Published July 1, 2012. From Cook's Illustrated.
There’s more to smoked salmon than the thin, glossy slices stacked on bagels. With a little time—and a sweet touch—we produced silky, smoky dinnertime fillets.
Achieving translucent, mildly smoky smoked salmon is usually a project that requires specialized equipment and loads of time.
We wanted to capture the intense, smoky flavor of hot-smoked fish and the firm but silky texture of the cold-smoked type.
The typical first step in smoking fish is to cure the flesh with salt. We added sugar to this rub and then refrigerated it uncovered on a wire rack on a baking sheet for an hour. The sugar counterbalanced the saltiness, and like salt, sugar is hygroscopic—meaning it attracts water—so our cure was now working twice as hard to dry out the salmon fillets, firming them up nicely.
With a reliable curing method in hand, we could finally fine-tune our smoking technique. First, we opted to use only 2 quarts of charcoal, which helped the fish cook more slowly, allowing it more time to absorb smoke. We also cut our large fillet into individual serving-size portions. This seemingly minor tweak resulted in big payoffs: First, it ensured more thorough smoke exposure (without increasing the time) by creating more surface area. Second, the delicate pieces were far easier to get off the grill in one piece than a single bulky fillet.
All that we needed to complete our recipe were some contrasting flavors, so we devised a homemade mayonnaise that incorporates many of the garnishes that are commonly served on a smoked salmon platter—hard-cooked egg, capers, and dill.list of recipes