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Smoked Salmon is a method of preparing salmon (usually a filet of salmon) that uses hot or cold smoke to preserve and add flavor to the fish.
This method of preparing fish can be traced back to ancient times and connected with any number of cultures and peoples who had access to types of salmon.
Smoked salmon is commonly thought of as a more elevated food now, but it originated simply as a way to keep fresh salmon safe to eat for longer periods of time.
That being said, how long does smoked salmon last in the freezer?
We know that it is already a preserved food, but that does not mean that it stays good forever simply existing in a smoked state.
If you buy a pack of smoked salmon from the grocery store, you’ve got roughly one week before it starts to turn; granted this is longer than the shelf life of raw fresh salmon which is only good for a couple of days in the average refrigerator.
In this article, we will go over some of the things that contribute to smoked salmon’s longer shelf life, and give you a few tips for preserving your smoked salmon for as long as possible.
Cold Smoked vs. Hot Smoked Salmon
When it comes to smoking foods there are many different methods depending on the type of food you are smoking, the tools you have available, and your personal preferences.
Largely, however, when it comes to smoked salmon you can choose between a cold smoked salmon or a hot smoked salmon.
This does not refer to the temperature of the meat, but instead refers to the temperature of the smoke used on the cut of salmon.
Both cold smoked and hot smoked salmon are equally delicious (and effectively preserved) but do have different characteristics and different common localities.
Hot and cold smoked foods alike are preserved because the heat of the smoke kills off harmful bacteria.
If your salmon is cold smoked, ( which is more common on the east coast – think something like a New York bagel with “lox”, capers, and cream cheese – yum!) heat is still involved.
The meat is kept at a low temperature for longer which allows the fish to take on less of a “smoky” flavor and maintains the smoothness of the salmon meat’s texture.
Because the texture of the meat remains delicate and almost “sashimi” like, this type of smoked salmon is great served over a crostini or on top of a salad.
Though it offers a delicious and delicate product, cold smoking salmon can be more dangerous than hot smoking if done improperly.
Because cold smoking requires you to keep your meat around or below 90 degrees fahrenheit (right smack in the middle of the “danger zone”), there is a higher chance of your meat collecting bacteria as it smokes.
If you are attempting cold smoked salmon at home, make sure that the tools you are using are made for cold smoking fish, and make sure that the cut of fish you have and anything you may add to it or put it on is sanitary.
On the other end of the spectrum is hot smoked salmon.
Hot smoking keeps the meat smoking at temperatures between 120 to 180 degrees fahrenheit for between 6 to 12 hours.
This type of higher heat, less time smoking produces a salmon cut that is flakier and smokier than the cold smoked version of this fish.
This type of smoked salmon is best used in things like hot pastas and chowders because it is more thoroughly cooked through than cold smoked salmon.
The texture of the meat also makes for a more pleasurable bite of warm chowder than the silky (dare we say slimey) texture of cold smoked salmon.
Freezing your Smoked Salmon
With both types of smoked salmon, further freezing the meat can add months, if not years, to the lifespan of your fish.
Most smoked salmon comes already vacuum sealed; however, if you have a fresh catch of salmon that you have smoked and are looking to preserve, you will need to vacuum seal the meat before attempting to freeze it.
Vacuum sealing helps preserve food by eliminating oxygen and thereby preventing mold and bacteria from growing on the vacuum sealed food.
Before attempting to vacuum seal any sort of fish you will need to give it a quick freeze.
Laying out your smoked salmon on a baking sheet (be careful not to let pieces you want to stay seperate touch) and pre-freezing them for about an hour or two can help to preserve the integrity of the meat so that it does not crumble or squish up oddly when being vacuum sealed.
When you are ready to get to vacuum sealing, make sure that you have a quality vacuum sealer machine to give your smoked salmon the best chance of staying pristine in the freezer for as long as possible.
The FoodSaver FM2435 Vacuum Sealer Machine with Bonus Handheld Sealer and Starter Kit (view at Amazon) is a good example of a quality vacuum sealer machine that would work great to help you in preserving your smoked salmon.
This vacuum seal machine claims to help preserve the “fresh” taste of meats and keep them freezer burn free for up to three years.
A starter kit and a handheld sealer are included with this vacuum sealer machine so that you can easily figure out how to get your fish vacuum sealed even if you have never used a vacuum sealer before.
The lid on the FoodSaver machine has a latch that only requires one hand to operate, so you can keep your smoked salmon steady while it is being vacuum sealed.
A catch all tray is also built into this machine, which catches juices that may flow from your vacuum sealed food.
This tray is easy to remove for dishwasher safe cleaning.
This machine also has built in roll storage and a cutter which allows you to create custom sized bags to fit the particular dimensions of whatever cuts of smoked salmon you find yourself with.
The FoodSaver vacuum sealer can efficiently manage to produce 60 consecutive airtight seals before requiring a cool down period.
FoodSaver offers a five year limited warranty with the purchase of this product, so you can make the investment without having to fret about potential mechanical issues down the line.
How long does smoked salmon last in the freezer?
No matter if you are looking to vacuum seal and freeze your own smoked salmon, or simply freezing a pre-packaged salmon product, you will need to be careful about how you store and thaw your fish.
Smoked salmon maintains its best flavor for about three months in the freezer.
This does not mean that the fish goes “bad” after that period, it just means that the flavor and texture may alter after that three month mark.
That being said, how long does smoked salmon last in the freezer after being vacuum sealed?
A long time. . .
As long as your smoked salmon stays tightly covered to prevent freezer burn, and is kept at a consistent 0 degrees fahrenheit, it can be safe to eat pretty much indefinitely.
That does not mean it will taste as good as freshly smoked salmon, but it should not have the opportunity to harbor any harmful bacteria at any point if prepared and frozen properly.
Keep in mind that when you go to thaw frozen smoked salmon, you will want to do so gradually and in a controlled environment to maintain the integrity of your fish.
You can choose to thaw the fish gently in the refrigerator over a few days, or let it hang out under cold, running water for a little while to defrost.
It is very important to remember that if you choose to defrost your salmon under running water, your water has to be cold.
If you thaw anything under warm or hot water, you are creating an environment for bacteria to begin to grow and your meat may spoil.
Additionally, you should generally not refreeze fish that has been frozen and then thawed.
If your smoked salmon has been out at room temperature for too long before being refrozen, this can allow bacteria to set up in the fish which will only be eliminated by further cooking.
Refreezing pre frozen smoked salmon may also change the texture and taste of the meat because of repeated freezing.
Ultimately, no matter if you are cold smoking your salmon, hot smoking your salmon, vacuum sealing it yourself, or buying it pre prepared from a market or grocery store, you can more often than not trust your eyes and your nose when deciding if it is safe to eat or not.
If your fish smells weird or looks funky (even if it has been smoked and frozen) it is probably not going to be a good idea to eat it.
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