overcook it! So I HIGHLY recommend that you get a remote thermometer for the fish before you put it on the smoker if yours doesn’t have one built in.
This $30 wireless unit would do quite nicely.
Set the smoker to 205 degrees. You might also consider spending $20 on a fish and vegetable smoker mat. It prevents food from sticking to, or falling between, grates.
At this point, your job is just to wait until the salmon reaches 145 degrees internal temperature. As it nears completion you’ll see some oil begin to seep out on the top of the fish. That’s normal.
Don’t let it cook any longer or it will definitely dry out. Here’s what the fish is doing at different temperatures according to On Food And Cooking:
- 70°F: Soft, slick, smooth, and translucent. Fiber-weakening enzymes are active, and some water begins to escape.
- 100°F: Soft, slick, smooth and translucent with a wet surface due to accelerated water leaking from protein cells.
- 110°F: Protein begins to shrink, flesh becomes firmer, opaque, and juice is exuded.
- 120°F: Flesh continues to shrink and becomes resilient, is less slick and more fibrous, opaque, and exudes juice when chewed or cut.
- 130°F: Sheets of protein begin to separate and become flaky, fiber-weakening enzymes denature and become inactive.
- 140°F: Protein continues to shrink, the texture becomes firm, fibrous and fragile, and little free juice is left. Collagen dissolves into gelatin.
- 150°F: Protein is becoming progressively more firm, dry, flaky, and fragile.
- 160°F: The flesh is stiff and dry. All protein fibers have denatured and coagulated.
When it’s done it’s ready to eat! So enjoy!
Here’s another version cooked on a Rec Tec grill using cedar planks:
And here’s a “dry brine” version from the guys at Rec Tec: