We purchased a combo gas grill/pellet smoker last spring and haven’t used the smoker because we so dreaded “learning a new grill thing”. At Thanksgiving our son-in-law helped us with our first thing, and we’ve been going strong ever since! We didn’t know how easy it would be! It is like cooking in your oven. Turn it on, and use. Last weekend we decided to try smoking some of the salmon Ron brought back from Alaska last summer. We took it out of the freezer to have on Sunday during the Vikings game (whew-win BTW), and I started looking for recipes. Little did I know you have to brine the salmon overnight, etc., etc. Then I found one you can do all in one day, so I tried it. It is a total game (pun) changer for our salmon prep now!!! Dare I say the best salmon I’ve ever had? Full of flavor, super moist, divine warm out of the smoker with crackers and whipped cream cheese!
I didn’t have lemon, so used orange zest and squeezed in a little juice. The orange was so good, I may never try lemon!
MIX: Pat the salmon dry and check it over for any leftover pin bones. If you find any, remove them using fish bone tweezers. In a small bowl, mix together the salt, brown or maple sugar, lemon zest and black pepper, if using. Add the vodka and use your fingers to crumble the cure mixture into a damp sand texture.
CURE: Spread the cure mixture evenly across the surface of the salmon, making sure it is completely coated. Cut a piece of plastic wrap large enough to completely wrap the salmon fillet up tightly. Lay the plastic on top of the salmon and cure mixture, then carefully flip the salmon over so that the plastic is on the bottom and the fillet is now skin side up. Tightly wrap the salmon all around with the plastic wrap. Place the wrapped salmon on a plate or rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate for 2 hours.
RINSE: Unwrap the salmon and discard the plastic. Under cold running water, rinse the salmon well, carefully ensuring that all the cure mixture is rinsed off. Put the salmon on a plate and let it dry somewhere cool for 30 minutes or so, ideally under or near a fan if at all possible.
SMOKE: While the salmon is drying, fill the hopper of your pellet grill with your choice of alder, hickory or maple wood pellets. Set the pellet grill to the Smoke setting and preheat the grill until it comes up to temperature. Place the salmon fillet directly on the grill grates, skin side down and close the lid. Smoke for 45 minutes.
COOK: Increase the temperature to 225 F / 105 C. Cook until the internal temperature of the salmon reaches 140 F / 60 C, about 35 – 45 minutes, depending on your grill, the outdoor temperature and the thickness of the salmon. Remove the salmon from the grill.
CHILL: Let the hot smoked salmon rest and cool a little before flaking it with a fork and serving it warm. Or you can refrigerate it until fully chilled before serving it cold. You can refrigerate the finished hot smoked salmon for up to 3 days, but remember that it will not last as long as the hot smoked salmon purchased from stores, due to the relatively short cure and smoking times.
Don’t use table salt, or any other kind of salt with added ingredients that will affect or compromise the finished flavor.