Salmon is the easiest thing to smoke and so unbelievably delicious! It’s 97 degrees here, so a quick smoke is perfect in this weather. Once you build the fire and the smoker gets up to temp, it’s only about 40 minutes til dinner’s on the table. Boom! I’ll walk you through step by step in case a smoker is an entirely new thing to you, but definitely zoom ahead if you know how to build a fire and smoke dinner.
The cooking chamber is the big barrel on the left. The firebox is the smaller, lower barrel on the right. Air travels in through a vent in a door in the firebox, carrying the heat and smoke from the wood through the cook chamber and out the chimney stack on the left. You control the heat with airflow and the amount of wood you’re burning. My firebox needs a little sanding and paint…
First you need to build a fire. Put a fire starting chimney in the firebox, and crumple up two pieces of newspaper underneath it, and two more inside it. Fill it up with natural lump charcoal. Light it through the vents on the bottom.
When all the coal’s lit, put on heavy-duty grilling gloves, grab the handle, and carefully turn it over to pour the hot coals out into your firebox. You want the smoker to reach a sustained smoking temp of about 250 degrees F, but anything between 225 and 275 is going to be just fine. My smoker needs two split log pieces to do that. I’m using hickory today, but use whatever smoking-appropriate wood you have.
Once it’s staying around 250 degrees F, set your insert-protein-here (I’ll do salmon specific after the basic fire building and running the smoker) on the cooking grate and add a thermometer probe right into the center of the meat. The picture shows my two probes. You don’t want them touching and you want to make sure the end of the probe that’s measuring the smoker’s temp doesn’t touch the food or pans or anything.
The pic on the left is the starting temps on my phone app. The pic on the right are the finishing temps. I’m watching for my smoker (Billy Bob) to stay around 250 degrees F, and watching the salmon go from a chilly 41 degrees to an optimally finished 145 degrees F.
Let it smoke to the appropriate internal temp. That’s it! If this were a longer smoke, you’d just be adding more wood every time the smoker temp starts to dip – about once an hour.
Okay, so now you know how to build a fire and operate a smoker. Let’s talk about salmon!
Here’s my rub. After you mix it, label it Jen’s Rub, please and thank you! 😀
3 Tablespoons seasoned salt – I use Lawry’s
3 Tablespoons black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon mustard powder
Leave the skin on the salmon to protect it and keep it fabulously juicy. Brush the salmon with a little olive oil.
Shake on some of Jen’s rub. It has salt in it, so about 1 teaspoon per pound is right. My salmon’s 1 1/2 pounds, so I’m going with 1 1/2 teaspoons.
Place in a smoker heated to around 250 degrees F. Put your meat probe right in the center of the salmon. Smoke it til the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees F. It took about 40 minutes.
I served it with asparagus tossed in a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and then smoked, plus lemon slices, and fresh strawberries.
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My bbq goggles. They’re supposed to be onion goggles, but they are fabulous for smoke! And super flattering, yeah?!