Preliminary Salting and Drying

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

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Nowadays, fish destined for the smoker are generally soaked in a strong brine for a few hours to days, long enough to pick up a little salt (a few percent, not enough to inhibit microbial spoilage). This also draws to the surface some of the proteins in the muscle fiber, notably myosin. When the fish is hung and allowed to drip dry, the sticky layer of dissolved myosin on the surface forms a shiny gel or pellicle that will give the smoked fish an attractive golden sheen. (The gold color is created by browning reactions between aldehydes in the smoke and amino acids in the pellicle, as well as condensation of dark resins from the smoke vapor.)