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Bill’s No Frills Smoked Steelhead and Salmon

Bill’s No Frills Smoked Steelhead and Salmon
Author: 
 
I really enjoy the natural flavor of smoked Steelhead and Salmon. One of my best meals ever was a thick steak from a freshly caught Spring Salmon grilled over a bed of Mesquite charcoal and flavor chips. The only seasoning was a little salt and pepper. The fresh locally grown asparagus rounded out what for me was the perfect combination. If you prefer to mask the unique flavor of Alder smoked Steelhead and Salmon, as many do, then read no further. We lived in Washington for over twenty-five years. I bank and boat fished for Steelhead and Salmon on the Columbia River at Ringold, above McNary Dam, below Priest Rapids dam, on the Snake River, and many of the rivers in central Washington and northern Oregon. We fished the rivers in western Washington in the winter. During the 1970’s we towed our boat to Westport and Chinook. We fished for Coho in August, and Kings in September. The limit was three per day, six in possession. Four of us generally limited by 8:00 AM, and were safely across the bar in time for an early lunch. I smoked my fish in a Little Chief electric smoker, and later a larger Totem. I tried dozens of recipes, but the fish came out tasting like brown sugar, dark rum, onion or garlic powder, Clamato juice, Tabasco, honey, or bourbon. After forty years of smoking fish, I have concluded that less is better when it comes to seasoning. The smoker I use is A New Braunfels Bandera with a vertical smoke chamber and offset firebox. It requires a lot more attention than an electric smoker, but it puts a beautiful glaze on the fish that I never achieved with an electric smoker. I have retired to Texas, and must rely on Costco for my Steelhead. Although farm raised, they are excellent. I don’t have to wear three layers of insulated underwear and wool, and insulated waders to go get them. I sometimes miss trying, though.Here is the method I have settled on:
Ingredients
  • Brining:
  • Cut the unscaled filets into 7” pieces.
  • Make a brine of:
  • 1 gallon of filtered water
  • 1 cup of Kosher salt
  • 1 cup of extra fine granulated white sugar
  • Put the brine and fish in a plastic container and refrigerate overnight.
  • Wood:
  • Soak the logs, chunks, and chips overnight.
  • I use:
  • 1 Pecan log (Alder if you can get it)
  • 1 small Mesquite log
  • 5 liter bag of Alder chunks
  • 2 liter bag of Alder chips
Instructions
  1. Coat the smoker racks with cooking oil or grilling spray. Remove the fish from the brine, and rinse them in cold water.
  2. Place the fish on the racks, skin side down. Place the thinner pieces on a separate rack so they can be removed earlier than the rest.
  3. Pat the flesh side lightly with paper towel, and let the fish dry until it is tacky- about one hour.
  4. Fill a charcoal chimney starter one third full of natural lump hardwood charcoal (I use Oak).
  5. When the coals are glowing, place them in the firebox. Add the presoaked Pecan log, four Alder chunks, and a handful of Alder chips..
  6. Get the temperature up to about 140-160 degrees., and put the racks of fish in the smoker.
  7. Place the thicker fish nearer the heat. Add Alder chunks and chips as needed to generate lots of smoke, and maintain the temperature.
  8. After about two hours, remove the thin pieces if done. Avoid letting the fish get too dry.
  9. Add the small Mesquite log.
  10. Continue adding Alder chunks and chips to create lots of smoke, and maintain the temperature.
  11. Smoke the thick pieces about one more hour, or until done.Remove the fish, let them cool.
  12. Serve warm or cold.

 

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