Smoked salmon is one of the great delicacies prepared from the sea, a mouthwatering combination of aromatic smoke and soft, flaky texture, with the crisp taste of salmon underlining the flavor. Smoking salmon fillets over charcoal and seasoned wood can transform the backyard chef into the toast of the party, with surprisingly less effort than the excellence of the dish might suggest. Most of the work involved in smoking salmon goes into the preparation. Careful timing on the grill takes care of the rest.
Combine the brown sugar, salt and garlic in a bowl and mix thoroughly to prepare a dry brine.
Add salmon fillets to the brine, coating each piece of fish, then cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least six hours and preferably overnight.
Soak two to three cups of cedar wood chunks in a metal bowl filled with water for two hours before smoking the fish.
Start a fire with charcoal loaded on one side of the grill, then wait for the coals to turn white.
Add chunks of the drained cedar to the coals and place the cooking grate over the fire.
Lightly brush olive oil over the grill to prevent the fish from sticking.
Arrange the salmon fillets skin-side down on the cooking grate on the side away from the fire. Add fresh dill and lemon slices to the top of each fillets and close the grill.
Adjust the grill vents to promote circulation of the cedar smoke, allowing the fillets to smoke for at least two hours before checking the coals.
Add five to six lumps of charcoal and another handful of cedar wood chunks to the fire after two hours, checking the fish for doneness. Salmon should flake with a fork when cooked, although it can be safely smoked for an additional two to four hours over indirect heat until the flesh is a deep red color and the silver skin is crispy.
Remove the salmon from the grill with a spatula and allow to cool completely before storing in airtight plastic bags. Refrigerated smoked salmon should be consumed within a week. Frozen smoked fish should be enjoyed within six months.
Serve smoked salmon wirth crackers, cream cheese and a sprig of fresh dill.
Smoke fish only over indirect heat. Placing the fillets directly on the grill will cause the salmon to dry out and overcook.