Well, here's part II:
SMOKING THE CURED FISH
If you want to see part one of the tutorial, click here:
Load your racks of fish into the smoker and fill the pan with wood chips.
Plug the smoker in and watch for it to start smoking. It should take about twenty minutes. When it starts to really billow smoke, unplug it.
When it stops smoking, plug it in again and repeat this step until the first pan of chips is burned up. This allows you to smoke the fish, instead of cook it.
Now, reload the pan with chips and rotate the racks in the smoker. This time, leave the smoker plugged in a little longer and start 'cooking' the fish. After two pans of chips and some time in the heat, your fish should look like this:
Note that the fish looks squishy and lacks color. What you will need to do now is choose the method you want to use to cook or 'finish' the fish.
I chose to reload the pan with wood chips and give it one more round of heat and smoke. Here's what it looked like:
IMPORTANT: The outdoor temperature determines how long it will take to finish the fish!
The Big Chief does not produce high temperatures, so most people insulate the smoker so that it gets hot enough to finish the job.
Some people cut out the box the smoker came in and use it to insulate the smoker by slipping it over the top. Others use blankets or some othere insulating material. Another method is to build a little 'smoke house' out of wood that you can set over your Big Chief or fashion a door to access the front of the Big Chief through.
Always place your smoker away from your house and beware that you could start a fire! I am not recommending a particular method of insulation nor am I responsible if you burn your or your neighbor's house down!
Another way to finish the fish after the smoking process is to cook it in the oven.
In the previous picture, the fish looked done, but what you didn't see was that the thicker pieces of fish further back on the racks, just out of the picture still felt squishy and did not have the nice, red glazed look that you want on your salmon:
Take these pieces and put them on separate racks. Put them in a pre-heated oven at around 250 degrees and cook them until they are firm and colorful. I like mine a little over done. Here's what they looked like when ready to remove from the oven:
Note: the fish in these pics is overdone by most people's stardards, including my own. One of the nice things about smoking your own is that you can do it how you want. Sometimes the overdone pieces, where the edges taste like salmon bacon or jerkey, are the very best ones!
As soon as your pieces are cool enough to handle, vacuum pack them and label them:
Remember this pic of some cohos I posted in September?:
well, here's what those 3 fish turned into:
The buck got filleted and frozen and the hen and jack got smoked. I like to make packs that are just the right size to take out for a snack, a family dinner or to give as gifts. They will keep in the freezer for a loooooong time.
Final thoughts.... Only smoke quality fish. Process (freeze, smoke or can) your fish within a few days of catching it. Your smoked fish will always taste better after 'aging' in the fridge for a few days. (Don't ask me why, it's just true.)
There are so many variations to smoking, curing, etc, that you can never stop experimenting, so have fun!
Tutorial By Fishing Guide and Member Ed Fast