Smoking salmon creates a moist, tender texture and rich flavor. However, smoked salmon doesn’t fit just one particular flavor profile. The type of wood used to smoke the salmon influences the texture and taste of the meat.
This process is also used to preserve the salmon for longer. Fresh salmon can last for a couple of days, but smoked salmon can last for up to three weeks if opened, or up to 4 years if vacuum-sealed and left unopened.
A few popular woods used to smoke salmon are apple, alder, and cherry. Each can create a unique flavor, or they can be combined with other woods to produce more robust and complex profiles.
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Applewood Smoked Salmon
Applewood chips are very popular smoking chips for a wide range of meats like pork, poultry, and fish. Its flavoring is mild enough for salmon, whose natural flavor is already fairly light and easily overpowered. Apple smoked salmon has a mildly sweet flavor that complements without overpowering.
However, applewood smoked salmon might be too sweet for some. Applewood chips can be combined with other wood chips in order to create a more savory blend. Some chips, like hickory, have more intense flavors and should be combined with milder applewood chips to cut the intensity.
This particular type of wood can create a subtle crust on the salmon. Because of this, applewood smoked salmon has a beautiful textural complexity.
Alder Smoked Salmon
Alder has such a delicate flavor that it actually works best with salmon, which has a lighter natural flavor than other more densely or intensely flavored meats. It can also produce a brown glaze as it smokes the salmon. The earthy notes of alderwood smoked salmon have an even lighter flavor than applewood smoked salmon.
Just like applewood, alderwood can also be combined with other flavors due to its delicate profile. Some home-smokers say that the best combination for smoking salmon is half applewood chips and half alderwood chips. There are many possible wood chip combinations for delicious smoked salmon.
Alder creates a balanced smoking experience for many types of fish, not just salmon, because it works well for a long smoking time at a low temperature. This is called “cold smoking.”
Cherry Smoked Salmon
Cherry chips produce a sweet, fruity flavor that is also quite tart. Its flavor is even sweeter than applewood chips. It is theorized that cherry has a fuller, richer flavor profile because the tree also produces nuts. Cherry smoking is incredibly versatile and will work with all meats and fish. The balance between cherry’s sweetness and tartness is well-rounded and easily applied beyond salmon, but cherry smoked salmon is a fan favorite. It can be used to color the salmon red– some describe it as an almost mahogany coloring.
Cherry is most often paired with oak, alder, or pecan chips, but a highly suggested blend is cherry wood with oak wood and Jack Daniels. Applewood smoked salmon can be smoked with cherry wood as well, to give the fish a fruity, smoky flavor.
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