How to Fillet a Salmon and Prepare it for Smoked Salmon

Salmon fishing legend Herb Good demonstrates how to fillet a salmon in less than a minute. He will show you two different techniques to fillet a salmon, one with a gutted fish and the other technique with a whole fish. Each technique to fillet a salmon will show you how to cut off the fins, including the dorsal, adipose and other fins, plus how to handle the rib bones, cartilage areas and other details so that you end up with a beautiful fillet without hack marks. Herb will also show you how to cut and prepare the salmon for any smoked salmon recipe. How he slices the salmon will be sure to give you even thicknesses and excellent presentation when smoking your salmon. This is important for getting consistent results when smoking your salmon with our Big Chief and Little Chief Electric Smokers.

Be sure to check out a continuation to this video where Herb Good shows how to smoke salmon with the original smoked salmon recipe of just salt and brown sugar.


Turn Frozen Fish into Gourmet Treats

By: Buzz Ramsey

Originally printed in the Northwest Steelheader Magazine in 2013.

When was the last time you took inventory of the fish population in your freezer? Unfortunately, fish doesn’t keep very well when frozen. The more time they spend in the freezer the less desirable they become. And while there are ways to make fish last in the freezer for six to twelve months, dropping fillets in a zip-top bag won’t get you much past 60 days.

Surprisingly to some, fresh frozen fish lend themselves particularly well to the smoking process; you see, freezing causes cell tissue to burst, so fish that have been frozen take on the flavor of the brine ingredients and smoke better. You can really impress your friends by preparing your freezer fish this way.

Prepare your fish for brining and smoking by cutting your fillets into stripes about an inch wide, making sure to leave the skin in place, then thoroughly rinse these fish chunks in cold water and immerse them into your brine solution.

The brine recipe we use most often includes a mixture of 1/2 cup salt, 1 cup sugar and 2 quarts water – this is the right amount for 10-to-20 pounds of fillets. Pre-mix these ingredients in a stainless steel or plastic container and immerse your fillets into your brining solution. Keep in mind that almost any container will work for brining, but avoid aluminum containers as they can taint the taste of your fish. Then place your filled container in the refrigerator (or cooler with ice), for a minimum of six hours, stirring at least once during the process.

You can add other flavorings to your brine solution. Two of our favorite additives are wine (usually one of the fruity varieties) or soy sauce. Amounts vary depending on taste, but you might start off with a cup of wine and/or a quarter cup of soy sauce – just mix it in.

After six to twelve hours, or overnight, remove the fillets from your brine solution and rinse thoroughly in cold water. Remove excess moisture with paper towels and place your fillets on the smoker grills skin side down, which helps prevent sticking after the smoking job is complete.

A way to add additional flavorings to your fish is to sprinkle spices directly onto your fillets after the brining process – this can be done when the fillets are first placed on your smokehouse grills; for example, you can coat your fish with liquid brown sugar and sprinkle with your favorite spices, which might include ground onion, garlic or black pepper.

It’s important to allow your fish to air dry for at least one hour before placing in your smokehouse. Allowing your fillets to air dry will enhance the color, texture and flavor of your fish, and is the secret of many smoking enthusiasts. Then it is time to place your loaded rack in your portable smokehouse.

We use Little and/or Big Chief Smokehouses (we have several) when smoking fish or game, which are fired with an electric heating element that not only burns the wood flavor fuel that creates the smoke but completes the curing process of slowly drying you fish. These portable smokehouses are designed to be used outside, well away from any combustible material. The smoking and curing process will take 8-to-12 hours, depending on the outside temperature, thickness of your fillets, and the quantity of fish.

Wood chips impart their unique flavor to the fish so their selection is important. Hickory is the all-around favorite for fish, jerky, steaks, ribs – almost any food item. Other wood flavors are available such as apple, cherry and alder, which impart a mild taste and what we use when adding smoke flavor to game birds, poultry or cheese. Mesquite wood imparts a distinct flavor that is popular for jerky or adding smoke-flavor to ribs or steaks – it doesn’t take much mesquite to add a lot of wood flavor.

The better quality wood flavor chips (like those produced by Smokehouse Products) have had the bark removed, which is bitter, and are ground and dried before packaging. A pan full of chips will smoke for about an hour before being consumed, and even though the entire smoking/cooking/drying process may take up to 12 hours, you will only need 2-to-3 pans of wood fuel to add the correct amount of smoke flavor.

After the smoking process is complete, we allow our fillets to cool and then store in a brown paper bag with several paper towels folded at the bottom. Keeping your smoke house treats in a paper bag and stored in your refrigerator will keep them fresh tasting for up to three weeks. Don’t let your frozen fish become freezer burned or poor tasting by remaining in your freezer too long. Wow yourself and friends by smoking them now.

Glenn’s Texas Baby Back Pork Ribs

THE MEAT: Baby backs are a large rib, with very good flavor and limited fat. Go ahead and get the larger size, about 2 + pounds. The little ones like you get at the restaurant,  are usually in the 1- 1 ½ lb. range and are not as good as what you are going to do. There are usually about  12-13 bones on this rack and you can feed 2-3 people with one rack; or go ahead and it  ‘em all yourself.

THE RUB:  Here is where the fun starts! If to talk to 200 people who smoke ribs, you will probably  get at least 200 recipes on the best rub ever!  And they are all probably pretty good.  What ever you like is the rub for you. Smokehouse Products has an excellent rub for these ribs, but if you elect to do it yourself, here is a good starter.  Combine 2 parts Lawry’s season salt with 1 part Tony Chachere’s  Original Creole Seasoning, and add brown sugar to taste. About 3 tbsps to sixteen ounces of rub. Add spices and pepper to suit your taste.  For your rib rub, just let your taste go wild and try different combinations.

THE PROCESS;   It is not necessary to par boil these ribs when you are going to smoke them. This process is for using a “dry rub”. Before applying your rub, many smokers like to spray  various types of juices or sauces. There are many excellent combinations . You will need to experiment here. I usually will use an apple juice/brown sugar combination or Worcestershire sauce. Let sit about 10-20 mins. , . Put the rub on the meaty side and let sit for about 15 mins. Get the smoker prepared and if you are going with an apple juice or pineapple spray, I would suggest the apple pellets. Works great.  Hickory or mesquite are two of my favorites  to use on baby backs. Put the ribs on the smoker with the meaty side up and your temp at about 150 200 for 2- 2 ½ hours. After about  2 hours, you may want to up your temp to around 250 for about 1 hour.  When your see the fatty part on top of the ribs start separating , that is your clue for the next step. Take the ribs off and wrap them in a heavy duty foil.( At this step, many  smokers will want to add a BBQ sauce of some type to make “wet ribs”).  After the ribs are wrapped and back on the smoker up the temp  to 250 to 300 for another 1-2 hours.  We should be falling off the bone by now.  If you would rather gnaw then off the bone, take ‘em off sooner. The outdoor temp, humidity, size of the meat can all affect the cooking time, but the above is a very reliable process. Ring your dinnerbell,  serve up the ribs.  It’s time to eat. Call me and let me know the results.   By the way, if you are going to serve baked potatoes with  your ribs, wrap them in foil and put them in the smoker when you first put the ribs in and the taters should be ready at the same time as the ribs!

Glenn’s Texas Pulled Pork

THE MEAT: For pulled pork, you have several choices of pork to use; pork shoulder, pork butts, or pork cushions. They are all good choices. You could also use pork loins, but that’s a little spendy for BBQ. The first three choices mentioned are fatty pieces of meats and you will lose about 25% during the cooking process. If you go with a bone in one of the three cuts, expect more loss.

THE RUB: Generally, you will not be using a rub on the front end of this smokin’ process, but you will after its pulled. There are several good rubs available for pork BBQ, and the one available from Smokehouse Products is preferred.

THE PROCESS: There is really no up front work to be done on smokin’ the pork. Apple or Hickory are excellent woods to use here. Since there is a lot of fat in this meat, be sure to check your drip pan on a regular basis. Put the meat on the smoker at 250 temp until the fatty outside is starting to crack. This will be about 7-8 hours. If you have gone with the bone in cut, smoke until you can easily pull the bone out with a pair of tongs. Use a meat thermometer to make sure the internal temp is at least 170. When taken off, the meat should easily be falling apart as you move it around. The pork should be pulled while it is still pretty hot. Don’t wait longer than 45 minutes or it will get harder to pull. You can just use your hands to tear the meat in small pieces (bit size) or use a couple of forks and pull it into strings. You can leave as much fat in here as your taste wants. Once the meat is pulled, mix in the rub to your taste or you may want to go with the rub and a BBQ sauce that suits you. Now that it’s ready, ring the dinner bell… it’s time to eat!

Glenn’s Texas Smoked Brisket

THE MEAT: Brisket is that floppy part of the beef that hangs down under the cows neck and back toward their shoulder. It is a relatively inexpensive cut of meat and is very tasty when properly prepared. You can usually buy brisket with the “point/tip” on or trimmed. The point/tip is a larger end of the cut that is usually quite a bit thicker and fattier, thus making for a much larger piece of meat. I usually buy this cut because it is less expansive than the trimmed and because I have a plan for the point after my brisket is cooked. More about that later. Briskets are usually going to be in the 7-15 lb. range and there is a  bit of shrinkage as the fat cooks away during your smokin’ process.

THE RUB: Smokehouse Products has an excellent rub or there are numerous ones available from your grocer. However, you may choose to make your own rub. A good generic start is to combine 3 parts Lawry’s Season Salt with 1 part Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning. This combination makes a good, mild rub. If your taste buds are hankering for a little more bite, hello crushed red pepper. Your call. Rubs are very personal as far as taste is concerned, but be sure to take into consideration who else will be sharing your brisket.

THE PROCESS: If you desire, you may want to trim some of the extra fat off before you put on the rub. Some folks like to sprinkle water, apple juice, or Worchestershire sauce on the meat before applying their rub. Those are all good choices. Liberally apply your rub to the meat, lean side up-fat side down-first. How much to apply is a personal preference, but you will literally rub it into the meat, going with the grain. Allow the rub to sit at least 30 minutes. Some people like to let it sit overnight, but to me it gets saltier the longer it sits.

While the rub is sitting is usually a good time to get your smoker ready; hook up the heat source, put your racks in, get the drip pan ready, put your wood in the chip pan. I like to use the mesquite pellets on my brisket, but I have also used apple wood chunks too. So, put the meat on the racks now, lean side down-fat side up. Apply your rub again, probably more on this side than you did on the lean side. Now… let’s put the heat to the meat! Start out at about 150 to 200 on temperature for about 2 to 2-1/2 hours. We really are just interested in smokin’ right now and not necessarily cookin’ (there are some time and temperature variables here becuase of the different sizes of the meat). At about 2-1/2 to 3 hours, turn the temp up to 250 for about 5-1/2 more hours. Now we are smokin’ and cookin’. Take a sample slide into the meat; if it’s too red for your taste, cook longer. If it’s medium done, take it off, wrap it in heavy duty foil and put it back on for another 2-3 hours. Be careful when taking the package off the smoker. It will be full of hot grease. Be prepared for that.

Now, remember that point we left on? If you don’t want to eat it now, cut it off and wrap it well and put it in the freezer. The next time you make vegetable soup, chop up some of that piece of meat and put it in the soup. Now you have Brisket Soup. Mmmm… you heard it here first!

Time to ring the dinner bell… it’s time to eat! Let us know how it turns out or if you have any questions.


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