Homemade Applewood Smoked Salmon

I am a fan of bagels and lox. There’s something about the salty, silky salmon combining with creamy cream cheese, chewy bagels, and briny capers that makes for a perfect light meal. Now that Dan and I are getting serious about meat smoking, we decided to try our hand at smoking our own salmon. I had a lovely salmon fillet just waiting for some time in an applewood sauna. We had ours on bagels with cream cheese and Roma tomato, but this would be great as a party appetizer too: simply place on a tray with crackers and cream cheese and allow your guests to mingle around it. If you don’t have a full smoker, this would work well in an oven with a wood chip smoker box inside — just set the oven to 225F and allow to smoke/roast.

Prep Time 30 M
Cook Time 1 H
Recipe Yield 1 smoked salmon fillet



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    1. To prepare the brine: place the hot water into a measuring cup. Add the table salt to the hot water until the measurement reads 3/4 cup. Stir to dissolve the salt. Pour the mixture into a large plastic container. Add the sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, and pepper; stir to combine. Add the cold water and stir. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
    2. To prepare the salmon: rinse and pat dry. Using your fingers, feel along the length of the fish for any pin bones that remain. If you feel them, pull them out with kitchen tweezers or pliers.
    3. Place the salmon in the chilled brine, skin side up, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, but no more than 2 hours. After brining, rinse the salmon under cold water to remove any excess salt, then place back into the container. Cover with more cold water and refrigerate for 1 hour more.
    4. Preheat your smoker with charcoal to 225F. Make sure to monitor the temperature.
    5. Remove the salmon from the cold water and pat dry. Cut a clean paper bag into one large sheet, or cut a piece of clean kraft paper from a roll. Place the salmon on the paper skin side down. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the fish. Place onto the smoker grate and close the lid, adding some applewood to the smoker box. Smoke until the internal temperature reaches 135-145F, about an hour, adding applewood sparingly so as to not over-smoke the fish. Note: a creamy white substance will appear on the surface of the salmon as it cooks; it looks weird, but it’s just protein emerging from the flesh. You can wipe it away with a pastry brush dipped in cold water.
    6. When the salmon is cooked, remove from the smoker and place on a cutting board. Allow to cool for 10 – 15 minutes. Peel the paper and the skin off the flesh, and discard the skin. Serve warm or chilled.


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