Smoked salmon is one of the most extraordinary dishes.
It’s a wonder how something so simple – a slice of fish that is brined and then left in the smoker for over an hour – can be made into something so scrumptious and immensely elegant.
Some point to the complex flavor profile as the main reason for this illustriousness.
But many will agree it’s about the way it’s served.
And it all starts with how it’s sliced.
Slicing smoked salmon into thin, almost translucent sheets is possible with the right knife – one specifically used for this particular fish.
Traditional salmon knives have a long, narrow, and dimpled blade measuring 10 to 12 inches in length and less than an inch in width.
The end is rounded off instead of pointed to prevent accidentally stabbing the flesh.
Another important factor talented chefs consider is using the right fillet.
Choosing a good section of the fish can help you get those beautiful sheets.
D-Cuts and Lateral slices are good enough if you’ll just flake the fish.
But if you’re planning to make rosettes on cream cheese-slathered bagels, there’s just one option for you: Tenderloin.
The technique is very important too.
It took Japanese chefs years to acquire the sure, sweeping motions they do while preparing sashimi and making sushi.
While no one expects you to be an expert overnight, you can get good enough cuts by practicing the right technique.
Below is a detailed discussion of all those must-haves.
1. The Right Blade
As aforementioned, a salmon knife can help you get great slices every single time. Listed below are its basic features:
• Blade length measures 10-12 inches
• Blade width measures an inch or less
• Scalloped or dimpled face
• Rounded-off tip
• Slight flexibility to the knife
Several brands are offering this:
• Wusthof Classic 32cm
• Pradel Excellence 28.5cm
• Lion Sabatier Ideal 30 cm
• Four Star Flexible Plus 12 inches
• Sanelli Premana Professional 31cm
• Victorinox Fibrox 30cm
• Au Nain Brasserie 27cm
Spending extra for a too specialized knife may seem too much but, if it makes you feel better, this is also used for carving hams which most people have for Thanksgiving or Christmas every year.
If you don’t have any plans to shell out extra for this, you can use your regular Chef’s knife.
A carving and boning knife may also do the trick.
Make sure that your blades are sharpened and well-honed before use.
You don’t want to ruin good fish with a blunt blade.
2. The Fitting Fillet
To be honest, any part of the salmon can be smoked.
You can even put the whole fish in the smoker and you’ll get good enough results.
But if you want to have beautiful, thin slices that are worthy to be served in charcuterie trays, getting these specific cuts would be the best.
Also, you don’t need to do a lot of prep with these fillets because they’re nice already.
Sliced from the back of the fish down to the belly, this is the most common cut sold in the market.
This often includes the grayish/brown layer in between the skin and the flesh.
Don’t remove that because this is quite flavorful, especially after it gets smoked.
These are relatively narrow slices of salmon from the neck down to the tail.
It would be quite hard to get thinner slivers from this cut but this would be great in pasta dishes or flaked then topped on fresh salads.
Perfect for a whole lot of cooking styles, this is the crème de la crème of all filets.
Aside from the fact that it has the right amount of fat and flesh, it’s quite thick so you can do the proper slicing technique which will be discussed next…
3. The Proper Slicing Technique
Chill. Don’t Freeze.
If you’ve got a chunk of pork or beef, it’s best to put this in a freezer for an hour or two before you start working on it.
You can’t do this with our featured food.
You could chill it for a bit in the fridge for easier slicing, though.
Horizontally. Not Vertically.
Fresh fish for sashimi is sliced downwards – from the top of the flesh towards the chopping board.
Smoked Salmon must be sliced horizontally – on the topmost part of the flesh, from the widest part which must be closest to you towards the tail end.
Use a Sawing Motion
With your non-dominant hand, carefully hold the widest part of the fish down.
With your dominant hand, slice through the flesh sawing back and forth towards the tail end.
To make sure it’s thin, run your blade at an angle, gradually advancing up the flesh.
Seeing the blade through the slice means you’re getting it right.
Don’t Fret If It Isn’t Perfect
You won’t get it right the first time and that’s OK.
Just slowly go through the motions and, hopefully, you’ve got beautiful slivers halfway through the fish.
Or not. And that’s still OK.
After all, no one can turn down Smoked Salmon.