From America's Test Kitchen Season 3: Barbecued Salmon
Store-bought smoked salmon is inconsistent in quality and also incredibly expensive—up to $8 for just 4 ounces. We wanted to create our own easy recipe for this dish that’s often reserved for weekend brunch, and make moist (but not too moist), nicely crusted salmon with a hint of smoked flavor in any covered grill—in just two hours. Surprisingly, impatience turned out to be the key to our success. Instead of the traditional cold-smoking technique, which keeps the salmon moist but lacks flavor, we developed a “hot-smoked” method, and kept the salmon moist by brining. We achieved full smoked salmon flavor on the grill using a whole side of salmon. To get a firm but not overly dry texture, complemented by a strong hit of smoke and wood, we slow-cooked the salmon for more than an hour over a modified two-level fire, with wood chunks on the coals, but kept the fish on the cooler part of the grill the whole time. Using two spatulas to transfer the cooked fish from the grill prevented it from falling apart, and cutting through the pink flesh, not the skin, to divide individual portions kept the meat intact while leaving the skin behind.
Serves 4 to 6
The grill rack must be hot and thoroughly clean before you place the salmon on it; otherwise the fish might stick. Use foil or the back of a large jelly-roll pan to get the fish onto the grill. Alder wood is our first choice for this recipe but hickory will be fine, too. You will need two wood chunks, each about the size of a lemon, for this recipe. Hot-smoked salmon can be served warm off the grill as well as chilled. As an hors d'oeuvre, it is delicious as is or accompanied by Melba toast (or an other flat bread or cracker), finely chopped white onion, capers, and lemon wedges. To serve the salmon as an entrée, just add lemon wedges or one of the related recipes.