Hunting Chef Smoked Salmon

My father loved smoked salmon, and it was because of that love that I worked hard over the past twenty years to make it better and better until I finally broke the code about a year before he passed away.  This learning curve was tested on 200 lbs. of salmon over the years I suspect.  I got a call the other day from an old friend that has had my smoked salmon and said his father really liked it.  So I said “You bring me the salmon and I will smoke it up for you.”  I decided to blog my recipe because I think it should be shared, and if anything should ever happen to me I do not want the family not to have some record of it.

Here is what you are going to need:

  • A lot of salmon with the skin on.  If you are using stuff from the freezer, butcher it properly so it does not have any freezer burn on it.  That is the worst.
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 cup of pineapple juice
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup of soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup of water

I wrote them down in easy portions because you may need more depending on how much salmon you are smoking.  If you are filling the entire smoker which is about 15-20 pieces you will most likely need to times the brine ingredients by three.  I use Tupperware, do not use anything metal.  You can use zip lock bags, or a big cooler if you want.  Mix all the dry ingredients together and generously pour over pink flesh side of the fish.  Then pour all the wet ingredients over the fish into to the tupperwear.  Shake, or mix all of it around.

You are going to brine the fish for 8 hours or over night.  Not all the fish is going to be under the liquid so its important to turn the Tupperware upside down to rotate the fish, or mix the fish around.  Once the 8 hours is completed.  Take the fish out, rinse it very well with fresh water.  I use racks on a cookie sheet so you can get good air flow.  This next process is very important.  Dry the fish with a fan for about 2-3 hours until the fish is tacky.  It should not be wet at all.  This process will keep the fish from leaching fluids or allowing the moisture out of the top of the fish during the smoking process.

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After one hour of air drying get these ingredients into a bowl.

  • 1 tablespoon of pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon of garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon of New Mexico chili powder

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Sprinkle nicely over the fish.

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Then return to drying for the remaining 2 hours, or until tacky.

Once the fish is dry, take it to your smoker.  I use my good old fashion Big Chief.  Make sure to spray the racks with spray pam so the fish comes out of the smoker with ease.  When it comes to the wood chip selection I am unsure if one really can tell the difference with smoked fish.  I have used apple chips, mesquite, and cherry.  This batch is getting apple chips.  I usually start out by running three loads of chips in about three hours.  I check to see if the fish is getting cooked, check to see if it is flaking at all.  It probably will not be, so throw another load of chips.  I check the fish by taking the largest piece and the smallest and see how flexible it is.  It’s all about feel for me, shouldnt be rock hard, and should break apart nicely.  If you have no experience grab a temperature probe and check to see if the fish is 150 degrees.


Remove the fish, and get ready for the last step.  Bring into the kitchen.  Start your oven at 200 degrees.

Mix 1/4 cup of honey, 1 tablespoon of ancho seasoning, 1 tablespoon of red chili peppers. Microwave for 20 seconds, then spread over the fish.

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Generously slather over the salmon.


Insert the fish on the cookie racks into the oven and slowly cook for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and it should be nice and brown.


I let the fish completely cool for about 1 hour or until cool to the touch, sometimes more than I vacuum pack them for the freezer.


Making this always makes me think of my father.  I know he is looking down smiling and licking his lips.  He probably sneaks in and takes a few packages.  It is nice to know somethings havent changed.

I hope you enjoy this as much as we do.

The Hunting Chef

This was the last time I cooked for my father.  Arthur R. Nanna was loved and he was 81 years old and his favorite dish was fried chicken.


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