Food is one of the guilty pleasures that most of us enjoy in life. It is also something that allows for a considerable amount of variety, with different foods being paired with each other and multiple ways of cooking almost anything that can be put on the table.
Included in the mix of favorite foods is salmon, and it can play the lead part in many delicious meals. It is one of those versatile foods that can be prepared in many tasty ways, including grilled, fried, seared, and broiled.
Among all of those options is smoked salmon, which adds an irresistible taste. If you have been considering adding some smoked salmon to your table. you might be wondering if it needs to be cooked.
As a general rule, smoked salmon does not need any further cooking. It is already fully cooked when it is smoked, so additional cooking is unnecessary. You can prepare smoked salmon in a variety of delicious ways by adding spices and seasoning or by pairing it with the right side dishes and drinks.
Smoking any food is a method of cooking, similar to grilling or baking the food you are preparing. It is a time-honored method of preparing meat, whether it is beef, poultry, pork, or fish.
During the hot smoking process, the salmon is prepared in advance and then placed in a smoker, where it is exposed to a high temperature and smoke from wood or wood chips. The meat is cooked slowly, but it is also smoked at the same time. The process allows the meat to be kept at a safe temperature for cooking without cooking it too quickly.
Another option for smoking salmon and other types of meat is the cold smoking process. This can be done at home as well, but it is important to know how to do it properly so it can be done safely.
Does Cold Smoked Salmon Need To Be Cooked
Cold smoked salmon is cooked at a lower temperature for a longer time than hot smoked salmon so it is considered raw but it still has the smokey flavor. It does not require additional cooking since it was prepared to the desired doneness during the cold smoking process.
Hot smoked salmon is cooked at a temperature of approximately 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Cold smoking takes place at a temperature lower than 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cold smoked salmon has less of a smoky flavor and tends to taste fresher. If you are looking for a heavy smoked taste, then hot smoking is the method of choice. Hot smoked salmon tends to be flaky, similar to baking but cold-smoked salmon is smooth.
It is also interesting to note that different regions look at smoked salmon in different ways. For example, most people from the eastern United States enjoy and expect the taste and texture of salmon that has been cooked in a hot smoker. Those on the west coast tend to prefer cold smoked salmon.
Is Smoked Salmon Safe To Eat?
Since smoked salmon is fully cooked, it is safe to eat without any additional cooking or heating. Hot smoked salmon has been cooked at a temperature and for the time necessary to kill most pathogens that would make eating raw salmon an unwise choice.
The choice of whether to eat hot smoked or cold smoked salmon is up to the individual. In either case, it can be consumed safely, provided it was handled and prepared properly during the smoking process.
With commercially smoked salmon, there is less of a possibility of getting sick compared with salmon that is smoked at home. They use large commercial smokers and the process is constantly monitored to ensure it is cooked at the proper temperature and for the proper length of time.
The same is also true of salmon that has been cold smoked commercially. Since it is being smoked at a lower temperature, the possibility of dangerous pathogens being introduced to the fish is greater. Generally speaking, cold-smoked salmon is safe for human consumption, although those with serious health concerns may want to avoid it.
How To Reheat Smoked Salmon
Smoked salmon does not require additional cooking but it may need to be reheated. Doing this properly will keep the salmon fresh-tasting without drying it out in the process.
As a general rule, smoked salmon should be reheated in the oven in a shallow dish or on a baking sheet. Put a thin layer of oil or butter on top of the salmon and warm it in the oven at 325 degrees for five minutes. Slowly reheating the salmon at a lower temperature allows it to retain its moisture and texture.
After reheating the salmon, you should use it or store it quickly. If warm salmon sits out for too long, it could provide a breeding ground for dangerous bacteria. Typically, you would only want to reheat as much salmon as you would eat in one sitting and keep the rest in the refrigerator.
There are additional methods of reheating salmon that you might use in a pinch. Gently frying smoked salmon in a frying pan is one option and the other is to pop it in the microwave for about 30 seconds. Test the temperature and microwave for an additional 30 seconds if desired.
How to Store Smoked Salmon Safely
Smoked salmon will last for up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator or for up to 3 months in the freezer. As a general rule, store the salmon in an airtight container or wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. This will keep the salmon from drying out too quickly in the refrigerator or getting freezer burn in the freezer.
Contrary to popular belief, smoked salmon is not safe to keep for long periods at room temperature and it should be refrigerated. There are some types of smoked salmon that are stored and sold at room temperature but it is always a safer option to keep it cold in the refrigerator.
The safety of smoked salmon is even more of a concern when you are dealing with leftovers. It can (and should) continue to be stored in the original packaging if possible. If the original packaging is not available, it should be stored in an airtight container and perhaps even double bagged. This helps to keep the smell of fish from tainting the other food in the refrigerator or freezer.
It is also possible to freeze smoked salmon, so if you smoked too much or if you find a good sale, you can store the excess in the freezer for a few months safely. Even leftovers can be frozen for later use, but they should be wrapped tightly or put in a sealable freezer bag.
Always check the sell-by or use-by date on the package. It is a good general guide as to how quickly the smoked salmon should be used. Read the fine print as well because it may have a shorter shelf life after the package has been opened.
Is Smoked Salmon Good For You?
Smoked salmon has many beneficial factors that would make it a healthy food choice for most people. Aside from the vitamins and minerals that are included in salmon, it is also a good resource for protein and omega-3 fats. Smoked salmon does tend to be high in salt but it is a healthy addition when you include it in your diet without overdoing it.
Including some smoked salmon on your plate as the main dish makes dinner an interesting and delicious meal. It is also a very versatile food, so you can include it in your diet in multiple ways to keep things interesting. You could have some on your bagel in the morning or spice up your dinner with some smoked salmon tacos.
Smoked salmon can also be paired with many delicious and nutritious side dishes at any meal, so it helps to round out your diet. It contains high levels of healthy protein, which is important for muscle growth, strong bones, and can even help with weight loss.
That being said, there are also reasons why you would want to include smoked salmon in moderation in your diet. Perhaps the most notable is the high levels of sodium in smoked salmon.
If you are on a sodium-restricted diet, then you should include smoked salmon on the menu occasionally, at best. Too much sodium can increase how much water you are retaining and can even lead to high blood pressure. Occasionally eating smoked salmon should not be a problem but ask your doctor if sodium in your diet is a concern.
All in all, smoked salmon can be a delicious and nutritious addition to your plate. Since it is fully cooked, it can be enjoyed right out of the refrigerator, or you may want to gently warm it as described above for certain dishes.
Salmon is a very versatile food and it is good to include in your diet in moderation. As long as you take good care of the storage and preparation, you can enjoy it without concern to your good health.