How much do you really know about smoked salmon? If you've ever had it, you know it's delicious but do you know how it got that way? What's the process? Is it really cooked, or is it raw? Is it even safe to eat? This is how smoked salmon is really made.
First thing's first: what do we mean when we say "smoked salmon"? It turns out that's a pretty generic term that could refer to any number of products. The fish itself could be farm-raised or wild-caught, and the form could be cut into fillets or sliced into steaks. Some smoked salmon is cured and cold-smoked to create a raw, but edible, fish with a sushi-like texture, while others are cooked over hot smoke and turn out firm and flaky.
They all start out the same way: the fish is brined in a salt solution to pull out the moisture and prevent the growth of bacteria. After that, hot- and cold-smoked fish are dried and smoked.
While you could technically smoke the salmon whole, you wouldn't really want to. It's easier to find the bones and remove them before you smoke a fish, plus there's the whole skin-on or skinless debate. You could cut the fish into steaks, but the most popular way to smoke salmon is by removing the meaty fillets on each side of the backbone. Most fish fillets still contain a few tiny bones called pin bones. They're super easy to remove if you drape the filet over an upside-down bowl and remove the protruding bones using a pair of tweezers, as Tasting Table recommends.
Now it's time to decide whether you want to smoke the salmon with the skin on or off. Thermoworks advises that keeping the skin on helps the meat hold together as it cooks, but the salmon absorbs the cure better without it. The skin can also lead to off flavors, and although it does have nutrient value, the skin can become soggy and chewy when smoked. Since most people don't eat the skin on cooked fish anyway, we'd just as soon remove it now rather than later.
Watch the video to learn the truth about how smoked salmon is made!
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