Prepare your own smoked salmon

Help! I presently have a large ½ salmon in my fridge. I want desperately to smoke it, but have no idea how to do it or what ingredients are needed. Can you help me?

If ever you find yourself with a “large ½ salmon” in your refrigerator, count your blessings and get ready to cook.

I like the way you think. Smoking is my favorite way to prepare salmon. And my home-smoked salmon is an “absolute necessity” at all family gatherings. If they knew how easy it is to prepare, I might lose my celebrity status at family outings.

There are two basic ways to smoke salmon: Hot-smoke and cold-smoke. The cold-smoke process takes longer and requires greater expertise and caution. It should always include an initial curing period with salt. And the long, slow smoking must be performed at an even, low temperature (100° F – 37° C or lower) — something difficult to control without the proper equipment. Cold-smoking is best left to professionals.

Hot-smoking salmon can be done easily at home. Large sides of salmon can be hot-smoked in a kettle barbecue grill. But, it is a risky method for the novice and a difficult procedure. I recommend wok-smoking a 1 – 1½ pound tail fillet of salmon. Tail-end fillets work best for several reasons: Tail fillets have no bones; they are thin and will cook quickly; the triangular shape allows for lots of smoke to circulate around the flesh; and its shape looks like a piece of real fish.

1.Turn your wok into a small smoking oven for dry smoke-roasting the salmon. Use an uncoated, spun-metal wok with a flat steaming rack and a dome lid. Place the wok directly on the burner, if it a gas range. Use a wok ring if your range is electric. Turn the heat on medium high (gas) or high (electric). Scoop two heaping tablespoons of fine hardwood chips or hardwood sawdust onto the center of the dry wok.

2.Wash and dry the salmon tail fillet. Spray steaming rack, lightly, with no-stick cooking spray. Place salmon skin-side down in the middle of the steaming rack. Place the rack into the wok. Watch for smoke fumes to start rising through the rack. When that happens, cover the wok with the dome lid.

3.As the hardwood chips or hardwood sawdust smolders in the dry wok, the wok should be getting hot. Be careful to avoid touching the wok or lid during the hot-smoking. Smoke-roast the salmon tail for 8 – 10 minutes (eight-min. for gas; ten-min. for electric) , without disturbing the dome lid.

4.Turn-off heat. DO NOT TOUCH OR REMOVE LID. Let wok stand, covered, for five minutes. After smoke has settled, remove lid. Serve wok-smoked salmon immediately with creamy horseradish sauce (low-fat mayonnaise mixed with prepared horseradish and a spritz of fresh or frozen lemon juice). Or, wrap in plastic film and then foil. Refrigerate for up to three days. Enjoy!

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