Salmon Prep and Cooking Fillets

Trapper

Author, Writer, Photographer
#1
I cook a lot of Salmon. A lot. Last summer I cooked Sockeye and Silver Salmon twice a week for 12 weeks straight. I also made Salmon pate and Salmon cakes.

After a few years of experimenting I found the following to please the greatest number of people.



Start out with an aluminum boat. Heavy duty works best or just double up on regular foil. Put it on a 3-sided cookie sheet. You'll just use the cookie sheet to transport that's why the 3-sided.



Remove the skin from the fillet. I use a sharp knife to initially skin it, but then you can carefully just pull on the skin to get it away from the meat.



Remove the pin bones, rib bones (if your fillet technique didn't do it), and any fins you may have missed when filleting. I like these kitchen tweezers because they don't tend to cut or break the pin bones when you pull them out.



Put the fillet on the aluminum boat, brush olive oil, or whatever liquid dressing you use on both sides. (You skin the fillet so you can season both sides.) Season both sides. For this one I did a simple smoked paprika, seasoned pepper and Kosher salt.



Slide the fillet and boat onto the grill. Close the lid. Don't over cook it. Typically at about 350º-400º a typical Sockeye fillet will be done in 5-6 minutes. Keep in mind the thickness of the fillet and the temperature will determine whether it's done. On Sockeye, when you see tiny bits of oil coming to the surface it's done.

To remove it from the grill, slide the 3-sided cookie sheet under the foil boat.



On this fillet I drizzled a raspberry chutney on it a minute or two before I pulled it off the grill.

Plate it. Pair it with a side of rice and a nice wine and enjoy.

Trapper
 

Salmo_g

Well-Known Member
#2
OK Trapper, just because it's you, I'd try that fish. However, I think you may inadvertently be setting the stage for a "Salmon Cookoff!"

Good quality salmon requires no liquid or oil application. Good salmon is already oily. And aluminum foil is an artificial contrivance that separates salmon from the natural flavor imparted by the heat and smoke of a good fish cooking fire. I would never taint a salmon with pepper, or especially that goofy lemon-pepper stuff used by some wanna' be fish cooks who haven't learned to appreciate good salmon. I'm with you on salt, however. Though I've never seen that the Rabbi's Kosherness ever mattered to either the fish or to me. But the skin! Skin belongs on salmon. They are naked without it. The skin seals in the natural juices and deliciousness of salmon. Actually I just learned last night from a friend that after removing the salmon from the fire, it can be easily separated from the fish. Then put the skin back on the fire for one minute, and the skin is tasty eating as well. I've never tried that part myself. Don't know why, other than I just go by the tradition of salmon cooking I was taught long ago.

Sg
 

Trapper

Author, Writer, Photographer
#3
Salmo_g. One of the reasons I still love to cook is the many methods, seasonings, and foods that can be combined to suit one’s palette.

I know you are at least half way kidding. The Kosher salt part was funny as hell.

I really like many of these online discussions about food. I read one where Gordon Ramsay went a little crazy when someone suggested putting pineapple on a pizza. The response was furious for and against. I laughed my ass off.

I mix up the way I cook Salmon because, for example, last summer I was cooking four fillets two times a week. I’d make each one with different seasonings. But I removed the skin from all of them. So I carried out my little experiment with a few hundred people this past summer.

I remove the skin so that I can season both sides of the filet.

I don't like putting the filet directly on the grill because when the seasonings heat up they dry and fall off the meat. I agree good salmon is oily, especially Sockeye, and while I only put a light coat of oil on some salmon. Many recipes I do without oil. I do it mostly so it doesn’t stick to the foil. Putting the filet on foil keeps it from drying out.

Confession time. I often find myself breaking away from the conventional out of boredom and monotony. When I cook the same menu week after week I change things up to keep it fun for me.

Trapper
 

Shapp

Active Member
#4
I cook a lot of Salmon. A lot. Last summer I cooked Sockeye and Silver Salmon twice a week for 12 weeks straight. I also made Salmon pate and Salmon cakes.
One more tip (straight from my wife's Alaska family) after you have dressed the sockeye fillet as you describe perfectly, hang it in a cold smoker (no heat) for about 30 minutes, then grill exactly as you have described.
Cheers,
Shap

Also, hanging fillets in the cold smoker for 30 minutes to an hour before vacuum packing for freezer storage makes the fillet much better when thawing and cooking latter.
 

Trapper

Author, Writer, Photographer
#5
Good tip Shapp. I’ll do that. The smoker I had in Alaska was a ways from the kitchen. I smoked about 200 lbs of Sockeye filets and Silver bellies.

Is the idea to cool the filet or to pick up some remnant smoke flavor?
 

Shapp

Active Member
#6
the smoke right before grilling is for flavor

The smoking right before vacuum packing adds flavor but also I think makes the fillet thaw to an nicer more firm fillet suitable for the grill.
 

Salmo_g

Well-Known Member
#8
Trapper,

OK, I kid, but only slightly. I'm a bit of a salmon snob. Enough so that I'm not inclined to order it in restaurants, an exception being the Steelhead Diner in Seattle. The owner is an acquaintance and really good chef. My wife and I had salmon there Sunday evening and once back in July. And even though it was prepared differently than I would (cuz I BBQ over alder and no other way) it was delicious.

If I ate salmon twice a week, I might want to try another preparation method. However, when fortune smiles on me and I catch a Columbia River spring Chinook, we eat BBQ salmon every day until it is gone. It's just too damn special to bugger up by freezing any of it. I don't like to freeze salmon, but I do freeze sockeye, fall Chinook, and coho only because it's impossible to eat it all before it spoils otherwise.

Having learned only lately that cooking on a gas grill is not really BBQing, I understand why I don't own one. I used to cook salmon exclusively over an alder wood fire in my back yard, but that is a major hassle when fixing a small amount of fish, like just for family. I discovered that I can simulate cooking on the wood fire using my little Weber charcoal BBQ and adding some water-soaked alder wood chips for the smokey flavor.

Sg
 

Trapper

Author, Writer, Photographer
#9
Sg. Oh man I liked adding alder smoke. I had LOTS of it on the SW Alaska tundra. It’s tougher to find here in Montana.

I don’t order salmon in resturants either. Most of them are serving farm raised Atlantic Salmon which is just disgusting.

I drink my coffee black, but occasionally I enjoy a latte.

I cook my steaks on cast iron inside my propane grill with various wood smoke, and with just salt and pepper, but every now and then I enjoy the hell out of a rib eye gorgonzola.

I bake somewhere north of fifteen different kinds of bread.

I’ve been cooking lots of Italian meals since the 60s, but sometimes I make a Mexican lasagna.

I’ll make an eggs benedict with chorizo, lobster, crab, or even ham.

I guess I just like mixing it up. Others must like me doing that too because if I invite 15 people over for dinner, 20 people show up.

Trapper
 

Jim Wallace

Smells like low tide.
#10
Sg. Oh man I liked adding alder smoke. I had LOTS of it on the SW Alaska tundra. It’s tougher to find here in Montana.

I don’t order salmon in resturants either. Most of them are serving farm raised Atlantic Salmon which is just disgusting.

I drink my coffee black, but occasionally I enjoy a latte.

I cook my steaks on cast iron inside my propane grill with various wood smoke, and with just salt and pepper, but every now and then I enjoy the hell out of a rib eye gorgonzola.

I bake somewhere north of fifteen different kinds of bread.

I’ve been cooking lots of Italian meals since the 60s, but sometimes I make a Mexican lasagna.

I’ll make an eggs benedict with chorizo, lobster, crab, or even ham.

I guess I just like mixing it up. Others must like me doing that too because if I invite 15 people over for dinner, 20 people show up.

Trapper
So...where did you say you lived, and when are you planning your next feast? :D
 

Jim Wallace

Smells like low tide.
#11
I often cook up my salmon in an oiled up cast iron skillet, with a cover. I throw my filets in skin-side up, cook 'em for 2-3 minutes on med, then flip them over and keep the heat on med-low for about 3 more minutes with the cover on, turn off the the heat, let it ride for another minute or two while I'm getting the rest of my plate together, and then spatula the filet off of the skin, which adheres to the pan. Have at it!

edit: after you flip the filets is usually the time to top 'em off with any special sauce, which is optional.
 
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Trapper

Author, Writer, Photographer
#12
So...where did you say you lived, and when are you planning your next feast? :D
Hey Jim! I live northwest of Helena, Montana.

I just cooked an andouille sausage Cajun jambalaya. According to the people I served it to, it kicked ASS!

If you ever find yourself in the area, let me know and I’d be happy to wrassle up some grub for you . . .

Trapper
 
#13
I don't get it...Sockeye that is. First time I went to Alaska to visit my wife's (then girlfriend's) family, it was all about the Sockeye, aka "reds". Only way I liked it was smoked or smoked and then canned. Since then (and multiple trips back up there), still the same results, smoked or not at all. She's got an aunt & uncle, and then 3 cousins who are all married and have their own families. They all fish, dipnet, etc. and all they can talk about is these damn "reds". The things are awful. I've had it over cooked, undercooked, cooked perfectly, seasoned with just salt and pepper, to crazy ones with mayo sauces. I've had it less than an hour after it was taken out of the ocean. Still haven't had a good one. My wife (who can cook a PB & J and that's about it) brought some home the other night, which I immediately thought (but did not say out loud) "fuck, Sockeye? Are you kidding me?" There's no fat on 'em, and they are always disproportionate (thin areas and thick areas). So, when you cook them, the thin areas (where the fat should be) get's dry as a bone, and the thick areas are like eating a wet sponge. Maybe a couple bites in the middle are OK. I've eaten hundreds of these things prepared a hundred different ways (including the ways that have been mentioned in this thread), and still the only way I like it is smoked. Now, maybe this is my pallet, because every time I head up there they ask me to cook it for them because they have never had it better. When they come down to visit us, they ship giant coolers of it to us before they arrive so I can cook it for them.

Personally, I'm a Chinook guy. Every time it's dynamite. I like it undercooked a little, so the thickest part is a tiny bit raw. I would take over-cooked Chinook over a perfectly cooked Sockeye any day. And, even if the fillet has some thin areas, those areas are usually loaded with fat, so even if they are overdone, they are absolutely delicious, not to mention the crispy skin that is attached to it. And, I prefer smoked Chinook over smoked sockeye. When I ask about Chinook up there in AK...they don't like it. Too fatty. WHAT!?!?!

OK rant over. I am serious though, I have a hatred for Sockeye. I would like to eat one of your Sockeye's to see if I am missing something. Here is my normal preparation for salmon:

Combine Lemon juice, olive oil, a clove or two of minced (fresh) garlic. Spread it with your hands over the salmon (skin on). Season with salt and (gasp!) pepper. Soak alder chips in warm water for about 45 minutes. Start coals on Weber grill, using indirect heat method (all coals on one side). When coals are ready (~500 degrees F), put salmon, meat side down on grill and grill for ~3 - 4 minutes (depending on size of filet) until you get some nice grill marks on the meat. Filip over to skin side down and move to indirect heat side of the grill. Add the alder chips, and hot smoke for 10 -15 minutes (again, depending on size of filet). That's it. My parents also gasp at the garlic, saying they want to taste the salmon, so when they come over it's just olive oil and salt and pepper, and it's still delicious. I just like the garlic on it, and so does my wife.
 

Trapper

Author, Writer, Photographer
#14
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I like catching, cooking and eating Kings (aka Chinooks) too.

James. From your post, it sounds like you are cooking the salmon on a 500° grill for almost 20 minutes.

If that’s accurate, I understand why you don’t like eating salmon.
 
#15
Trapper - that is for a 1 - 1.5" thick Chinook Fillet weighing 1.5 - 3 Lbs. It comes out perfect, almost sushimi in the middle. Only 3 - 4 minutes at 500, and then another 10 - 15 minutes on indirect heat.

For Sockeye, sometimes its five minutes only, total. I've had it cooked many other ways, as I noted in my post. It's always awful.