Real smoked salmon, salmon cooked by the heat of the smoky fire and infused with fabulous smoky flavor, can be made without a smoke house. Any common grill will do, as long as you set it up as outlined below.
- About 2 pounds of
- salmon filet or how much will fit on the rack below
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup coarse sea salt
- 1 Tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 to 1 cup wood chips (I love the taste that cedar brings to salmon, but hickory is easier to find)
- Before anything else, be sure to pull out any pin bones from the salmon filet(s). Then combine the brown sugar, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Put about 1/3 of it on the bottom of a baking pan, set the salmon on top and cover the salmon with the remaining sugar-salt mixture. Cover and chill for at least 4 hours and up to overnight. The mixture will pull out moisture from the salmon and infuse it with flavor, helping create the distinctive extremely firm, slightly sweet flavor of traditionally smoked salmon.
- Put the wood chips in a large bowl, cover them with water, and let them soak at least 30 minutes. Drain them - being careful to catch any wood bits from going down the drain and clogging the pipes or messing with the disposal (a lesson hard learned!). Put them in a small smoker box that comes with some grills, or simply put the soaked chips in an aluminum loaf pan or even a bowl you fashion out of tin foil.
- Prepare your grill for indirect heat. For gas grills, heat 1/2 of however many burners you have and set a foil-wrapped pan with about an inch of water in it under the cooking grate, on the turned-off burner. For charcoal grills, light a fire. When the coals are ready, push them to one side and set a foil-wrapped pan with about an inch of water in it on the other side of a coal grate.
- Put the wood chip container over the hot part of the grill. Rinse the salmon from its sugar-salt mixture, pat it dry, and set it skin side-down on the cool side of the grill, on the cooking grate that is over the pan of water below. Cover and cook until the salmon is fully smoked and flaky, about 20 minutes.
Serve the salmon warm, at room temperature, or chilled. Note that although the salmon is smoked, it is not shelf-stable. It will last about a week in the fridge, but isn't preserved beyond that point.