There are many different types of wood chips one can use in a smoker. Different hardwoods will impart a variety of flavors. The recipe we used called for Alder wood chips because they impart a delicate flavor that enhances lighter meats. You can also add bay leaves, garlic cloves, mint leaves, orange or lemon peel and various spices to the charcoal for added flavor. It'll be fun to experiment with different flavors as we try different recipes.
This Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker Smoker is pretty easy to use. I bought this one because it came highly recommended by Cooks Illustrated, and to me, they are the Consumer Reports of cooking equipment, etc. They do all the research and testing, so why I should I reinvent the wheel?!
Anyway, you fill the charcoal chamber with the recommended amount of charcoal and like any other grill, the charcoal is ready when gray ash begins to form on the top coals. Spread the coals evenly over the charcoal grate and add 3-4 chunks of dry hardwood (in this case alder wood) chips on top of the hot coals.
The puppies were very interested in what my husband was doing as he prepped the smoker :-} It was pretty comical to watch. Everything is new to them and they are so curious!
The recipe for this smoked salmon is pretty simply, but you must allow for brining and air drying time.
Alder Smoked Salmon
Prep time: 15 minutes
Brining and air drying time: 7 to 8 hours
Cooking time: 1 hour
1 quart water1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 quart ice cubes
1 side salmon (skin on) 2 1/2 to 3 pounds, trimmed and deboned
In large pot, combine 1 quart of water with the salt and sugar. Cook over high heat until the salt and sugar dissolve. Add 1 quarter of ice cubes. Set aside until the brine cools completely.
Place the salmon, flesh side down, in a deep pan large enough to hold it and the brine. Pour the brine over the salmon and refrigerate for about 4 hours.
Rinse the salmon under cold running water and pat dry. Place salmon, skin side down, on a rack set inside a pan. Refrigerate and air dry, uncovered, until a thin skin develops all over the flesh, 3 to 4 hours.
Smoke the salmon with alder wood chips until the internal temperature reaches 145F, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. The center of the fish will still be moist. For a drier-style smoked salmon, continue to smoke until the internal temperature reaches 165F. Personally, I like it moister and a little on the medium rare side.
Using 2 large spatulas, carefully remove the salmon from the smoker. At this point, the flesh breaks apart easily as you can see from this photo! I had to put it back together to take this picture.
Our first meal using the smoker was absolutely delicious! I served the salmon alongside the last of the carrots from my garden and Risotto Milanese...wish you could have been there!