We have tested this and the results are unworldly scrumptious. Some recipes have you slather all sorts of hooey on salmon using the same technique (except often left on the grill too long, with all the slather designed to keep the fish from drying out even more than it will). I think anything other than lemon on the finished product (even pepper with the salt and sugar) is a distraction. With an Egg smoker, 30 minutes is plenty. I prefer it hot. I’ll bet this will surprise you.
From America’s Test Kitchen Season 13: Rethinking Seafood Classics
Why this recipe works:
Our smoked salmon recipe combines the best elements of cold-smoked salmon (it’s cooked very slowly over a low fire to yield supple, moist fish) and hot-smoked salmon (it’s cooked over a hotter fire to yield a flaky, drier fish with tons of smoke flavor). To prepare the salmon for smoking, we quick-cure the fish with a mixture of salt and sugar to draw moisture from the flesh, which firms it up, and we season it inside and out. We then cook the fish indirectly over a gentle fire with ample smoke to produce salmon that is sweet, smoky, and tender. Serving the fish alongside a “smoked-salmon platter” sauce was the perfect pairing.
Serve the salmon with lemon wedges or with our “Smoked Salmon Platter” Sauce.
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 6 (6- to 8-ounce) center-cut skin-on salmon fillets
- 2 wood chunks soaked in water for 15 minutes and drained (if using charcoal)
- 2 cups wood chips (if using gas)
1. Combine sugar and salt in bowl. Set salmon on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle flesh side evenly with sugar mixture. Refrigerate, uncovered, for 1 hour. With paper towels, brush any excess salt and sugar from salmon and blot dry. Return fish on wire rack to refrigerator, uncovered, while preparing grill.
2A. FOR A CHARCOAL GRILL: Open bottom vent halfway. Light large chimney starter one-third filled with charcoal briquettes (2 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour into steeply banked pile against side of grill. Place wood chunks on top of coals. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent halfway. Heat grill until hot and wood chunks begin to smoke, about 5 minutes.
2B. FOR A GAS GRILL: Combine soaked and unsoaked chips. Use large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil to wrap chips into foil packet and cut several vent holes in top. Place wood chip packet directly on primary burner. Turn primary burner to high (leave other burners off), cover, and heat grill until hot and wood chips begin to smoke, 15 to 25 minutes. Turn primary burner to medium. (Adjust primary burner as needed to maintain grill temperature of 275 to 300 degrees.)
3. Clean and oil cooking grate. Fold piece of heavy-duty foil into 18 by 6-inch rectangle. Place foil rectangle over cool side of grill and place salmon pieces on foil, spaced at least 1/2 inch apart. Cover grill (positioning lid vent over fish if using charcoal) and cook until center of thickest part of fillet registers 125 degrees and is still translucent when cut into with paring knife, 30 to 40 minutes. Transfer to platter and serve, or allow to cool to room temperature.
Now We’re Smokin’
The two most common methods for smoking fish are cold and hot smoking. both approaches require special equipment and a serious time investment and result in a product that is more of an ingredient than a main dish. Our unique hybrid recipe produces an entrée that captures the uniquely smooth and lush texture of cold-smoked salmon and the forward smokiness of hot-smoked salmon. The best part? It cooks in only 30 to 40 minutes on a regular charcoal or gas grill.