Taking all preparations beforehand into consideration, hot smoking salmon should take no more than two days. Without preparation, the actual smoking process should take something between one hour for a thin fillet and up to four hours for a thick, slab like piece.
The following steps are suitable to smoke salmon, as well as trout, sturgeon, bluefish or tuna slabs.
Before a fish can be smoked, it has to be cured in brine. A simple brine can be prepared by mixing
A quarter cup of brown sugar
A quarter cup of salt
Two bay leaves
Half a cup of chopped fennel
Half a chopped onion
One finely sliced stalk of celery
Two crushed cloves of garlic into four cups of water.
Fish and brine are then placed into a glass or plastic bowl and kept in a fridge for eight to 24 hours, depending on size. It is better to err on the shorter side of time, as leaving the fish in the brine for too long can make it extremely salty.
To form the apellicle, a thin lacquer like layer, which is needed to seal the fish and form a sticky surface to which the smoke can cling, the fish has to be air dried on a rack in a cool, below 65 degrees F, 18 degrees C, well circulated area for two to three hours.
The fish is now placed into the smoking box and should remain there at a maximum temperature of around 140 degrees F, 60 degrees C, for one to four hours, depending on size. It will be ready when meat flakes off easily, or when the internal temperatures reach the above mentioned maximum.
Perfect woods for smoking salmon are oak, hickory, alder, any fruit or nut woods.