This Hot Smoked Salmon with Maple Orange Glaze is the most delectable, smoky, sweet, melt in your mouth salmon you will ever have. The secret is in the steps, this one requires a little bit of time and patience, but it is totally worth it! There really isn’t anything difficult about the process, except maybe waiting the 24 hours it takes to make it before you get to stuff your face.
First step: pick your salmon! Definitely purchase skin on if possible. I’ve done both (heck, I’m using skinless in these pictures) and it works fine, but skin on is better. It seems to help the salmon hold together during the curing and smoking stages. Also, the type of salmon you use for hot smoked salmon is important. I recommend opting for salmon that has less fat running through the muscles- so that means wild caught Alaskan, sockeye, or steelhead salmon. Farmed Atlantic salmon works just fine, for sure, but more fat can mean more albumin (that white build up on the outside of the salmon) while you’re cooking and also the flavor of wild caught salmon is just so much better in my opinion. Of course, you gotta cook what you like best! My kids always prefer the more mild flavor of Atlantic salmon.
Second step: the cure! Any time you are smoking salmon, you need to cure it first. This is a hot smoked salmon, so the curing stage is different than a cold smoked salmon which often sits in a dry salt crust cure for 24 hours. The salt in this wet cure does this magical thing where it draws out the moisture from the salmon which helps intensify the flavor and season the meat all at the same time. It is important that you use Kosher salt for this recipe, table salt typically has iodide in it and that can cause some funky flavors in your salmon. This cure recipe is designed to infuse the salmon with a little bit of the sweetness from the maple syrup and some bright yummy zip from the orange. It is really pretty unbelievably tasty for how simple it is.
Third step: the pellicle! Similar to making home cured bacon, this salmon needs to form a sticky layer on the outside, called a pellicle, to help the smoke cling to the fish. The pellicle develops once the salmon is removed from the brine and set in the fridge overnight on a cooling rack. Another simple step, but completely changes the final product. If you ever get bored and have pounds of salmon just laying around (who doesn’t these days?!) try a little experiment where you skip the pellicle step. You’ll notice a pretty massive difference in smoked penetration and final texture.
Final step: smoking! You made it! See, quite a few steps, but each one of them is really easy. Now we hit the final and most important step. Like I mentioned, this is a hot smoked salmon so it is actually going to fully cook on the smoker. I like to use my pellet grill to get consistent temperatures and good smoke, but you use whatever smoker set up you’ve got going on. The most important part is going to be maintaining a low temperature (around 165 degrees) while smoking. If your smoker wants to run higher than that, you can balance it out by placing an aluminum tray with ice under the grates (not touching the salmon) and that should help keep the temperature down a little. I like to smoke this particular salmon with maple wood, but any mellow wood like pecan or alder would work great too! Getting you salmon up to the correct internal temperature of 145 degrees can take a few hours, so make sure you’re keeping an eye on the progress by using a good internal thermometer. I have several thermometers, but my favorite for this is my Thermoworks Smoke so I can keep an eye on both the grill temperature and fish temperature while smoking. Also, a lot of flavor comes from the maple orange glaze that is brushed on during the smoking process, so invest in good maple syrup and orange juice for the best results.
Definitely give this one a go. It makes for the perfect weekend smoke project and I guarantee it’ll be hard to find leftovers once you put this out on the table.
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