Nutritious, versatile and tasty – it’s no wonder why salmon is one of our favourite types of fish. In fact, we love it so much that we recently organised a salmon workshop in partnership with our friends from Choose Right Today and Pacific Rich Resources, where we learned about the different types of salmon and how to smoke our own salmon – a great, easy way to savour the full flavours of this fish.
Salmon being prepared for smoking at our Taste, Learn and Chill with Salmon workshop
Before you begin, it goes without saying that the ingredients play an integral role in any dish. How do you choose the right salmon? First things first, choose sustainably sourced seafood – this is a good way to ensure that your dish is not only tasty but is also good for your health and the environment.
Unregulated fishing decimates already-depleted fish stocks and disrupts our ecosystems, while unregulated fisheries often pollute our waters and harm wildlife as well as rely heavily on chemicals and antibiotics. A simple way to choose the right seafood is to look out for MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) or ASC (Aquaculture Stewardship Council) certification labels on any salmon (or other seafood) that you purchase, as these organisations help to certify responsible farming (ASC) and sustainable fishing (MSC) practices. You can find more tips on how to choose right here.
There are four pieces of salmon in this picture – can you tell which is farmed, wild, sustainable and non-sustainable?
Next question: how do you choose between farmed and wild salmon? If they’ve both got the right certifications (ASC and MSC respectively), it often comes down to a matter of taste. A quick 101: compared to farmed salmon, wild salmon have a richer colour (can you guess which piece in the photo above is wild salmon?). This is because salmon’s distinctive red colour comes from pigments in the crustacean that wild salmon eat, whereas the colour in farmed salmon typically comes from added pigments, some of which are synthetic. Wild salmon are also leaner, whilst their farmed counterparts contain more fat, as the wild fish have far more muscle from swimming long distances or upstream. The different lifestyles and environments lend themselves to noticeable differences in the taste and texture of wild versus farmed salmon, both of which can be sustainable choices if they have the relevant certifications.
Now that you’ve chosen the right salmon, it’s time to get smoking! Originally introduced as a means of food preservation, these days, smoking is a simple, delicious way to accentuate the flavour of fish. At our Taste, Learn and Chill with Salmon event, Chef Neil Tomes showed participants how to smoke their own salmon; his full recipe is here for you to recreate at home – enjoy!
- 800g fresh salmon fillets (MSC or ASC certifed)
- 200g salt
- 80g caster sugar
- 1.5L cold water
To garnish to your taste:
- dollop of sour cream
- handful of capers
- hard-boiled egg, minced
- spring onion, minced
- chives, minced
- handheld Smoking Gun food smoker and wood chips (*note: if you don’t have a food smoker, you can use liquid smoke – see below for details)
- In a large bowl, prepare a brining solution by whisking the salt, sugar and cold water until the mixture becomes clear. Set aside.
- Cut the salmon fillets into 2-cm slices or however thick you would like your smoked salmon to be.
- Submerge the slices in the brining solution (make sure each piece is completely covered by the solution) for about 3–4 min. Thicker pieces (i.e. more than 2cm thickness) will require longer to brine.
- After removing the salmon slices from the solution, place them on a draining rack (e.g. wire rack) and use kitchen towels to gently pat-dry any excess liquid.
- Once the salmon slices are dry, transfer the draining rack to a pot/container that can be completely covered with a lid. The slices should be individually laid out and should not overlap. If your draining rack is too large, you can use a layer of aluminium foil to cover the draining rack. Alternatively, you can place the salmon slices on a plate within a pot/container.
- Cover the pot/container/aluminium foil and insert the nozzle of the Smoking Gun just under the lid/foil. Load the wood chips into the Smoking Gun, turn it on and release the smoke onto the surface of the salmon slices for about 1 min.
- Remove the gun nozzle and immediately shut the lid/foil – firmly – leaving the lid/foil closed for about 30 sec. Remove the lid/foil – your smoked salmon is now ready! Note that you can lengthen or shorten the duration of the smoking time depending on whether you prefer a stronger or more subtle smoky flavour.
- Before serving, garnish the smoked salmon to taste with sour cream, capers, hard-boiled egg, spring onion and/or chives. You can also serve the smoked salmon with crackers and cream cheese.
Salmon slices being soaked in the brining solution
Chef Tomes holding up different types of wood chips for the Smoking Gun
Chef Tomes smoking the salmon
*Alternative smoking technique using liquid smoke
If you do not have a Smoking Gun food smoker, you can achieve similar results using liquid smoke (this is a bottled concentrate that is made from the condensation of smoke). Simply add 1–2 tsp liquid smoke into the brining solution (step 1) and follow all other steps, excluding steps 5–7.