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Old 07-09-2019, 09:42 AM   #1
newportfisher
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Default Time to invest in a smoker

It is time to invest in a nicer smoker. What do you all recommend? Something electric and digital? I am looking for a smoker that is fairly idiot proof and seems to get the fish just right. What do you all use?!

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Old 07-09-2019, 10:03 AM   #2
InTheVault
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

I found the Masterbuilt digital ones to be good and inexpensive to run. I wouldn’t recommend the Bradley’s since they use proprietary pucks that get spendy.
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Old 07-09-2019, 10:05 AM   #3
Bobber Downey Jr.
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

I really like my Camp Chef smoker vault. I'm a fan of smoking over real chunks of wood instead of the pellet stuff. With that one, you use a propane burner to adjust your fire. I typically cut my own chunks of alder for the wood tray when doing fish.
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Old 07-09-2019, 10:26 AM   #4
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

Quote:
Originally Posted by InTheVault View Post
I found the Masterbuilt digital ones to be good and inexpensive to run. I wouldn’t recommend the Bradley’s since they use proprietary pucks that get spendy.
100 percent agree with this.
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Old 07-09-2019, 12:11 PM   #5
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

IF you really want to get fancy, a cookshack is great. I have an older model that is analog- but the newer ones are digital. As a side benefit- they do great on a brisket.
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Old 07-09-2019, 12:26 PM   #6
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

With a few simple modifications, it's tough to beat a Big Chief or make your own if you need higher capacity based on the Big Chief design or mode of operation.


For Fish: Be aware you need absolute temperature control between 100 and 125 degrees. Anything warmer turns a smoker into a BBQ. It's also good to know that just because fish is in the smoker for ten hours or more, it isn't on the smoke the entire time. Smoke should end after two to three hours as the rest of the time is dedicated to slow drying as part of the curing process. Will the unit maintain 100/110 degrees when not producing smoke? Does the unit have adequate ventilation to facilitate drying.
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Old 07-09-2019, 12:30 PM   #7
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

Quote:
Originally Posted by DogZilla15 View Post
With a few simple modifications, it's tough to beat a Big Chief or make your own if you need higher capacity based on the Big Chief design or mode of operation.


For Fish: Be aware you need absolute temperature control between 100 and 125 degrees. Anything warmer turns a smoker into a BBQ. It's also good to know that just because fish is in the smoker for ten hours or more, it isn't on the smoke the entire time. Smoke should end after two to three hours as the rest of the time is dedicated to slow drying as part of the curing process. Will the unit maintain 100/110 degrees when not producing smoke? Does the unit have adequate ventilation to facilitate drying.
I am curious what temp you use for fish? I am a strong believer in low temp smoking and not just cooking.
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Old 07-09-2019, 12:37 PM   #8
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

8 Knots... Read my post.
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Old 07-09-2019, 01:39 PM   #9
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

2 Old Heavy Metal Refrigerators.
2 Metal pipes ( one connected lower and one upper to each refer)
2 small fans installed inside refers ( 1 lower 1 higher)
Hanging thermometer on the smoking racks side for easy heat control.


Build your smoke box in one refer
Use metal refer racks in the other to place the meat on.


Easy Peasy........ Instant Smoker with lots of room
Something to do when you have to much time on your hands
Fun to build and inexpensive to make.
Consider it a longer term project for ultimate enjoyment.



This set up is for the heavy duty smoker man/woman.
Takes a lot more time to smoke mass quantity's under a cold smoke effect.
The Older heavy metal refrigerators seals are great.
Heats stays on the left side refer and smoke circulates though each.
I am a High protein man and smoke mass quantity's of beef jerky for everyday snacks/meals (outdoors). Smoke effect stays smooth and not harsh.
There is so much room to spread most anything out that you want.......Deer roast , Elk roast, Fish, Turkey, Grouse, Duck, ect ect. ect.


Its Typically a Mountain Mans "way of life" smoker.
This advertisement was brought to you by my Grandfather...............
He Lived in Idaho 2 1/2 hours north of Boise just below the Sawtooth Range.


I Presently am working on building my second this fall/winter ( from my grandfathers teachings).

Last edited by Coastalhounddog; 07-09-2019 at 07:46 PM. Reason: Paul Harveys.....The rest of the story
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Old 07-09-2019, 02:09 PM   #10
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

I bought a big chief a couple months ago. So far I like it. Eventually I'll get a bigger and nicer one, but for now I'll use this one. It gets the job done just fine.
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Old 07-09-2019, 02:28 PM   #11
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Thumbs up Re: Time to invest in a smoker

Quote:
Originally Posted by InTheVault View Post
I found the Masterbuilt digital ones to be good and inexpensive to run. I wouldn’t recommend the Bradley’s since they use proprietary pucks that get spendy.
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Old 07-09-2019, 02:29 PM   #12
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

Masterbuilt all the way!
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Old 07-09-2019, 03:23 PM   #13
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

Excellent post of information Dog.
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Old 07-09-2019, 03:33 PM   #14
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

Had a hand me down little chief for many years, till it just plumb wore out.
Now have a big chief that I've only used once. (so far).
I liked the little chief the best. But all I ever used it for was fish.
Nuttin' but wood chips for me. Made my own alder chips, since alder is so easy to procure in these parts.
But vine maple is plentiful too. As are plenty of fruit trees around that need pruning.
Just go to your nearest apple or cherry orchard and chip away.
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Old 07-09-2019, 03:53 PM   #15
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

For fish, IMO you want a smoker that will hold 165-180 degrees for a good slow "cold" smoke. I've yet to find anything that does a better job than a Little Chief/Big Chief at doing this. I prefer the Little Chief as well... in the winter when it's really cold, I made a coat for it out of silver mylar bubble insulation to keep it at the right temps.

I have a Smoke Hollow electric that runs too hot to do fish well unless you watch it like a hawk, and keep the door slightly open. 225 degrees is about as low as it will go without the door open. It does meat well, but not fish.
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Old 07-09-2019, 04:08 PM   #16
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

I also really like my Masterbuiit digital smoker. I like it because I can get the temperature hotter when I'm doing pepperoni. I also do some fish in it occasionally, but still do the lion's share of that in my ancient Big Chief which I would never be without! I still use the box as an insulator in cold weather.
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Old 07-09-2019, 04:10 PM   #17
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

Quote:
Originally Posted by Threeweight View Post
For fish, IMO you want a smoker that will hold 165-180 degrees for a good slow "cold" smoke. I've yet to find anything that does a better job than a Little Chief/Big Chief at doing this. I prefer the Little Chief as well... in the winter when it's really cold, I made a coat for it out of silver mylar bubble insulation to keep it at the right temps.

I have a Smoke Hollow electric that runs too hot to do fish well unless you watch it like a hawk, and keep the door slightly open. 225 degrees is about as low as it will go without the door open. It does meat well, but not fish.
I have a smoke hollow digital electric it will go from 100° up to about 285 or 300 There’s a timer so I have the food finishes up in the middle of the night all is well I don’t have to tend it like a little Chief or some of the other smokers I’ve owned It’s only a year or so old does great pork butts cold smoke fish hot smoking anything I like it. As discussed in some of the other post about smokers the proteins change at about 118° so to cold smoke something you really need to manage that cold temperature this one will do it so I like it
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Old 07-09-2019, 04:13 PM   #18
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fishfeet View Post
Had a hand me down little chief for many years, till it just plumb wore out.
Now have a big chief that I've only used once. (so far).
I liked the little chief the best. But all I ever used it for was fish.
Nuttin' but wood chips for me. Made my own alder chips, since alder is so easy to procure in these parts.
But vine maple is plentiful too. As are plenty of fruit trees around that need pruning.
Just go to your nearest apple or cherry orchard and chip away.
I can tell you have some age, I havn't bought chips in more than 45 years as I use a large tarp, a sawbuck and the old Husky with cleaned out oil tank and cooking oil replacing, couple of 55 gallon drums of chips last 5/8 years for three big chiefs and an old lil chief kicker, might last longer now with Sammy suffering! A vote for Big Chief Smokers!!
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Old 07-09-2019, 04:31 PM   #19
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

Quote:
Originally Posted by Puffin View Post
I have a smoke hollow digital electric it will go from 100° up to about 285 or 300 There’s a timer so I have the food finishes up in the middle of the night all is well I don’t have to tend it like a little Chief or some of the other smokers I’ve owned It’s only a year or so old does great pork butts cold smoke fish hot smoking anything I like it. As discussed in some of the other post about smokers the proteins change at about 118° so to cold smoke something you really need to manage that cold temperature this one will do it so I like it

X2. Sounds like I have the same one. VERY easy to use. Digital control for both temp and time. Box is insulated. I live in Bend and have used it plenty in mid winter. Works great. Gave away my two little Chiefs when I bought this one and have never been sorry. Heard good things about Mastercraft too.
BiMart should have them on sale during hunting season and at Xmas.
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Old 07-09-2019, 05:57 PM   #20
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

I have 4 big chiefs and would eventually like to have a bigger smoker custom made.

With only 2 days off/week, I don’t want to spend a whole day smoking 1 or 2 fish.




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Old 07-09-2019, 05:58 PM   #21
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

I use my Louisiana pellet grill. I use Bear mountain "Washington Apple" pellets and can get it down to ~140° , works great!

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Old 07-09-2019, 06:15 PM   #22
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

Quote:
Originally Posted by HunterXtreme View Post
I use my Louisiana pellet grill. I use Bear mountain "Washington Apple" pellets and can get it down to ~140° , works great!

Sent from my SM-G960U using Tapatalk
I second the pellet grill. I have a green mountain. It’s easy to operate and it does a great job on fish and just about everything else. I typically use alder for fish. I put a smoker just behind a vacuum chamber sealer as required food processing equipment if you fish, hunt, or shop at Costco.
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Old 07-09-2019, 06:47 PM   #23
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

I have a Green Mountain Davey Crockett for the motorhome and it works great. I would think the big brother GM would be just as good.


I also have a Traeger but can't recommend it. Poor quality finish that flakes off on your food. Traeger says they will sell me new parts but why spend money to get the same problem
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Old 07-09-2019, 06:53 PM   #24
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

Brine makes it for me. The smoker adds the smoke flavor. Little bit of heat to dry the fish to how you enjoy it.

I do all of it with a Big Chief and a great dry brine. My smoked salmon makes me drool!
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Old 07-09-2019, 07:03 PM   #25
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

Fan of the big chief here too. Only use it for smoking fish
Personally I don’t like the Traeger for smoked salmon.
I’ve tried both and all my taste testers like the big chief product better


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Old 07-09-2019, 07:27 PM   #26
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

I used my Costco electric smoker for several years with good success for anything smoked over 150 deg. The control panel finally gave up. I bought the Masterbuilt 140,,40",, electric a short while back and like it. The Costco smoker, Great Outdoors and the Masterbuilt look a lot the same. The Costco model weighs a hell of a lot more then the Masterbuilt though, no real surprise coming from Costco and the overall quality in general you get from there. The Masterbuilt has a cold smoke attachment for around 60.00. It has its own heating element, and holds chip/pellets and installs in place of the smokers chip feeder. I did several cheese smokes so far, even in 90 deg days. Since the smoker is insulated, I add ice to the water tray and the internal temp of the smoker stays low less then 100deg on a warm day. I found out with cheese I need to wrap in a zip lock and refrigerate it for a few weeks to let the smoke settle mellow out and let the cheese absorb it. It's really a strong smoke in the beginning, the cold smoker really pumps out the smoke. So far as cold smoking goes, be it cheese, pork belly, sausage or fish, the Masterbuilt with the cold smoke generator is about as easy as it gets. I saved the Costco smoker, the smoker it self is still solid and well insulated, I'm going to adapt the cold smoke generator to it for a dedicated cold smoker,,,gregg
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Old 07-09-2019, 07:48 PM   #27
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

Quote:
Originally Posted by Williams View Post
Excellent post of information Dog.

Edited version Sir




2 Old Heavy Metal Refrigerators.
2 Metal pipes ( one connected lower and one upper to each refer)
2 small fans installed inside refers ( 1 lower 1 higher)
Hanging thermometer on the smoking racks side for easy heat control.


Build your smoke box in one refer
Use metal refer racks in the other to place the meat on.


Easy Peasy........ Instant Smoker with lots of room
Something to do when you have to much time on your hands
Fun to build and inexpensive to make.
Consider it a longer term project for ultimate enjoyment.



This set up is for the heavy duty smoker man/woman.
Takes a lot more time to smoke mass quantity's under a cold smoke effect.
The Older heavy metal refrigerators seals are great.
Heats stays on the left side refer and smoke circulates though each.
I am a High protein man and smoke mass quantity's of beef jerky for everyday snacks/meals (outdoors). Smoke effect stays smooth and not harsh.
There is so much room to spread most anything out that you want.......Deer roast , Elk roast, Fish, Turkey, Grouse, Duck, ect ect. ect.


Its Typically a Mountain Mans "way of life" smoker.
This advertisement was brought to you by my Grandfather...............
He Lived in Idaho 2 1/2 hours north of Boise just below the Sawtooth Range.
Mountain man Extraordinaire.......


I Presently am working on building my second this fall/winter ( from my grandfathers teachings).

Last edited by Coastalhounddog; 07-09-2019 at 07:49 PM. Reason: Paul Harveys.....The rest of the story
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Old 07-09-2019, 08:30 PM   #28
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

I have the Bradley with all the automatic controls. Phooey. The automatic controls and thermostat never worked worth a darn. Now I just manually control temperature, with reasonable success.

When I researched smokers a few years ago I concluded there really wasn't a truly excellent unit out there. Most have problems of one sort or another.
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Old 07-10-2019, 02:39 AM   #29
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

I have a Bradley with manual controls, works well for me. Biscuits don't seem all that expensive beings you just use 4 to 5 per smoke.Amazon. Thought about digital, after this post kind of glad I didn't.
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Always used a big chief until getting it, big chiefs put out a quality product with fish but can't do sausage.

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Old 07-10-2019, 06:54 AM   #30
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

I've been using a Bradley since around 2002 and buy pellets when England has their sidewalk sale. On thing about a Bradley is they are very consistent and controllable. Also I don't need baby sit the process.


Here is my process:


Dry pack the fish in 1 part white sugar, 1 part brown sugar, 1 part salt and refreg for 10-12 hours, then rinse and soak out for 1 hour.



Dry the fish with paper towels and place olive or veg oil in a plate. I then dip only the skin side into the oil and rack on the Bradley racks. The racks then slide into a stacked tray holder and into the refrig overnight.


I use Alder pucks but Pecan is also good. I use no other heat than the puck heater for 3 hours (temp is 90), then no more pucks for 1 more hour, then add heat to bring the box temp up to 150. I have two probes in the fish and watch these until I see the internal fish temp is at 125 and out they come. We learned from a commercial fish processor the dry brine recipe and also that he would vacuum pack his fish before eating it or selling it as it helps distribute the oils and seasoning. We found that to be very true. I can't remember when we had smoked fish fresh out of the smoker except for a corner nibble.



Cold smoke process by the way is temps less than 100 degrees. Hot smoke is what 99 percent of us end up doing.
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Old 07-10-2019, 07:07 AM   #31
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

Browndog: Good point about the Big Chief great for fish but not sausage making. They do have their limitations.



Simon Peter: You're right about the brine. That's what gets the ball rolling and the fish must be completely cured before going in the smoker. Mess around with this and folks could get sick. The finished product should need no refrigeration.
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Old 07-11-2019, 05:36 AM   #32
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

I've had several Treaggers, several Chiefs (little and big) a Masterbuilt and a Camp Chef. If all you want to smoke is fish/salmon, the Big/Little Chief is the best and cheapest store bought option, IMO. It takes a while to smoke a load of fish, especially on a cold day. Make sure you save the box it comes in to use as insulation when smoking on colder days. My Masterbuilt is at the coast and it works pretty well for fish too and can get a little hotter than the Chiefs for other than fish. The Treaggers and Camp Chefs are very similar but I like the Camp Chef much better. It can smoke all the way down to around 125 for fish and as hot as 475-500 for grilling. It gets much hotter than any of the Treaggers I had and has several features than I really like that the Treaggers doesn't have. Plus, it's a couple hundred dollars less than a comparable size Treaggers.
I've had the Camp Chef for almost 2 years and it's spent all that time outside and uncovered most of the time and I've had zero issues.
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Old 07-11-2019, 05:51 AM   #33
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

Quote:
Originally Posted by Soulakala View Post
I've been using a Bradley since around 2002 and buy pellets when England has their sidewalk sale. On thing about a Bradley is they are very consistent and controllable. Also I don't need baby sit the process.


Here is my process:


Dry pack the fish in 1 part white sugar, 1 part brown sugar, 1 part salt and refreg for 10-12 hours, then rinse and soak out for 1 hour.



Dry the fish with paper towels and place olive or veg oil in a plate. I then dip only the skin side into the oil and rack on the Bradley racks. The racks then slide into a stacked tray holder and into the refrig overnight.


I use Alder pucks but Pecan is also good. I use no other heat than the puck heater for 3 hours (temp is 90), then no more pucks for 1 more hour, then add heat to bring the box temp up to 150. I have two probes in the fish and watch these until I see the internal fish temp is at 125 and out they come. We learned from a commercial fish processor the dry brine recipe and also that he would vacuum pack his fish before eating it or selling it as it helps distribute the oils and seasoning. We found that to be very true. I can't remember when we had smoked fish fresh out of the smoker except for a corner nibble.



Cold smoke process by the way is temps less than 100 degrees. Hot smoke is what 99 percent of us end up doing.


I agree that most of us end up with a hot smoke. I also use a dry brine similar to yours but use half the salt you do.

Dogzilla15 as for the finished product not needing refrigeration was very true before we invented the freezer by using a lot less salt I think my product is much tastier and not over powered by the salt.

That being said I only keep it in the refrigerator for a few days then to the freezer if it’s not eaten by that point.

I also skin and pull the pin bones before smoking. A good spray of non stick cooking oil on the racks keep the fish from sticking to the racks.


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Old 07-11-2019, 08:53 AM   #34
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

I pull bones when I fillet that way one process is done. Since I'm going through some BP issues and cut out salt I'll try you less salt rub as suger alone is also a cure.

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Old 07-11-2019, 10:32 AM   #35
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

Pellet wise I'd go with a Yoder especially the new S series with the Fireboard Wifi/BT controller.
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Old 07-11-2019, 12:18 PM   #36
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

When I smoke fish, either salmon or tuna, I pack it in brown sugar and sometimes put a little salt in using my table salt shaker, sometimes no salt. Then I add some soy sauce which we all know contains some salt and brine the fish for up to 3 days in the refrigerator, then take it out, dry it, let it sit in the oven with just the fan on, and then smoke it. I don't use too much smoke and try to keep the temp cool for a while, then heat it up a little at the end. I vac pack it and freeze it but it's pretty well cured and will keep for quite a while in the refrigerator.

I used to use 3 parts sugar to 1 part salt, but decided didn't need that much salt and now use very little. Most of the folks i share it with prefer it to salty smoked fish.
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Old 07-11-2019, 02:13 PM   #37
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

I have a cookshack smoker that is absolutely awesome, great insulated stainless steel construction and very good temperature control. It uses small chunks of wood rather than shavings, pucks, or pellets. I haven't looked at the prices on them since I bought mine but from what I recall they were rather prohibitively expensive to buy new.


I'm not sure I could have justified buying one without getting lucky and finding a very good deal on craigslist for a used one but now that I have one I'm thrilled I bought it. I'm not sure what your budget is but figured I would throw another option out there if you have money to burn or feel like hunting for deals on used.
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Old 07-11-2019, 02:31 PM   #38
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My basic brine is 5 to 1, sugar to salt. Usually use brown sugar but it isn't necessary. I've used 10 to 1 with the same results. What's nice about the low salt content is the product can be left on the brine without it becoming too salty. I usually prep a pretty good size batch of fish all at once, more than what will fit in the smoker(s) . I use a cooler for curing. When the fish comes off the brine, it gets a very quick rinse, nothing more. Set skin side down on paper towels to dry an hour or two before going in the smoker. I usually put a fan on the fish because I do my smoking at the coast where the humidity is high. I rub the skin side with Peanut oil to keep it from sticking on the racks. Don't get any on the meat if you can help it as it will slow the absorption of the smoke and will slow drying. Salmon makes enough of it's own grease.



Other stuff I add to the brine.... Black pepper, garlic, honey, maple syrup, soy sauce. Get creative.


A Big Chief smoker (and the like) absolutely needs a thermometer installed through the top. Do not over insulate if the weather is cool or windy. Know the temperature is inside before doing anything. Cold fish absorbs a lot of heat and the temperature won't come up for a little while but the smoker needs to be monitored closely so adjustments can be made. Too cold is better than too hot. I like to keep smoker at or near 115 degrees.


Three pans of Alder chips is all that's needed. I've tried two pans but product came out a little on the weak side. Want to try apple someday. Stay away from Hickory and Mesquite as they are more suited for red meat and sausage. Don't overfill the pan as it may create too much heat as it burns. If smoker starts getting too hot, unplug it for a few minutes.



I have panels made from 1/8th plywood I can put around the smokers to shield from wind or cold. I can use one panel at a time or all four plus a small one for the top as needed.



For the drying process, I crack the lid and prop open the flap where the chip pan goes for good air flow. Shoot for 110 degrees when drying but 90/100 is fine.



If your smoker sits in the sun, there is almost no way to keep it cool enough.



If this sounds like a lot of work, it is. Beer or cocktails may be of benefit.
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Old 07-11-2019, 06:01 PM   #39
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

Quote:
Originally Posted by ron m View Post
When I smoke fish, either salmon or tuna, I pack it in brown sugar and sometimes put a little salt in using my table salt shaker, sometimes no salt. Then I add some soy sauce which we all know contains some salt and brine the fish for up to 3 days in the refrigerator, then take it out, dry it, let it sit in the oven with just the fan on, and then smoke it. I don't use too much smoke and try to keep the temp cool for a while, then heat it up a little at the end. I vac pack it and freeze it but it's pretty well cured and will keep for quite a while in the refrigerator.

I used to use 3 parts sugar to 1 part salt, but decided didn't need that much salt and now use very little. Most of the folks i share it with prefer it to salty smoked fish.
ron m


Exactly!


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Old 07-11-2019, 06:06 PM   #40
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

Quote:
Originally Posted by DogZilla15 View Post
My basic brine is 5 to 1, sugar to salt. Usually use brown sugar but it isn't necessary. I've used 10 to 1 with the same results. What's nice about the low salt content is the product can be left on the brine without it becoming too salty. I usually prep a pretty good size batch of fish all at once, more than what will fit in the smoker(s) . I use a cooler for curing. When the fish comes off the brine, it gets a very quick rinse, nothing more. Set skin side down on paper towels to dry an hour or two before going in the smoker. I usually put a fan on the fish because I do my smoking at the coast where the humidity is high. I rub the skin side with Peanut oil to keep it from sticking on the racks. Don't get any on the meat if you can help it as it will slow the absorption of the smoke and will slow drying. Salmon makes enough of it's own grease.



Other stuff I add to the brine.... Black pepper, garlic, honey, maple syrup, soy sauce. Get creative.


A Big Chief smoker (and the like) absolutely needs a thermometer installed through the top. Do not over insulate if the weather is cool or windy. Know the temperature is inside before doing anything. Cold fish absorbs a lot of heat and the temperature won't come up for a little while but the smoker needs to be monitored closely so adjustments can be made. Too cold is better than too hot. I like to keep smoker at or near 115 degrees.


Three pans of Alder chips is all that's needed. I've tried two pans but product came out a little on the weak side. Want to try apple someday. Stay away from Hickory and Mesquite as they are more suited for red meat and sausage. Don't overfill the pan as it may create too much heat as it burns. If smoker starts getting too hot, unplug it for a few minutes.



I have panels made from 1/8th plywood I can put around the smokers to shield from wind or cold. I can use one panel at a time or all four plus a small one for the top as needed.



For the drying process, I crack the lid and prop open the flap where the chip pan goes for good air flow. Shoot for 110 degrees when drying but 90/100 is fine.



If your smoker sits in the sun, there is almost no way to keep it cool enough.



If this sounds like a lot of work, it is. Beer or cocktails may be of benefit.


I thought I read in another thread thread that you thought smoked fish is not smoked fish if you can’t store it without refrigeration have you changed your opinion.


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Old 07-11-2019, 06:09 PM   #41
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

We have the Masterbuilt Signature Series. The wife is becoming a master smoker
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Old 07-11-2019, 06:39 PM   #42
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No Res. I may have misstated that. Substitute cured for smoked.
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Old 07-12-2019, 05:34 AM   #43
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

Vote for the Little Chief here. My son loves it too and made cardboard version lol.

After some trial and error I prefer to only smoke on days when the weather temp is >60F. The salmon just comes out better and smoke time is as short as 6 hours. 2 pans of alder chips is plenty smokey for us.

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Old 07-12-2019, 06:01 AM   #44
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

I invested some time not money into this one. Can run propane, wood, charcoal.


Done
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Old 07-12-2019, 09:53 PM   #45
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Simon Peter View Post
Brine makes it for me. The smoker adds the smoke flavor. Little bit of heat to dry the fish to how you enjoy it.

I do all of it with a Big Chief and a great dry brine. My smoked salmon makes me drool!

Agreed. A good brine is the key!
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Old 07-13-2019, 10:46 AM   #46
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

Build your own. Check out: smoking meats.com for design build ideas.
I made a real nice large one out of a restaurant rolling tray rack as the the frame and skinned in with sheets of aluminum using pop rivets.
I used an "H Burner (google it) I bought form a good old boy in Alabama. It is propane powered, can be run fairly cool and can do 8 racks of fillets. It is very, very light and can be easily loaded in a pickup up to take to duck/fish camp, parties etc...
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Old 07-14-2019, 08:11 AM   #47
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

Very timely post! My wife came up with the same need this weekend after 8 coho came home with us.

Is electric or propane fired the way to go? Seems the electric may be easier to maintain cooler temp's.

I already know we need a chamber vac sealer too! Wish I'd paid more attention to the salesman at the Sportsman's Show.

Thanks,
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Old 07-15-2019, 06:42 AM   #48
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

Quote:
Originally Posted by builder View Post
I have a cookshack smoker that is absolutely awesome, great insulated stainless steel construction and very good temperature control. It uses small chunks of wood rather than shavings, pucks, or pellets. I haven't looked at the prices on them since I bought mine but from what I recall they were rather prohibitively expensive to buy new.


I'm not sure I could have justified buying one without getting lucky and finding a very good deal on craigslist for a used one but now that I have one I'm thrilled I bought it. I'm not sure what your budget is but figured I would throw another option out there if you have money to burn or feel like hunting for deals on used.

Those are really nice. I'd love to add one to go along with the Yoder for those days when I want to do a bunch of smoking.
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Old 07-15-2019, 09:00 AM   #49
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Quote:
Originally Posted by luxor View Post
Very timely post! My wife came up with the same need this weekend after 8 coho came home with us.

Is electric or propane fired the way to go? Seems the electric may be easier to maintain cooler temp's.

I already know we need a chamber vac sealer too! Wish I'd paid more attention to the salesman at the Sportsman's Show.

Thanks,
Bill (Luxor)
The Costco in Tigard had the LEM model at an attractive price this past weekend. I recall that the Astoria Costco has had them before and guys seemed happy with them.

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Old 07-16-2019, 07:42 AM   #50
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

Quote:
Originally Posted by DogZilla15 View Post
My basic brine is 5 to 1, sugar to salt. Usually use brown sugar but it isn't necessary. I've used 10 to 1 with the same results. What's nice about the low salt content is the product can be left on the brine without it becoming too salty. I usually prep a pretty good size batch of fish all at once, more than what will fit in the smoker(s) . I use a cooler for curing. When the fish comes off the brine, it gets a very quick rinse, nothing more. Set skin side down on paper towels to dry an hour or two before going in the smoker. I usually put a fan on the fish because I do my smoking at the coast where the humidity is high. I rub the skin side with Peanut oil to keep it from sticking on the racks. Don't get any on the meat if you can help it as it will slow the absorption of the smoke and will slow drying. Salmon makes enough of it's own grease.



Other stuff I add to the brine.... Black pepper, garlic, honey, maple syrup, soy sauce. Get creative.


A Big Chief smoker (and the like) absolutely needs a thermometer installed through the top. Do not over insulate if the weather is cool or windy. Know the temperature is inside before doing anything. Cold fish absorbs a lot of heat and the temperature won't come up for a little while but the smoker needs to be monitored closely so adjustments can be made. Too cold is better than too hot. I like to keep smoker at or near 115 degrees.


Three pans of Alder chips is all that's needed. I've tried two pans but product came out a little on the weak side. Want to try apple someday. Stay away from Hickory and Mesquite as they are more suited for red meat and sausage. Don't overfill the pan as it may create too much heat as it burns. If smoker starts getting too hot, unplug it for a few minutes.



I have panels made from 1/8th plywood I can put around the smokers to shield from wind or cold. I can use one panel at a time or all four plus a small one for the top as needed.



For the drying process, I crack the lid and prop open the flap where the chip pan goes for good air flow. Shoot for 110 degrees when drying but 90/100 is fine.



If your smoker sits in the sun, there is almost no way to keep it cool enough.



If this sounds like a lot of work, it is. Beer or cocktails may be of benefit.



All the op needs to do is pay close attention to the above post and he will make excellent smoked salmon. There is no shortcutting to making it right and higher heat is a killer. of course having nice fat salmon sure helps.

A couple of contributions:

I prefer the big chiefs because dont have to pull the whole rack out to check things. My brine is only raw brown sugar and sea salt 5:1. I baste my fish 3/4 way along with pure maple syrup a few times. Much easier to do with a front access smoker like big chief.

I get new heavy brown paper bags from supermarket and cut into squares a bit bigger than the size of my salmon chunks. It takes extra work but the paper soaks up alot of oil and baste that otherwise would gunk up the smoker and grill. The paper removes easily from skin when still warm. No skin sticking to the grill.

I slice the tops of bigger chunks to be about the same size so they cook about the same speed. pic attached.

I am going to get one of those bluetooth or wireless temp probes with an overheat alarm set at 125 deg. Easier than checking thermo 20x.
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Old 07-16-2019, 09:19 AM   #51
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

Quote:
Originally Posted by marys netter View Post
I can tell you have some age, I havn't bought chips in more than 45 years as I use a large tarp, a sawbuck and the old Husky with cleaned out oil tank and cooking oil replacing, couple of 55 gallon drums of chips last 5/8 years for three big chiefs and an old lil chief kicker, might last longer now with Sammy suffering! A vote for Big Chief Smokers!!
Dave
Thanks Dave.
Sounds like you do a ton of smoking.
I usually just got some good big rounds of free alder and chipped away with a hatchet, (for bigger chips). Got a couple big shopping bags full, and then dried them for quite a while. Then just rehydrate them just before throwing them in the smoker.
But I lived on a small farm that had a large variety of different fruit and wild tree's that I could get chips from.
Sure was / is fun to experiment with different types of wood.
As far as age? What is that?
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Old 07-16-2019, 09:30 AM   #52
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

Quote:
Originally Posted by DogZilla15 View Post
My basic brine is 5 to 1, sugar to salt. Usually use brown sugar but it isn't necessary. I've used 10 to 1 with the same results. What's nice about the low salt content is the product can be left on the brine without it becoming too salty. I usually prep a pretty good size batch of fish all at once, more than what will fit in the smoker(s) . I use a cooler for curing. When the fish comes off the brine, it gets a very quick rinse, nothing more. Set skin side down on paper towels to dry an hour or two before going in the smoker. I usually put a fan on the fish because I do my smoking at the coast where the humidity is high. I rub the skin side with Peanut oil to keep it from sticking on the racks. Don't get any on the meat if you can help it as it will slow the absorption of the smoke and will slow drying. Salmon makes enough of it's own grease.



Other stuff I add to the brine.... Black pepper, garlic, honey, maple syrup, soy sauce. Get creative.


A Big Chief smoker (and the like) absolutely needs a thermometer installed through the top. Do not over insulate if the weather is cool or windy. Know the temperature is inside before doing anything. Cold fish absorbs a lot of heat and the temperature won't come up for a little while but the smoker needs to be monitored closely so adjustments can be made. Too cold is better than too hot. I like to keep smoker at or near 115 degrees.


Three pans of Alder chips is all that's needed. I've tried two pans but product came out a little on the weak side. Want to try apple someday. Stay away from Hickory and Mesquite as they are more suited for red meat and sausage. Don't overfill the pan as it may create too much heat as it burns. If smoker starts getting too hot, unplug it for a few minutes.



I have panels made from 1/8th plywood I can put around the smokers to shield from wind or cold. I can use one panel at a time or all four plus a small one for the top as needed.



For the drying process, I crack the lid and prop open the flap where the chip pan goes for good air flow. Shoot for 110 degrees when drying but 90/100 is fine.



If your smoker sits in the sun, there is almost no way to keep it cool enough.



If this sounds like a lot of work, it is. Beer or cocktails may be of benefit.
Great advice Harv.
Stay close to your work for best results.
First time I used my "Big Chief" , I didn't keep an eye on it. And it got too hot.
Plus I hadn't done any smoking in a few years and was used to my worn out "Little Chief".
It caught me, and my first batch was MUCH too dry and smoky.
Gotta open that hatch on the big chief, when finishing up. Because mine get's real hot. Need to get a good thermometer.
The brine IS fun to experiment with. If you don't get too radical and change it too much.
Just keep fooling with the ingredients and heat and eventually you run into a perfect (for you), combination.
Then all ya gotta do, is remember what you did right.
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Old 07-16-2019, 10:14 AM   #53
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FF: It's a learning process for sure. Back in the old days everyone used salt based liquid brine's and no one understood the curing process, we ate a lot of really bad smoked fish and thought it was fantastic. We always put the box over our smokers because heat was the key to getting it dry. We learned from our fathers and others who knew as little as we did. I don't recall where I read it but discovered excessive heat was bad news and what smoking was all about. Think I figured out the sugar thing on my own. There has been some really great posts from some Ifish guys that showed the modifications they've made to their Big Chief smokers which was very valuable to me. Helped me learn just what temperature control was all about.


One little extra tidbit. I prefer top load smokers.



Canning tuna: Cut up the loins in lengths appropriate for the jars you're using and put on smoker racks. Get a good heavy smoke going and drop racks into smoker, put the lid on. Temperature doesn't matter because the meat will be in the smoker for only 20 minutes, it will hardly be warm when it comes out. Don't start thinking longer in the smoker will produce a better product, it won't. Do not exceed 20 minutes. Stuff jars and can as usual.
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Old 07-17-2019, 06:33 AM   #54
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

Quote:
Originally Posted by DogZilla15 View Post
FF: It's a learning process for sure. Back in the old days everyone used salt based liquid brine's and no one understood the curing process, we ate a lot of really bad smoked fish and thought it was fantastic. We always put the box over our smokers because heat was the key to getting it dry. We learned from our fathers and others who knew as little as we did. I don't recall where I read it but discovered excessive heat was bad news and what smoking was all about. Think I figured out the sugar thing on my own. There has been some really great posts from some Ifish guys that showed the modifications they've made to their Big Chief smokers which was very valuable to me. Helped me learn just what temperature control was all about.


One little extra tidbit. I prefer top load smokers.



Canning tuna: Cut up the loins in lengths appropriate for the jars you're using and put on smoker racks. Get a good heavy smoke going and drop racks into smoker, put the lid on. Temperature doesn't matter because the meat will be in the smoker for only 20 minutes, it will hardly be warm when it comes out. Don't start thinking longer in the smoker will produce a better product, it won't. Do not exceed 20 minutes. Stuff jars and can as usual.
Smoke the Bellies for a hour, no brine, then can as normal. After the smoking, the skin will slide off and easy to pull the breast cartilage and the inner belly lining before canning. The bellies have a lot of fat, so they need the longer smoke. Perfect on a Bagel and cream cheese, top with coarse ground pepper , pair it with a Bloody Mary. So good, you'll never leave your bellies in the fish cleaning dumpster again,,,gregg

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Old 07-17-2019, 06:52 AM   #55
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

Brokeass: I've been known to harvest lots good meat folks leave behind at fish cleaning stations. Tuna bellies being the number one target. Amazing how much gets throw away because fisherman can't run a fillet knife.
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Old 07-17-2019, 01:42 PM   #56
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

Ran a batch of ocean Chinook in my 10 year old big chief last night and put a meat thermometer in to monitor air and meat temp. My big chief hits about 168° on a warm evening. No additional insulation used around the smoker last night. The meat was 136° when I pulled it at 1AM which produced a dry firm exterior and flaky moderately moist center.



I've been thinking about upgrading smokers for a long time. I'll probably use my big chief until it craps out.
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Old 07-17-2019, 02:13 PM   #57
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

DawgZ.
I only remember putting the box over my Little Chief one time.
Had a couple winter steelies I wanted to smoke up.
Outside temps were in the low 30's. And I didn't think it wise to bring the smoker into the back porch.
Took quite a while to get it right, with constant attention. But finally came up with a good product.
Think it all got consumed at the Christmas dinner a few day's later.
Had fambly over for the dinner, that had never tasted smoked salmon or steelies.
It vanished way before the main course was served.
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Old 07-18-2019, 12:32 PM   #58
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Default Re: Time to invest in a smoker

Same here Dog, some guys just don't want the extra work, being retired I have extra time and everyone really likes the bellies. I should of noted hot smoke,,250-270 degrees. The hour at that temp cooks them just enough to get the inner skin and breast bones out easily. I can them in 1/2pt jars. Especially with the small grade of fish last year as the average, it makes sense to capitalize of all you can utilize,,,gregg
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