Cold smoking is a lengthy process of curing salmon also known
as dry or wet curing. It typically takes about two to five
days to cure, then 12 hours to smoke. Most salmon that people
recognize in stores is cold smoked, sold as Nova Salmon. The
process starts by placing the fish in a brine (salty solution)
preparation which includes sugar (typically brown), salt &
pepper, as well as a variety of spices (chosen by the particular
tastes of the smokehouse). It is then drained, rinsed carefully,
and refrigerated for about half a day. Then the smoking process
beings, where the salmon undergoes a slow, low-temperature
smoking over a wood fire (beech, apple, cherry, birch, oak,
ash, and Adler are just some of the varieties of wood shavings
used) at temperatures that range from 70 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
This doesn’t cook the salmon per say, just smokes it,
which is why cold-smoked salmon usually has a shorter refrigerator
life than the hot-smoked variety. The process is very long,
and the fish can be kept in the smokehouse between 1/2 day
to 3 weeks.
Hot-smoking is a process
very similar to cold-smoking. The salmon is left to sit for
about three days in a brine solution much like the one described
above (sugar, salt, pepper, and spices), and then smoked at
a higher temperature, for shorter period of time – up
to 12 hours) typically anywhere from 120 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit,
which successfully cooks the salmon (unlike cold-smoking,
which just plain smokes it) giving it a longer shelf and refrigerator
life. As with all smoking, times and temperatures may vary
according to the size of the fish, if the smokehouse is close
or far, and how “smoky” the client wants it. With
hot-smoked salmon the end product is much drier and flakier,
and more highly smoky and “cooked” flavor than
Wet Cure vs. Dry Cure
Wet cure: Includes both hot and cold-smoked
salmon. The ‘wet’ indicates the fish has been
placed in a brine solution (salt, pepper, spices) before smoking.
This is the most common method used today.
Dry Cure: Instead of brining, the salmon
is salted by rubbing the salt directly onto its flesh. It
yields a leaner salmon, as the fish lose a high percentage
of fat during this process, but it also tends to be drier.