Smoking Salmon in Idaho

Well, we’re still unpacking things, but we’ve been here for a bit. One of the things I was most excited to have arrive is the smoker – not gonna lie, that was a top priority. I’ve been looking forward to having some smoked Salmon again, and Sarah has mentioned it a couple times too.

There’s a Sam’s Club more convenient these days, so I picked up some salmon there. They had Sockeye for about $12 a pound, and “Atlantic” for about $9. I went with the Atlantic to see how it’d go. This looks like the same fish I was buying back at Costco in MD. I’ve heard the Sockeye is amazing – maybe next time. At that price though, I’ll probably smoke some other fish to see how it goes. Trout? This time I picked up two fillets totaling about 5.5 lbs.

0800: The fish swam in the typical brine all night at the bottom of the fridge. I put it in the fridge to dry at this time. We haven’t found our typical wide flat glass brownie baking dishes, or cooling racks, so to get things drying I had to use a couple cake pans with a smoker rack sitting on top of each.

1230: Starting up the smoker – 120℉. I’m a little distracted by a project I’m working on. I should’ve started it up around 1130… Should be fine though, the fish just gets a little more time drying.

1310: Fish is on the smoker. Two hours at 120℉, one at 140℉, then 175℉ until the internal temp is over 135℉. Baste it with maple syrup every hour.

1710: it’s done and it’s fantastic as usual. No problem. The fish has the same quality as what I was buying in MD.

Smoking Salmon

Smoked salmon is one of my favorite foods. A luxury, truly. But, it’s much more reasonable when you can smoke it yourself. Salmon prices are at $8.99 a pound at Costco right now, which is a couple bucks more than I’m used to. Still worth it.

I’m using the same recipe I always use, with a bit over 5 lbs of salmon. This salmon was packed a couple days ago, unusually. Normally the Costco salmon on display is all packed the same day. It must sell out quickly, it is always beautiful. This fish still had a sell by day 4 days in the future, though. And it still looked beautiful. There was little liquid in the tray, the fillets were spotless… And they were $1 less per pound than the same day-packed stuff. Unpackaging the salmon, I sniffed for any unexpected scents, and looked for any defects with the fish. I found none.

2000: Fish went into brine.

0840: Fish began drying.

1120: Fish is on the smoker at 120℉.

1530: Took fish off the smoker. It was actually at between 150℉ and 165℉, so definitely hotter than I intended… I should check at less than an hour next time.

The fish tastes great, right now, despite the temperature going too high. Time will tell if it lasts in the freezer and fridge as well as cooler fish. Visually, it looks more cooked, with some of the edges being quite dark, compared to usual. Still, tastes great, and is as most as I’m used to. My guess is, this extra temperature didn’t harm the fish at all.

Brisket and Salmon Again

I ran out of brisket too quickly last time…  It makes a fantastic sandwich with Philly Cream Cheese (strangely enough).  Then I eat a bunch of salmon on bagels, with Philly Cream Cheese…  The discovery that it’s the right cheese for both sandwiches has made shopping easier.

The brisket is 15.5 lbs, $2.99 per pound.  Salmon is 6 lbs, didn’t get the price before tossing the package.  We have to move in July and I hope I can keep up this hobby at the next stop in life.

1700 30 Dec: Fish begins brining.

2120: Brisket is on the smoker at 225℉, vent half open, fat cap up.  Next temp check should be 8 hours from now at 0520.  Used 4 Tbsp salt, 4 Tbsp pepper, 2 Tbsp garlic powder on the brisket.  I forgot to put water in the tray…  Let’s see what happens.

0520: 163 and 162, next check 0720

0720: 176 and 173…  I missed the crutch temp, but things seem to be proceeding well…  I cranked up the temp to 250.

0920: 193 and 188, smelling real good now…

0940: Fish started drying.

1040: 200 and 201.

1140: 207 and 204.  Close enough!  Meat came off, and I cleaned up the grates to put the fish on.

1210: Fish is on at 120.

1610: Fish is done, right on time.  Final temps were just above 140.

Everything was great, some of the skinny parts of the flat were dry, but not much…  The bark was fantastic.  Crisp, flavorful…  Some parts of the flat were more like roast beef than the brisket normally is.  I think I should try it unwrapped again, but maybe trim less fat on the flat and turn the temp up an hour sooner and see what changes.  Right now though, wrapped seems the way to go.

The water tray was almost full with grease by the end, I think next time I’ll put water in, but don’t think it makes a difference.

Brisket and Salmon!


Just got married, just got honeymooned, just got back to work…  Time for some food!

17 lbs brisket, $61, 6 lbs salmon $9 per pound.  Using the same recipe as usual.

2120: Brisket went on the smoker.  4.5 Tbsp salt, 4.5 Tbsp pepper, 2.25 Tbsp garlic powder.

2200: Fish is brining.

0530: Brisket at 165 and 166.  Crutched it, and turned temperature up to 250.  Also, moved fish to drying.

0845: Brisket at 202 and 189.

0930: Took the flat off, it was done, at 208.

1130: I’ve checked the point temperature periodically this whole time, and it has slowly risen to 201.  I’ll take it off after making coffee.

1145: Point was at 201, close enough, took it off then cleaned the smoker grates and water tray, and removed and chunks.  Set it to reheat to 120.

1230: Fish is on!

1630: All done, delicious.

Next time I need to make sure I slice across the grain.  I mistook the direction of the grain in some of the brisket, I need to double check that next time.  Otherwise I think it all turned out fantastically.

Ribs and Salmon

Time to try some ribs!  I’ll use this recipe with the Memphis Dust dry rub I used on the pork butts.  Also – we’re out of Salmon.  I’m going to do a double batch of the usual.  I’ll just do 6 pounds for four hours, then do 6 more for 4 more hours.

The inside of the smoker before starting.

I bought what I thought were 3 racks of ribs – 3 large vacuum-packed things of ribs from Costco.  About 30 lbs total.  What I didn’t realize is that each vacuum packed bag contains 3 racks of ribs…  So I’m going to do 9 racks of ribs.  This is stupid and I almost certainly don’t have enough room in the smoker, but it’ll all work out :-)

Nine racks of ribs on cutting boards.

1900, 5 May 2018: Started the smoker at 225℉ and started washing, salting and dry-rubbing the ribs.  I used 1/2 tsp salt per pound, although didn’t get it as evenly-distributed as I’d like.  I wish I had salted these earlier, but we don’t have the fridge space or the time.  I used up all the remaining dry rub from the earlier pork butts.

1950: Prep of the ribs is done, and they’re on the smoker.  The smoker is ridiculously full.  The ribs are leaning on each other.  This is silly…

2000: Beginning prep of salmon.

2040: Prep done, went and checked the ribs.  The smoker says the temperature is only 165℉…  That seems very unusual to me.  Typically, the smoker takes only a short time to return to temperature.  I tried to slide the racks away from the back wall, thinking that maybe something was in contact with the thermometer for the smoker.  I don’t believe that was the case.  I believe that the meat is restricting the flow of air too much.  I moved meat out from the back wall and opened the vent fully.  The smoker feels like it isn’t very hot…  The meat at the bottom though is quite warm.  There are two temperature probes in place.  One registers a meat temp of 120℉, and the other 75℉.  I think the former is in contact with bone, but it’s also likely that it’s the lower probe and the meat is actually hotter than the other meat.  This is going to cause a problem for me.  I don’t want some ribs to be much more done than the others.  I don’t want them to be cooked quickly.  I want slow cooked…  Hopefully the smoker airflow will work better and temperature will equalize, permitting the smoker element to turn off.  We’ll see.

2100: I opened the door again and used the other temperature probe on the meats.  The other probe, placed in meat on each level, registered between 133℉ and 140℉.  The probes in the meat registered 150℉ and 105℉.  I’m going to assume that the actual meat temp is 133℉ to 140℉, and that the probes are in parts of the meat that isn’t very representative of the correct temperature.  Most importantly – the meat is cooking at a somewhat consistent temperature throughout the smoker.

2200: I removed the bottom half of all the ribs – they were past the temperature I’d hoped to achieve, the smoker still hadn’t reached temperature, the lowest ribs looked like they were starting to burn.  Burn!  In a smoker.  Craziness.  I thought that by removing the bottom half I’d allow more smoke to circulate and bring the temperature up.  I tasted these ribs that were removed.  The ribs closest to the burner, and hottest, were tender and good.  They were almost what I’d hoped for.  The ribs slightly further away were tougher.  Still good, but not quite what I’d wanted.  I left the remaining half on for another hour, despite the other half already being at the desired temperature.

2300: I removed the other half of the ribs.  This second half seems to be as consistently tender as the hottest ribs in the bottom half.  This is what I’d hoped to achieve.  I’m happy, even if this did not go anywhere near plan.

0710, 6 May 2018: First 6 lbs of fish went into drying.

1126: Fish went on the smoker.  I didn’t clean the smoker at all – I dumped the water pan and refilled it.  This may impart some pork seasoning to the fish.  We’ll see.  I doubt it’ll be bad though.

1136: Second half of fish is drying now.  The smoker is definitely burning up some of that pork fat that was in there.  Hopefully that doesn’t impart a bad flavor to the fish.

1226: A lot less smoking from the pork remains, at this point.  I basted the fish – it’s clear that they cooked pretty hot for the first hour.  There is much more albumin than expected on them right now.  I’m not too worried though, it’s not too far off that second time I smoked salmon.  They might be done a little early.

1326: Turned temp up and basted.  Normal amount of albumin.

1426: Went out to turn the temperature up and baste the fish, and checked their temperatures on a lark.  The fish was done!  It was at the mid-high range of its intended temperature.  I brought it all in without basting it again.  I suspected that the smoker had been running a bit hot the entire time – especially at the beginning.  I think that beginning heat supercharged everything and the fish finished faster.  It tastes good…

1440: The rest of the fish is on.

1540: Lots of albumin again, it was probably burning hot again…

1740: Once again – right before I crank the heat to the top value, the fish is done.  Temperature is perfect, I pulled it off.  Tastes good.

Lessons Learned:

  1. It is possible to overfill a smoker.
  2. Clean some of the fat out of the smoker between goes so it doesn’t burn so hot.
  3. Sarah doesn’t like as smokey as the chicken got last time – this salmon may be too smokey for her, too.  Hopefully not.  Love that woman.