Smoked salmon is known to be somewhat of a delicacy. It is by no means a cheap product but is worth the splurge to enjoy its salty, smoky pop of flavor and delicately smooth texture.
Smoked salmon is incredibly healthy and can be enjoyed with breakfast, lunch, or dinner in a variety of dishes. This makes it the perfect ingredient to have on hand for last-minute catering.
Smoked salmon is prepared by drying, smoking, or curing the fresh fish in a combination of salt, sugar, or nitrite to retain optimal flavor and color. The cure ingredients can be rubbed on or dissolved into a brine.
With so much tender care given to one piece of fish, you wouldn’t want this prized ingredient to go to waste. The good news is that you can freeze smoked salmon to keep it fresh for longer when following the correct storage procedures.
Types of Smoked Salmon
Smoked salmon refers to a general variety of salmon including everything from wild and farmed salmon to fillet, steak, cured, hot-smoked and cold-smoked.
Below is an outline of the most popular types of preserved and smoked salmon you will generally find in store.
Lox is a cured salmon preparation ideally made with the belly of the fish (called belly lox) which has a higher fat content. Lox is salt-cured, using a combination of salt, sugar, spices, herbs, and citrus zest.
After curing, the salmon is often fully cooked with heated wood smoke. The fish will take on the salty flavor of the cure or wood smoke and is used to top bagels with a combination of cream cheese and capers.
Gravlax is cured only, in a mix of salt, sugar, and dill. It is generally served whole, sliced, with dill and mustard sauce and crackers. Additional spices such as citrus, coriander, juniper berries, or fennel are sometimes added to the cure mixture as well as spirits like vodka.
Nova is cold smoked fish. This means they smoke salmon over a very low heat which gives it its distinctive smoky flavor. As the low smoking temperature does not cook the salmon but only imparts flavor, the fish has to be cured or brined before smoking.
Nova and other smoked salmons are generally served on platters, sliced thin, with a spread including capers, hard-boiled eggs, cucumbers, red onions, soft cheeses, and crackers.
Hot-smoked salmon refers to salmon smoked at high temperatures which cook the fish as well as imparting a smoky flavor. When ordering smoked salmon at your favorite restaurant this is most likely the type you will be served.
Can Smoked Salmon Be Frozen?
Yes, smoked salmon can be frozen to preserve its quality, texture, and flavor. You can also freeze cooked salmon and freeze hot smoked salmon. Freezing smoked salmon is a great way to prolong its shelf life for months to ensure you always have a healthy and delicious protein ready for a meal at any time of day.
It is, however, important to keep in mind that once you purchase prepared smoked salmon, it has very likely already undergone freezing in-store as it is more economical for retailers to keep frozen stock. Therefore, by the time you freeze smoked salmon, this would be its second time in and out of the freezer.
It is best not to repeatedly thaw and freeze smoked salmon. If you do not eat the full pack once opened, freeze it in small enough portions so that you can take what you need out of the freezer without having to refreeze smoked salmon leftovers for a second time.
Repeatedly defrosting and freezing smoked salmon not only degrades the meat by causing microscopic damage to the muscle strands but also enables the growth of harmful bacteria.
How to Freeze Smoked Salmon
Store-bought smoked salmon generally comes ready prepared in deboned fillets or thin smoked salmon slices. If you have a whole fish or have done the smoking yourself it is best to properly clean and portion the fish before you prepare it for freezing.
Make sure there are no scales or bones. Depending on your preference, you may want to skin the fish as well.
When preparing your smoked salmon for freezing, it is important to follow the right steps to avoid having it spoil as a result of poor packaging and storage.
There are 2 preparation methods you can use to safely and properly freeze smoked salmon.
Method 1: Wrap and Freeze
Step 1: Portion
Divide your smoked salmon into portions sizes you would want to defrost for a single serving. This prevents having to thaw the entire batch and being stuck with leftovers.
Step 2: Brush with Oil
Brush both sides of the fish lightly with olive oil using a basting brush. This seals in the flavor and protects the smoked salmon from exposure to air which will cause freezer burn.
Step 3: Wrap
Similar to freezing cooked salmon, wrapping the product is the most important part of preservation in the freezer. If not wrapped properly, contact with air can cause oxidation, freezer burn, loss of texture, and poor flavor making it unfit for consumption.
Wrap each portion securely in 2 layers of cling film. Ensure that you fold and secure all the edges so that no air can get in. Optionally wrap it again in foil and then place each portion in a sealable freezer bag.
Step 4: Remove Air
Before sealing, lie the bag flat on the counter and lightly squeeze out all the air. Alternatively use a vacuum sealer to make sure your smoked salmon is packaged completely free of air pockets.
Never freeze smoked salmon in containers without following the full wrapping procedure as there will be too much air circulating the food and causing it to spoil.
Step 5: Label
Since you have wrapped your smoked delicacy so well you may want to label the freezer bag as it is not always easy to remember what is inside once it is frozen. Also, date the packaging so that you can keep track of how long it has been in the freezer.
Method 2: Flash Freeze
Flash freezing is another way of securing the longevity of your smoked salmon in the freezer.
Step 1: Flash Freeze
Place your portions of smoked salmon in a single layer on a baking sheet. It is best to lay it on a layer of cling film so that it won’t stick to the baking sheet once frozen. Place the baking sheet in the freezer just until the fish is completely frozen.
Step 2: Wrap
Once frozen, remove the salmon pieces from the baking sheet and store them in a freezer bag or wrap them in a double layer of cling film.
Step 3: Remove Air
Ensure that you fold and secure all the edges of the plastic wrap so that no air can get in. Lie the ziplock freezer bag flat on the counter and lightly squeeze out all the air before sealing it.
Never store smoked salmon in containers without any wrapping as there will be too much air circulating the food and causing it to spoil.
Step 4: Label
This is optional, but you may want to label the freezer bags as it is not always easy to remember what is inside once it is frozen. Also, date the packaging with a permanent marker so that you can keep track of how long the frozen fish has been stored.
How to Thaw Smoked Salmon
There is only one way to thaw smoked salmon and that is to place it in the refrigerator to defrost gradually at a controlled cool temperature.
Due to its vulnerability to oxidation and harmful bacterial growth, defrosting smoked salmon should not be done at room temperature, neither in warm or cold water.
Here is the safe guide to thawing smoked salmon.
Step 1: Refrigerate
Take your wrapped salmon out of the freezer and place it directly in the refrigerator.
Step 2: Pierce Packet
If you are defrosting cold smoked salmon, pierce the packet slightly when placing it in the refrigerator as this will prevent the growth of harmful bacteria during the process of temperature change. Leave smoked salmon in the fridge to defrost overnight.
Step 3: Unwrap
Remove the wrapping once your fish is fully defrosted. Your thawed smoked salmon is now ready to be devoured. If not using it immediately, keep it stored in the refrigerator.
If prepared and packaged correctly, fillets and sliced smoked salmon freeze well and can last six months in the freezer retaining superb taste and texture. It is a delicious food component to use in breakfast, lunch, and dinner dishes as well as canapes and tea snacks.
Enjoy with scrambled eggs, a few slices on a bagel, in a quiche, on blinis with cream cheese, or as a whole fillet with crunchy vegetables on the side.
Smoked salmon is a delicacy totally worth stocking up on if you see it on special in-store – allowing you to enjoy smoked salmon goodness all year round, fresh from your freezer.
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