Smoked Salmon Fillet
If you love grilled salmon or smoked fish, you’ll enjoy making (and eating!) this recipe on your covered charcoal grill. You cook this salmon fillet by using a cloud of steady smoke, made by throwing handfuls of pre-soaked wood chips over the coals, to permeate the dry-cured salmon’s delicate flesh, infusing it with incomparable flavor.
Preparation time: 15 minutes, plus 6 hours to dry-cure the salmon
Grilling time: 25 to 30 minutes
Yield: 6 servings
2-pound salmon fillet with skin, about 1 inch at thickest point
1/4 cup coarse kosher salt
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon pepper
Oil for brushing the aluminum foil and the salmon
About 3 to 4 cups hardwood chips, presoaked
Lemon slices and watercress sprigs for garnish (optional)
Rinse the fillet and pat dry with paper towels.
Check the salmon for any small pin bones and remove them.
Place the fillet completely flat in a non-reactive dish or container.
In a small bowl, mix together the salt, sugar, garlic powder, and pepper.
Sprinkle the mixture onto both sides of the fillet.
Let the fish sit in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, or overnight.
The longer the fillet sits in the sugar-salt rub, the more intense and salty the flavor.
Half an hour before smoking the fish, prepare a small fire in a covered charcoal or gas grill.
Use about 40 briquettes for a charcoal grill. A drip pan isn’t necessary. If using a gas grill, set the temperature to low, about 300 degrees F, and prepare an indirect fire.
Rinse the fillet thoroughly under cold running water.
Cut a piece of aluminum foil about 1 inch longer and wider than the fillet.
Perforate the foil with a fork in about 6 to 7 places.
Oil the foil lightly.
Place the fillet on the foil, skin-side down.
Brush the top of the fillet lightly with oil.
When the coals are hot, bank them to one side of the grill and top with 2 large handfuls of the presoaked wood chips.
Place the fillet on the grid, opposite the coals or heat.
Cover the grill, half-closing the top vents.
Cook without turning for about 25 to 30 minutes or until the flesh is firm and opaque but not dry.
The actual cooking time depends on the thickness of the fish and the intensity of the heat. An instant-thermometer will register 140 degrees F in the thickest part of the fillet when done. Start testing for doneness after 20 minutes.
Be sure to add more wood chips, after about 15 minutes and as necessary, to keep a steady supply of flavored smoke.
Remove the fillet from the grill and let stand 3 to 4 minutes.
Carefully invert the fillet onto a large platter and peel off the aluminum foil.
The skin will stick to the foil and should be discarded.
Invert the skinless fillet onto a second platter with the colorful bright flesh facing up.
Cover and refrigerate for several hours or until completely chilled.
If desired, garnish the platter with watercress and slices of fresh lemons.