Everything you need to know about smoked salmon

It's not hard to smoke your own salmon.
It's not hard to smoke your own salmon. Photo: James Brickwood

Smoked salmon is a Christmas fixture: it's versatile, tasty and easy to wrangle into festive platters. It comes from Atlantic salmon, a non-indigenous fish that's been farmed in Tasmania since the '80s and is now Australia's highest-volume fishery product. Some 53,000 tonnes are produced annually; about 10 per cent of that is sold already smoked.

Dress it up

Smoked salmon loves other flavours. Create a pretty plate with furled salmon slices, red currants, capers and sliced lemon. It's also great with a yoghurt-tahini dressing, as in Adam Liaw's tarator.

But should we?

Australia's Sustainable Seafood Guide doesn't endorse Tasmanian salmon because of environmental concerns about waste produced by the large Macquarie Harbour fishery in western Tasmania. Producers assert they've dealt with any issues and the guide notes the strong potential for this rating to improve. In the meantime, New Zealand king salmon gets a green light.

DIY

It's not hard to smoke your own salmon. You can use a barbecue, or use a lidded wok to hot-smoke fish. Place a handful of tea and rice over foil in the base of a wok, warm it until it smokes, turn off the heat and place salmon on a wire rack in your DIY smoke chamber. Whack on the lid and wait 10 minutes. You can then grill or chill the fish. Eat within a couple of days.

Fish farm facts

Salmon take about three years to mature. The first year is spent in freshwater land hatcheries, then the smolt (salmon teenagers) are moved to sea cages. The mature fish are harvested when they reach four to seven kilograms.

Brands to bank on

The big Tassie players Tassal, Huon and Petuna all produce consistent smoked salmon under their own brands, with Huon's Reserve range my pick – it's slow-smoked over river red gum. Woodbridge Smokehouse uses applewood to flavour both hot- and cold-smoked salmon. Their whole side fillets are beautifully hand-sliced and available online.

Did you know?

Salmon's colour comes from astaxanthin, a pigment absorbed from crustaceans eaten in the wild, or via a nature-identical additive in farmed fish.