Heat Smoked Maple Salmon Nuggets
Ever since I discovered just how easy it was to smoke stuff in my outdoor grill, I think I’ve become somewhat addicted.
So far, I’ve made my very own smoked ham, a great big batch of homemade smoked bacon, quite a few batches of smoked almonds (most of which ended up being turned into smoked almond butter) and now, these insanely delicious Heat Smoked Maple Salmon Nuggets.
I’d been eyeing similar yummy little fish bites at the grocery store for a very long time now, but whenever I’d pick some up and read the list of ingredients, I had no choice but to put them back. For some obscure reason, it seems they’re always loaded with all kinds of nasties… Ugh. Looked like if I was gonna get to enjoy some, there was but one available option for me: I’d have to whip up my own.
And so I did… and frankly, I just can’t even begin to tell you how good and tasty these were. My only regret is to not have made a double, or even a triple batch.
Because sadly, smoking season is coming to an end, so it’ll be almost half a year before I get to enjoy these again.
Unless maybe I can squeeze in one final batch before it really gets too cold out! After all, it’s not complicated at all and it doesn’t even take that long.
Don’t believe me? Let’s make some together, you’ll see…
First off, you’ll need to remove the skin from the salmon fillets, if present. Because you know, you could always ask your fish monger to take care of that for you…
But contrary to what you may think, this is actually very easy to do. All you need to do is grab one of the corners of the fish fillet with your fingertips and insert a thin, sharp blade between the skin and the flesh.
Then, hold on to that skin real tight and slide that blade at a bit of an angle, keeping it as close to the skin as you possibly can. Go slowly; you don’t have to do this in one go. You can always lift that flesh from time to time, to assess your blade’s position, and then resume the process.
Before you know it, you will be staring at beautiful, skinless salmon fillets.
Now all that’s left to do is cut the fish into bite size pieces. Cut it into long strips first and then cut across these strips.
Make sure you don’t make the pieces too small, though, else they’ll only end up completely drying out on you. You do want them to dry out some, but still, cardboard is not really what we’re after here. We want that fish to retain *some* moisture, you know.
So about 1 to 1½ inch is a good size.
Add all the ingredients for the brine in a large non-reactive bowl and mix well…
Then throw the fish right in, toss well, cover and place in the refrigerator for about 24 hours.
About an hour before you are ready to smoke your fish, you’ll have to soak some wood chips and prepare your wood chip pouches. Now if you don’t mind, I’ll have you refer to my Homemade Smoked Bacon post for instructions on how to do that. The process is the exact same, the only difference is that this time you will only be needing 2 pouches, therefore 2 cups of wood chips.
When your pouches are ready, preheat your outdoor grill to the lowest possible setting, around 150°F, by lighting one of the elements and get the smoke going by placing a pouch of wood chips directly over that heat source.
Rinse the fish well under cold running water and arrange it on a cooling rack.
Place the whole rig on the unlit side of the grill and then close the lid.
Smoke the fish for 2 to 3 hours, replacing the pouch with a fresh one after an hour or so. If necessary, crank up the heat under the new pouch until smoke starts to come out then bring the heat back down to low. Leave the lid open while you do that as to not generate too much heat inside that grill.
Likewise, if you feel you are getting too much heat, you can turn that burner off from time to time until the temperature gets back down where you want it.
When you find your smoked salmon is to your liking, take it out of the smoker and serve immediately, or store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to a week.
These salmon nuggets are equally good served hot or cold and make for an EXCELLENT snack.
See how beautiful this looks? It almost looks candied!
Truth is, though, it tastes even better than it looks. Honestly? This is grown-up candy. You won’t believe the explosion of flavor that every little nugget will provoke in your mouth. It’s like every single area of your tongue gets tantalized simultaneously. It’s so intense, I can’t even find the words to describe it.
It’s something that needs to be experienced.
And I strongly recommend you experience it. You owe it to yourself, trust me!
Heat Smoked Maple Salmon Nuggets
- Remove the skin from the salmon fillets if present and cut the fish into bite size pieces.
- Mix all the ingredients for the brine in a large non-reactive bowl and throw the fish right in. Toss well, cover and place in the refrigerator for about 24 hours.
- Soak 2 cups of wood chips in water for at least one hour prior to smoking your salmon.
- Preheat your outdoor grill to the lowest setting possible, around 150F. Lighting only one element should do the trick.
- Make 2 wood chip pouches. For each pouch, cut out a 12” x 24” piece of heavy duty aluminum foil (double that up if using lighter foil) and place about a cup of wet wood chips on one end of the foil. Add a handful of dry chips to that, then fold the foil over the wood chips. Fold all four edges toward the center at least twice, then poke holes on the top of the pouch with a fork.
- Lift the grill that’s above the lit element and place a pouch directly on the heat source. Close the lid and wait until smoke starts to come out of the pouch.
- Rinse the fish nuggets under cold running water and arrange them on a cooling rack, then place the whole rig on the unlit side of the grill and close the lid.
- Smoke the fish for 2-3 hours, replacing the pouch with a fresh one after an hour or so. If necessary, crank up the heat under the new pouch until smoke starts to come out then bring the heat back down to low. Leave the lid open while you do that as to not generate too much heat inside that grill.
- Try and keep that heat as stable as possible, at around 150F. Note that it’s not necessary to get huge amounts of smoke in order to get good flavor from it. However, if you feel you are not getting enough, feel free to add more dry chips to your foil pouches, or place an aluminum container with a handful of dry chips next to your smoldering foil pouch.
- Likewise, if you feel you are getting too much heat, you can turn that burner off from time to time until the temperature gets back down where you want it.
- When you find your smoked salmon is to your liking, take it out of the grill smoker and serve immediately, or store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to a week.