The 10 Best Smoked Salmon
This wiki has been updated 26 times since it was first published in August of 2015. With its unmistakable aroma and distinct umami notes, nothing beats the taste of good smoked salmon -- on toast, on bagels, in scrambled eggs, in salads, or, quite frankly, with just about anything. Pick out your favorite salty, smoky, treat from our comprehensive selection of this delicious and relatively low-calorie food to enjoy as part of a balanced meal or as a tasty snack. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
December 05, 2019:
Smoked salmon has to be one of the strongest foods commonly found in the Western palate. If you're pretty new to it or just want to try a solid variety, get the SeaBear Trio, Fairhaven Bay Seafood 3-Pack, or Alaska Smokehouse Trio. They all come from respectable producers and offer noticeably distinct flavors that almost any gourmet will appreciate. If you're looking for a considerably less oily mouthfeel, you'll want to go for the Fairhaven Bay Filet or Jet Set Sam Premium.
When you're trying to emulate what you get a high-end restaurants, check out the New York's Delicacy Nova and Scotch Reserve Scottish, which are both no strangers to high-end cuisine. They both deliver a juicy, rich experience that really attacks the senses. In fact, they go incredibly well with a high-quality balsamic vinegar as part of a haute charcuterie plate. Speaking of charcuterie, if you're into bold flavors, a good truffle honey or truffle butter are also worth a shot.
Especially good for diners who aren't well-versed in smoked salmon are the Blue Circle Foods Norwegian, SeaBear Canned 3-Pack, and Solex Catsmo Collection. The Blue Circle is quite delicate and remarkably true to the pure salmon flavor, and the Solex really exemplifies what a talented artist can do with raw fish. And the SeaBear Canned selection makes a great gift, providing a range of flavors without locking you into a single profile.
Browne Trading They use Atlantic-caught salmon, process it in the USA, and produce a few different flavors. Their product has gone through several different panels of highly discerning tasters and come out receiving nothing but praise. If you're into strong flavors and sustainable fish, check these guys out. They're good at what they do. brownetrading.com
Russ & Daughters Gaspe Nova It won't overpower your dish and destroy your palate, and it won't make you crinkle your nose at some pungent odor, but it may make you reflect on just how complex and subtle a truly well-fired piece of naturally raised fish can taste. It's not cheap, but in real-world taste testing, it comes out at or near the top. russanddaughters.goldbelly.com
Hebridean Smokehouse You probably haven't heard of a Scottish gentleman named Fergus Granville, let alone North Uist, the island where he's laid down one of the most renowned smokehouses in all of Europe, but we'll forgive you. In fact, you might forget that you've ever eaten any smoked salmon ever before, once you taste what he and his dedicated company make. It's about as good as it gets. hebrideansmokehouse.com
Be Delighted With Chicken Of The Sea
By contrast, the hot smoking process actually cooks the fish using direct heat in much the same way meats are cooked and smoked.
Culinary delicacies are versatile in nature, meaning they can be prepared in a variety of different ways. Food has been at the heart of both the economic and social development of human cultures around the world for thousands of years. It helps to stabilize societies, create jobs, and bring both people and families together in order to create a sense of identity and tradition. As this holds true for the rich histories of many foods, an indulgence like smoked salmon is no different.
Smoked salmon is an umbrella term for the fish that refers to any type of salmon (e.g. wild, farm-raised, fillet, or steak) or any part of the fish that has ultimately undergone a hot or cold smoking process. Typically, the wet or dry curing process precedes the actual smoking process. Wet curing involves soaking the fish in a salty brine solution prior to smoking, whereas dry curing involves simply dehydrating the fish over the course of several days. Smoked salmon should not be confused with gravlax or lox.
Gravlax is a type of raw salmon cured in a mixture of salt, sugar, and seasoning for the purpose of dehydration and elimination of bacteria that could otherwise cause it to spoil. Gravlax is served thinly-sliced on top of crackers as an appetizer. Lox is known for its popularity as part of traditional Jewish cuisine and is made from the belly of the fish where it is salt-cured, but uncooked, leaving it with a silky and rich texture that lends itself well to serving on bagels with cream cheese and onions.
The process of smoking takes place when the fish is less than three years old, preserving its freshness and full flavor. The two main preparation styles include cold and hot smoked salmon. With the predominant and popular cold smoking process, the fish is filleted with its sides being covered in a layer of salt for up to six hours to cure it. During the curing process, the salt draws out moisture, prevents bacterial growth, kills microbes, and infuses the fish with flavor. The fish can then be dried for several hours before it is slowly exposed to smoke in an eighty to ninety-nine-degree Fahrenheit environment over the course of several days. In this environment, the fish isn't completely cooked, which makes its resulting texture moist, silky and delicate.
Cold smoked salmon is similar in texture to lox with an additional layer of oil and a subtle smoky flavor. It is typically sold sliced at deli counters or in vacuum-sealed, see-through packaging. It is perishable and should be consumed within a couple of weeks if not frozen. By contrast, the hot smoking process actually cooks the fish using direct heat in much the same way meats are cooked and smoked. It is cooked anywhere from six to twelve hours directly over a fire, or in an enclosure heated by fire, at up to one hundred eighty degrees Fahrenheit. The resulting texture of hot-smoked salmon is a consistency that is much firmer, drier, and with a more intense smoky flavor than the cold smoked variety. It can also be packaged with an un-refrigerated shelf life of up to five years.
Depending on the size of the fish, the length of time for the smoking process will vary when prepared inside a smokehouse. The flavor can also vary significantly, depending on the type of salmon being used (e.g. wild vs. farm-raised) as well as on the chosen method of smoking itself. For example, Scottish smoked salmon leverages wood chips from old whiskey or sherry casks for a truly distinct flavor. Most salmon found in supermarkets is of the cold smoked variety and comes from farmed populations.
Flavor Says It All
Eating smoked salmon provides the human body with several benefits in addition to simply offering a unique taste at a brunch spread or as part of a lavish dinner. It serves as a rich source of dietary proteins, fat, and iron to support healthy tissues and maintain superior memory function. Smoked salmon can also be sold as individually-wrapped servings that can either be stored in the freezer or in your refrigerator.
Finally, decide whether you want cold or hot smoked salmon.
One must determine the type of salmon that will taste best for the corresponding context, meaning that flavor consideration matters depending on how you plan to serve it to a group of people. Smoked wild salmon typically has a more intense flavor than that of the farm-raised variety, so if you and your family prefer a complex taste with a strong essence of smoke, purchasing wild smoked salmon at the grocery store is a great option if you can find it.
Do be aware that wild salmon often carries a higher price tag than the farmed variety, but some feel that it's worth the extra expense. You'll need to make that determination on your own with some possible trial and error. Also, many packaged smoked salmons include either one or a mix of different species, each with its own unique characteristics. That said, it's important to experiment with the different types until you find the one that most suits your preference and taste buds.
Next, you must consider how long the salmon will stay fresh should you choose to keep it frozen for an extended period of time. Many types of salmon can stay fresh for up to a year in your kitchen freezer, so you aren't limited to consuming it right away, thanks to its preservation.
Finally, decide whether you want cold or hot smoked salmon. While cold smoked fish will give you a subtle essence of the smoking process, the hot smoked variety is much more forward-tasting, which is perfect for serving it as a main course complemented by other dishes. Hot smoked salmon is particularly delicious with freshly-squeezed lemon juice on top.
A Brief History Of Smoked Salmon
Salmon has been a part of human culture for more than 20,000 years, being considered a food source, a sign of the ritual of passing seasons, emblematic creatures that embody mysterious knowledge, and a subject for artistic expression.
Smoked salmon was first brought to the United Kingdom in the late 1800s by Eastern European immigrants to London.
The process of smoking fish for preservation purposes has been around for centuries. The Native Americans, for example, have held salmon in very high regard (along with other animals), basing some of their cultural rituals around the fish's presence, as it was believed that mistreating the animal would cause the great spirits of the ocean to drive the salmon away.
Smoked salmon was first brought to the United Kingdom in the late 1800s by Eastern European immigrants to London. The fish was smoked in an effort to preserve it from spoiling with the lack of available refrigeration technology. The nineteenth century saw the beginnings of the American smoked salmon industry, first on the Pacific coast, where wild Pacific salmon from both Alaska and Oregon were caught between the spring and fall seasons. During World War Two, the smoking process was further developed in order to preserve salted fish so that it could travel for longer periods of time without spoiling.
The evolution of the modern railroad industry and, other means of long-distance transportation, allowed the Pacific smoked salmon market to expand significantly, helping the fish to become a major part of the American diet to this day.