The choice of salmon is the highest priority. Most of the time, the salmon used for smoking will have been farmed. But all farms are not the same. Certain labels exist (Label Rouge in France for example) which guarantee the quality and taste of the fish. Fish selected for smoked salmon are usually good-sized, offering the best fillets.
Let's move on to the preparation. First, the salmon must be filleted on each side (the skin is kept) and its bones removed.
Then they are evenly salted in a cold temperature (6 – 10°C). The salmon is left like that for 6 hours, with the salt drying the fillet and killing any bacteria.
Then the fish is smoked over wood (beech, oak or walnut) for 12 hours. This is an important stage in the process since it is during the smoking that the fillet acquires its flavour. There are two types of salmon-smoking: hot, where the heat of the flame is part of the smoking, or cold where, cooled to 30°C maximum, the smoke just caresses the fillets. The latter enables you to get a much more tender finished product.Then comes the flavour ripening process. Until that moment the salt and smoke will only have permeated the surface of the salmon. So the fillets are now put in the cold for 24 hours in order that the flavour can penetrate the skin.
Next, the coating of carbon – deposited during the smoking – will be removed and the ends of the fillet will be cut so as to keep the best parts of the fish. Only some 40% of the original fish will remain in the final product.
Lastly, it is cut into slices. That is done by hand from the head down towards the tail with a long knife. For the slice to be both fine and straight, a fast and steady movement is required. The average weight of a slice of smoked salmon is 50g.