Smoked Salmon for a Heart-Healthy Valentine’s Day

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I started to write a piece about candy for upcoming Valentine’s Day, but then I thought, eh, maybe I should do something “heart-healthy.”  After perusing various “heart-healthy” recipes, I am pleased to share with you directions for making your own smoked salmon.

What makes salmon a good choice? According to the Mayo Clinic:

“For many years, the American Heart Association has recommended that people eat fish rich in unsaturated fats at least twice a week. The unsaturated fats in fish are called omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients in fish may benefit heart health and reduce the risk of dying of heart disease.”

The smoking method below has been adapted from honest-food.net’s Hank Shaw, a hunter-gardener-forager with a terrific website. I recommend you check it out.


You’ll need:

  • Salmon filet (We buy the large pieces at Costco, which Hank would hate, but it’s Hawai‘i and we can’t catch it here.)
  • A smoker or kettle barbecue with an accurate thermometer
  • A meat thermometer


  • 1 quart of water
  • 1/3 cup kosher or Hawaiian salt (modification of original recipe)
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. chopped garlic (modification of original recipe)
  • Large Ziploc bag
  • Wire rack (like one for cooling cookies)
  • Honey (modification of original recipe)
  • Oil
  • White wine or onion (optional, but recommended)

Note: This is a good weekend project because it creates a bit of a mess.

Step One/Day 1: The first step is to prepare your brine. Mix together the water, salt, garlic, and sugar, and stir well.

  • Cut up your salmon. My husband likes to share with the neighbors, so he usually cuts into three pieces. Place the salmon into a Ziploc and pour the brine over. Place in the refrigerator and leave overnight. Small pieces can be brined in as little as four hours. Never brine for more than a couple of days or your end-product can be too salty.

Step Two/Day 2: Job one is to make room in your refrigerator. You are going to need to fit a rack in there with the fish. When you’ve made some room, remove the fish from the brine and pat it dry. Set the salmon pieces on the rack and put them into the refrigerator to dry overnight. This step creates the “pellicle,” which is a thin, sticky layer on top of the fish, and to which the smoke will adhere.

Step Three/Day 3:  While you prepare your smoker, take the salmon out of the refrigerator to bring it up to room temperature. As you smoke salmon, a white substance called albumin can bubble from the muscle onto the surface of the fish, which you want to minimize. It is unsightly, and the more albumin that leaves the fish, the drier it will be.

Cover your drip pan with foil to ease later cleaning, and fill with hot water. You may also want to add something to the drip pan, such as white wine or pieces of onion, for a hint of additional flavor.

Now, you’re ready to smoke the fish. Baste it with a little oil to prevent it sticking to the smoker rack. Place on the rack. Whether you use an electric, gas, charcoal or wood-fired smoker, try to start your temperature out low (say, 140°F) and build it up slowly (to 175°F, for the final hour), to avoid a lot of albumin bleed.


After an hour in the smoker, baste the salmon with honey. While you baste, brush away the albumin. Do this every hour during the smoking process.

After the first couple of hours, check the internal temperature of your salmon. You are aiming for an internal temperature of about 140°F. Depending upon your smoker, the temperatures you have maintained and the size of the pieces of fish, this may take roughly from two-and-a-half to four hours.

Last: When your fish is smoked, remove from the smoker. Let it cool it down for an hour before wrapping it up and putting it into the refrigerator. It will keep for up to 10 days in the refrigerator, although ours has never lasted that long. You can also freeze it. We eat it so quickly, because it’s so delicious, that it is usually gone in a few days.

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