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Is Smoking Salmon Paleo?

Is Smoking Salmon Paleo? I’d have to say, with an overwhelming roar, YES!!! My smoking salmon conquest continues today….

I want to recognize that, right now, in Northern California we’re in the middle of summer, we have high temperatures, and the valley is already a bit “smokey” from our seasonal fires, but dog-gone-it, the salmon are running and this is the time of year Native Americans started the ritual, for crying out loud! I have to do it! As it turns out, our ancestors and ancient humans have been “smoking” meats as a way to preserve for 1,000s of years dating prehistory!


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I’ve always been attracted to the use of fire and smoke. What guy isn’t, right? There’s something so darned primitive and primal about it. We huddle around the fire while camping with friends, telling stories and staring at the flame. We are haunted by fire and smoke. 

Today, I’m smoking the salmon in the most primitive method I feel comfortable with, natural hardwood flame/smoke  (with the wood foraged from the neighborhood – totally primal!) With this method, you’re a little more tied to the process with tending the fire throughout the day. Fortunately, I work from home, so between calls, emails, and meetings I’m able to break away and see it’s progress. I’ve even set the timer on the ‘ole iPhone as to not forget – totally primal!

Here’s an interesting side note: Smoking salmon actually makes it BETTER for us! Really?…Really. An abstract found here, from 2009, indicates the oxidation of the oils is LESS oxidized (and better, more stable) when consumed. So, from a highest benefit, bang for the paleo buck perspective, Is Smoking Salmon Paleo? Yes ma’am!

Here’s a basic recipe to get you started. After consulting the internet, it’s become VERY clear that A). There are a lot of freaking “experts” on how to best smoke meats, B). Everyone has an opinion, and C). It’s more of an art than science, so don’t get frustrated your first time! 

In a large bowl mix the following:

  • One quart of water
  • 1/2 cup of Sea Salt (use the good stuff – NOT Morton)
  • 3/4 cup of honey (you can use sugar or brown sugar, but I typically don’t use refined sugars)
  • tablespoon of pepper flakes
  • A few shakes of Gluten Free Soy Sauce (1/4 cup or so).

Again, this recipe is JUST a stepping off point. You can add just about anything you’d like. Salt and sweet (or not) is about the only thing you really need to do. Some just do the salt. 

Mix it all together and make sure everything is desolved, then add your salmon either whole slabs, small chucks or anything in between.

Let sit 10-12 hours in the refrigerator overnight.  

The next day (today) is smoking day!! YES! As mentioned, I have a pretty standard Brinkmann wood smoker. Sort of a little black “R2D2” unit, but breaths fire and doesn’t talk back! The smoker has a bottom pan for the fire, a water pan, and two racks. Today, I’m just using the one rack as I only have about 3 lbs of salmon.

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The wood has been foraged from the neighborhood. I love doing that. Some oak slabs chopped into chips, some almond wood, and a bit of old mesquite wood for starting. I’ve soaked the oak chips and have added them throughout the process.

I’m taking this batch of salmon on a two night backpack trip, so I’ve gone longer on the smoking process to make it more “jerky” like. Again, everyone has an opinion on the length of time you would smoke. This all depends on the finished product you’re after. Shorter smoking = more moist. Longer = dryer. All I know is I can’t wait to have some at 7,000′ with a dram of 15 year Scotch. Ah, Scotchy, Scotchy, Scotch. Ahem, pardon me for the digression. :)

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The above pic is the finished product! My favorite time to smoke meat is during the cooler months of November and December with a nice 15 year Scotch. It’s such a guy thing! If you have access to a smoker, I highly recommend giving it a try. 

Happy smoking!




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