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Mr.T’s Smoked Salmon

Salmon has always been one of my favorite items to smoke. All types of salmon have been in my smokers at one time or another. From the Kings and hard to find Sable Fish or Black Cod to the small Blue Backs always in search of that one recipe and technique that people would crave for. After over 20 years of experiments expressly working with salmon, they now say “Don’t screw with the recipe anymore” and yes I am going to share the very sought after recipe for the first time.

My favorite salmon to smoke is the Sockeye. Its deep red color and texture seem to do well canned or kept in fridge. Although the Kings and Sable have a wonderful flavor the Sockeye is well accepted and more economical.

Please read:
You will find that I do not get deeply into the specifics, science or safety issues of curing. It is your responsibility to make your food safe.

In order to adjust the salinity while insuring my brines are within the safe zone for extended storage and consistent results, I use a salimeter like the following.

http://veegee.thomasnet.com/vi...ation?&bc=100%7C1003


Question: Should I use fresh or frozen salmon?

Answer: Frozen, the ice crystals formed in the fish while frozen seem to aid in the brine absorption after thawing.

Question: Should I get salmon with or without the skin?

Answer: The salmon with the skin on works best. The fish has a tendency to fall apart more readily without the skin.

How long do you brine?

Answer: Some will tell you that 30 minutes to 2 hours will be sufficient. The shorter time is fine if you are going to cold smoke for sushi but that would be another thread. I brine from 16 to 24 hours depending on the size of fish mostly for convenience, but I find the texture is more firm with the longer brine.

Question: Does it go into the smoker after coming out of the brine?

Answer: No. Give it a quick rinse and pat dry. Place on a wire rack and allow to air dry until a pellicle has formed on the entire surface. This will take two or more hours depending on the humidity in your area. A fan blowing across the fish will aid in the time needed to form the pellicle. The pellicle will cause your fish or meat to have a shiny surface which will assist in smoke retention and also will help retain the fat in the fish.

Question: What are the cream colored blotches I see on some smoked salmon?

Answer: That would be fat that has seeped through the pellicle. No harm in eating it but for cosmetic purposes you may want to scrape it off after the fish has cooled.

Question: Should I hot or cold smoke?

Answer: Hot smoke for the ready to eat. Cold smoke for sushi or if it is to be canned, again that would be another thread.

Question: How long do you smoke?

Answer: It’s not the length of time but the desired temperature we are looking for. Smoke at 200° to an minimum internal temp of 145° in the thickest piece for a period of 30 minutes minimum (FDA,2001). Cooking temp may be lowered once fish has reached 145°. Store at a temperature of 38° or less ( FDA,2001).

Question: What kind of wood should I use?

Answer: Any of the light woods work well. The preferred wood I use is Alder.

Question: How much wood should I use for one fillet?

Answer: It’s always been my opinion that the smoker doesn’t know how much it’s holding. I use Approx. 3 oz. full or not.

Question: What will the end result be and how can I use it?

Answer: The salmon will be moist, neither dry nor juicy. It is not intended to be served as a main course. It's intended to be used as a finger food eaten alone or as a snack on crackers and creamed cheese or as a mouse. It also has endless uses as a appetizer. Will definitely be a hit at any pot luck. Try different appetizer recipes and enjoy. It can easily be packed in a saddle bag or back pack and taken into the mountains. WARNING: Grizzly bears like both fresh and smoked salmon.

Question: Would you share your brine recipe?

Answer: Yes and I would be proud if you used it, and then let me know the results.

Mr. T’s Smoked fish Brine

Ingredients:
½ cup canning salt, Kosher salt or Tender Quick (preferred) 3.0 oz. by weight.
½ tsp. Paprika
1 ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ tsp. cayenne
1 quart water
1 Tbs. garlic powder
2 cups brown sugar
4 bay leaves

PH 4.1
Sal. 84%

Preparation:
Combine all ingredients and stir until sugar has dissolved.
Place fish in non reactive container with brine and completely cover. A zip bag works well at this point. If using a bag I overhaul or move the fish around two or three times during the brining period.

That’s it. Any questions just ask. Have fun and enjoy.

Tom

Salmon Thawed



Salmon Filets Halved



Cut Into Sections



In Brine



Pellicle Formed



In Smoker



Ready for Packaging

Last edited {1}
Original Post
Mr. T - Thanks for the tutorial and brine recipe. Very well written. This is next on my list as my brother in Seattle just sent me 10 lbs. of Copper River fillets (The product of a little sports bet that came out in my favor).

One question - What's the appropriate quantity of salmon, by weight, for the brine recipe posted?

Thanks for the guidance.
dls - Thank you. I usually will fill a 1 Gallon zip freezer bag half full of loosely packed fish. This will be around 2 Lbs. Cover with brine,push the air out and place in pot large enough to hold the entire bag (just in case of a leak) and place in fridge. Hope this answers your question. Let me know how it turns out. Suggest you smoke some cream cheese while the fish is in the brine. Will go great with your salmon.
By the way did you do that smoked cheese?
Mr. T. - Thanks. I'll go with 2 lbs. I've smoked Yukon River King before (another bet with my brother Smiler ), but never Copper River. Have you, and if so, how was it.

Regarding the cheese, I couldn't do the Camembert as my local cheese shop was out of it. I did do a marinaded mozzarella. I'll post the results on your cheese thread later.

Thanks again.
Last edited by dls
dls, Yes. You will find the Copper river Sockeye Salmon extra fatty and very high in Omega 3. You will be very pleased with it. You can bet your brother that your salmon will beet the salmon he finds in the Pikes Place Market in a blind taste test. Wink May get you some more salmon. Razzer

ps: I see in my notes that some of the salmon sells for over $5.00 an ounce at the Market.
Just came home from a fishing trip/vacation in Corpus Christi with about 15 pounds of Specled trout filets. What do you think about using your brine for white fish like trout? I think I'll try it this weekend. Do you have any trouble with the fish sticking if the skin is removed? I have frogmats or I could use spray on the grills.
RangerDF, The brine will work well on any fish even shellfish. Frogmats should work but, I would oil or spray nonstick for added help. Be careful removing the fish as it will flake easier without the skin. It would help to refrigerate before removing them. Just test with a spatula to determine when to remove. I would advise to fillet with skin on next time. Let us know how it turned out.
HAVE FUN AND ENJOY YOUR CATCH
This past weekend, I was fortunate to find that the Fresh Market here locally had fresh Copper River Sockeye salmon. Based on Mr. T's posts on brining and smoking salmon, I decided to give it a try.

It came out perfect! I smoked them at 180 on my pre-IQ4 FE100 for about an hour and a half using some peach pellets. Everybody loved it. It got served with a mushroom risotto and a broccoli gratin. Very nice meal! Thanks for all your help, Tom! I could not have done it without your instuctions.
Tigerfan, You can get ready for some good fish. I might be singing to the choir. Just a few things to consider. The fish that will be smoked will be better if frozen first. If you are going to grill or bake some, do not freeze. The Copper River salmon, Sockeye or Kings are extra fatty. It is important that you have a good pellicle. You can speed this procedure by using a fan blowing air across the fish. It could take 2 to 4 hours. Don’t rush it. The pellicle should be dry to the touch. If you are going to smoke a lot, try smoking the same sized sections of fish together. It may take two separate smokes. Smoke at 200° to internal temp of 145° in the thickest piece. Alder is a wonderful choice. Let us know how it turned out. ENJOY
Tom
I bought 3 lbs of Sockeye Wild Salmon and used T's brine to the "T". Sorry about that.

After the pellicle formed, I sprinkled with salt, pepper, garlic, dill and lemon juice all over. Then sprinkled half of it with a dusting of brown sugar. Chunk of Alder in the smoker. 235* for 1.5 hrs. Pulled when internal hit 145* (Yep, I did it. 145*).

It was delicious. My Aunt and Uncle loved it. Oh, I brined it for 6 hrs.

Interesting. I tried a piece with and without the brown sugar and feel the brown sugar actually brought out more of the salmon flavor. The sugar actually made it taste richer. Does this fit with the experience of others?
Last edited by pags
As I mentioned in another thread, I dry brine with brown sugar and kosher salt. After brining in the fridge overnight, the filets are rinsed, patted dry, then put back in the fridge until pellicle #1 forms. The filets are then painted with maple syrup, and put back in the fridge until pellicle #2 forms. That's when they go in the smoker. I think the maple syrup really brings out the salmon flavor, and gives a nice rich taste. So perhaps it's the sweet, whether you use brown sugar or maple syrup, that does the trick.
quote:
Originally posted by HAC111:
Bododio, I tried the dry brine method for ten hours and it was way too salty. I had salmon that had the skin removed, Do you think thiat could have been the reason?


The salmon I use is the wild caught rather than the Atlantic farmed, so I get skin on one side, which goes down in the dish, and I only put the dry brine on the top. I don't use a lot of the dry brine, either. Just enough to make an even coating without caking it on. And when I rinse, I rinse very thoroughly to remove all traces of the brine. There's a definite salt flavor in the finished product, but it's not overpowering at all. My guess is the Atlantic salmon is too porous, you used too much dry brine, you didn't rinse thoroughly enough, or a combination of the three. Keep notes and keep trying until you get the results that you like best. That's how I arrived at my method.
HAC111, It will be fine thus the reason for the freezing which kills bacteria, brining which preserves and bringing to the proper safe temp when smoking. Suggest using a fan to speed the pellicle process.

Give it another try and control the temps a little closer then let us know how it turns out. Should be just a little moist, not dry or juicy.

Tom
Somehow, after reading this article I understand that no nitrites/nitrates are need to be added to the brine as long as it is made at the strength that Mr T has made his brines. IF this article is correct, salt can kill(inhibit growth) of bacteria.

Anyway, I'm not near as knowledgeable as you guys, but enjoy reading and stretching my mind on occasions...LOL!
Brining fish
Clarification: There seems to be some confusion as to the end result of the recipe. Therefore I added the following to the original thread. Hope this will help.

Tom

Question: What will the end result be and how can I use it?

Answer: The salmon will be moist, neither dry nor juicy. It is not intended to be served as a main course. It's intended to be used as a finger food eaten alone or as a snack on crackers and creamed cheese or as a mouse. It also has endless uses as a appetizer. Will defiantly be a hit at any pot luck. Try different appetizer recipes and enjoy. It can easily be packed in a saddle bag or back pack and taken into the mountains. WARNING: Grizzly bears like both fresh and smoked salmon. Eeker
Hey Mr T:

I'm new to the forum but have been reading it as a lurker since I got my Smokette Elite 25 about 3 months ago. Wanted to let you know I made your salmon recipe for about a dozen people last night and they are still raving about it!

I started with two large filets about 2# each, about 3/4" thick in thickest portion. Got them fresh last week, then froze them for 3 days. Thawed them, then mixed up your brine solution and brined them in a 2 gal ziplock bag for 24 hours, turning several times during the process. Rinsed with 5 exchanges of rinse water. Then placed uncovered on the Smokette racks in the refrigerator overnight for pellicle to form. Had to put then diagonal on the racks for them to fit. Before cooking I set the smoker to 250 and preheated with 3 pieces of alder until smoke was coming out the vent hole for 10 minutes, then turned the temp down to 200. I removed the filets from the rack and sprayed the racks with Pam, then put the filets back on and placed them in the smoker. After 65 min the internal temp was 140, so I dialed the temp setting back to 175 and waited 20 min. At the end the internal temp reached 145. I removed the racks and used two oversized spatulas to pick up each filet (slid off the racks perfectly without sticking) and place it on aluminum foil and wrapped them up and took them to the dinner (5 min away).

They were a smash hit. Perfectly done, tender, and just the right amount of smoke. Even my friend who also has a 25 (an older model) and who prides himself on his smoked salmon was raving that my salmon was primo restaurant quality and wanted to know my secret. So I told him about your recipe on this forum, and he responded that he knew about the fourm but never read it, but now he will.

Bottom line: your recipe is solid gold! I'm not going to waste my time trying other smoked salmon recipes unless you recommend them.

Bill
quote:
Bottom line: your recipe is solid gold! I'm not going to waste my time trying other smoked salmon recipes unless you recommend them.

Bill


Bill, Thank you for the very kind words. Sounds like you did a very good job on them. You may also want to check the pictures out in the Seafood Forum, PICS- Hot Smoked Salmon dated May 31.

This recipe is the one I dare not change because it is so well liked around here. Just in case you can, the technique is different when canning.

Thanks again and please stay in touch.

Mr.T

P.S. My daughter works at the hospital and lives in Sierra Vista.
Last edited by Former Member
Just made my first fillet with a beauty of a sockeye. I ended up with an overnight pellicle formation (didn't really look any different) after a 24 hr brine.

Smoked up to 145 and then cut it. Let it rest for an hour and then wrapped up and rest more in the fridge for 8 hours and JUST when the wife got back scarfed down the first bites.

Thanks!
Outstanding recipe ! I make a small 2 lb batch to try it out and I was very pleased with it. I brined for 24 hours and then air dried with the help of a fan for 3 more. I used 3 oz apple and got the smoker going at 200F letting the initial white smoke disapate before putting the salmon in. Once it hit 145F I lowered the smoker temp to 145 and held it for 1/2 hour. After it cooled we tried it out an it was truely awesome. Thank you MrT !

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Mr. T or anyone

I am doing the Mr.T salmon recipe. I want to make an appetizer out of it.

Anyone has any smoked salmon appetizer ideas?

I was thinking of maybe doing a smoked salmon dip.. As in brine, smoke, break apart, and add mayo plus salt and pepper. The other easy one is crackers and cream cheese with a little salmon on top.

Thanks

El
We have no special recipe for a dip. Normally just toss and turn to taste although creamed cheese is usually a part of it. Be cautious if your recipe calls for salt as the salmon contains salt in the brine of course, simply adjust to your taste. Let us know how you liked it and what you did.

Mr.T
Looks very tasty. Nice coloring.

Last night I smoked a nice fresh Sockeye Salmon using Cardog's Award Winning Dry Brine recipe provided by Tom from our forum and Tone's Salmon Rub. We made smoked salmon Caeser Salad for dinner.

Delicious. Tasty. Salmon and smoke just love each other. The color of the salmon was almost a deep red. I'm not sure if it's the brine, the pellicle we formed or both that prevents the fat from oozing out of the salmon as it cooks, but it was a thing of beauty coming out of the smoker. Pulled it at 140* (a little higher than normal), apple wood, smoker at 225*.
TN Q,
I am thrilled that you are enjoying your salmon.

quote:
Originally posted by TN Q:
Be careful holding any foods in the danger zone between 40˚ and 140˚ for extended timeframes, as this provides bacteria prime opportunity to multiply. The process of freezing fish does serve to kill parasites. However, freezing doesn’t kill bacteria; it only slows growth or causes hibernation. Returning the fish to room temperature provides the environment for bacteria to begin to grow. Nitrites/nitrates should be added with the salt in the brine to kill bacteria if planning on drying at room temperature for extended timeframe. Otherwise keep fish refrigerated well below 40˚ during an extended drying period. JMHO.


I take it you are referring to yourself when you speak of food police. You are correct on the basic temperature safety guidelines for most foods. Here though, we are discussing properly curing fish for preservation by brining at a specific salinity then smoking to a minimum temperature for a specific amount of time.

Idaho Mike,
I will try to eliminate some of the criticism and confusion as to why the above recipe is used and is so popular.

As Paul Harvey would say “Now for the rest of the story.”

As some of you on this and other forums know. I live in a relatively remote and isolated part of the country. Here where some have to truck their water in from nearby springs we have no cell service, electricity is a necessity for most, a periodic pleasure for some and a dream for a few. Most have access to freezers and refrigeration while some get there electricity only from portable generators or solar panels. They normally charge banks of batteries or directly feed appliances such as a clothes washer or vacuum. The refrigeration for those without electricity normally comes from propane refrigerators with extremely limited freezer space and slow recovery rates.

As one who likes to share smoked salmon, it did not take long after moving here 25 years ago to realize I had a new challenge. That was to come up with a recipe that would not only preserve the salmon, but also consistently taste good throughout. After much testing, the result is the above recipe.

Due to the remoteness and low income for many, there are ones here who have never experienced a fresh salmon dinner or who’s only experience with salmon is the cured and smoked type. The fact is that many foods that need to be frozen or will not keep for an extended amount of time in a refrigerator can be useless.

I do not alter the recipe when smoking salmon for others even for those who have freezers as it is so often given away as gifts, especially during the holidays. The chance of someone who does not have a freezer receiving it thinking it is cured would be too great and spoilage could occur.

I do hope you understand why the smoking temperatures, time, salinity and pH measurements of all my brine's whether they are for curing or pickling are kept and this clears things up as to possible overkill.

It’s not that other types of salmon are not good, of course they are. There are many ways to prepare salmon and if you have a favorite recipe and preservation is or is not a concern, I say use it.

Bottom line is, when someone knocks on my door and asks me to smoke some salmon, they know what they are going to get.

Tom
did a test run of Mr. T's salmon. I gave some of it to my Doctor. I had an appointment today, and he said his wife went crazy over it. I have to admit, that I had problems with my smoker, and thought it turned out a little dry and sweet. This was my fault and not the recipes fault. The Doc. wanted to know if I would sell him smoked salmon. I don't usually do this, but will in this case. I guess hearing that the Doc's Wife said that it was the best fish she had ever eaten, made the difference.

Thanks Mr. T.
Todd,
If you used the above recipe and technique your salmon is cured. It can safely be air dried at room temperature to form the pellicle, figure around two to three hours without a fan one to two with. Forming a good pellicle while being refrigerated will simply take longer.

Enjoy and let us know how it went.
That was the best smoked Salmon I gave ever eaten. It received rave reviews at the Christmas party! Even those who usually don't like salmon were telling me it was excellent!

I pretty much followed Mr. T's instructions word for word. Bought a 2 pound sockeye fillet and cut it into 3 equal pieces. Brined for 18 hours, rinsed, patted dry. Then air-dried for 3 hours on kitchen counter. Then decided to put a fan on them while I preheated the SM025 to 200 degrees. I used a 3 oz chunk of red alder. Took about 1 1/2 hours for salmon to reach 145 degrees, then I reduced smoker temp to 180 and let the salmon cook for 30 minutes more before pulling. The fillets were deep red and smelled amazing! I let them cool slightly then immediately vacuum-sealed them. One chunk was eaten at the party (with cream cheese and Triscuits) and I kept the other 2 for Christmas day.

One word, Mr. T .... Ridiculous. This is now my go-to recipe for smoked Salmon.

Todd
Mr.T, I smoke a lot of salmon using dry brine methods which can be tedious so I am excited to try your method. I have a few questions to help me adapt to your recipe. Can you do whole filets instead of cutting it up? I assume you vacuum pack after they are smoked, so what do you do with the packages you have not eaten or given away, freeze or store at room temp? How long is the salmon good for using either method?
Q4lunch, Unlike many dry brines, this recipe was developed for 100% saturation resulting in a product with a known salinity and pH level making a more shelf stable product. This product is suited more for a snack type salmon than a main dish.

Whole fillets can easily be done using this method, but it is my personal preference to cut the fillets into serving sizes as it would be rare in my case that a whole fillet would be required.

After being smoked the salmon is vacuum sealed and refrigerated for up to three months and at times, I will freeze it for up to six months. If longer storage is desired, the salmon should be pressure canned. When canning, the same brine technique is used, but a different smoking procedure is used do to the effects canning has on the fish. Although it is cured, to avoid confusion here on the forum, I rather not discuss storing the salmon at room temperature for a length of time.

Hope your questions have been answered. If I can be of further assistance, please ask. Will be looking forward to your results.

Tom
Mr T! I just tried your salmon technique and brine recipe this weekend, and wanted to let you know it is excellent! I did have some confusion over the amount of salt by weight (I used Kosher), and ended up putting in more than the recommended 3 ounces. I was worried it would be salty, but the result was perfect. As others have said, the result is firm and delicious.

Thank you for sharing!

Barry
Mr. T, As you know, I've enjoyed your salmon brine recipe for a couple of years now, and maybe I haven't been paying attention, but this is the first time I recall you recommending cure rather than salt. I know you say you like the resultant taste better, but I wonder about having nitrates, nitrites, and propylene glycol in the product if it really doesn't need to be there. Is taste your only reason for preferring it? Just curious. And thanks again for a recipe that has brought me and mine much enjoyment!
quote:
Originally posted by Jay1924:
Mr. T, As you know, I've enjoyed your salmon brine recipe for a couple of years now, and maybe I haven't been paying attention, but this is the first time I recall you recommending cure rather than salt. I know you say you like the resultant taste better, but I wonder about having nitrates, nitrites, and propylene glycol in the product if it really doesn't need to be there. Is taste your only reason for preferring it? Just curious. And thanks again for a recipe that has brought me and mine much enjoyment!



Hello Jay, Please review the recipe. It does state that TQ is preferred.

Besides preferring the flavor, it also makes for a longer shelf life. As for the nitrates and nitrites, there is more in a stick of celery. Of course, if you are happy preparing it the way you are and not comfortable using a cure, continue doing it the way you are. Keep enjoying your salmon, my friend.

Tom
quote:
Originally posted by Camper Bob:
I was all set to make the brine and purchase some salmon from Costco. Seems now they only carry farm raised as opposed to wild. Any thoughts on farm raised versus wild?


It's been my experience that the wild is more solid than the farm raised salmon. Handle it a little more carefully as you don't want it to break.

That being said, it is better than nothing.

T
Well you are correct. It is better than nothing. Will get some from Costco next time and will try your recipe which I am very interested to try. Just smoked some snack sticks which came out fine. Prior to that about two weeks ago I smoked a prime packer brisket using Franklin BBQ's recipe. Wow, was that ever fabulous. Thanks for the hand holding.
Tom,

Yes I had noticed your mention of TQ in your original recipe, but had (perhaps conveniently) forgotten it. Thanks for your reasons for your choice of cure over salt. I wasn't aware that the dose (so to speak) was so low; I'll have to do my homework on that. For me, shelf-life is not so important since we freeze everything we can't eat within a week.

As to the question about farm-raised, I have not tried to smoke it, but cooked fresh, we really don't like the flavor, even the "Norwegian" salmon that Whole Foods has on sale here now for $8.99 a lb. Having said that, I will admit that I occasionally have "Honey Smoked Salmon" out of Colorado (Atlantic farm raised), available here in Sam's Club, for breakfast, when in the depths of winter I can't get or make the real thing. It is really pretty good, although loose and fatty. Thanks again - all your posts are instructive!

Jay

OK, back to the old thread. I just put another 6 lbs (four sides cut to three about 8 oz pieces each) of fresh wild caught sockeye from Costco in the fridge in Mr. T's brine for overnight.This is the third batch this summer, and Costco's price is coming down. They never got in the Copper River sockeye as in previous years, but I read the run was very poor this year, unknown cause. But regular ocean-caught sockeye looks good, and I always stock up for winter in the freezer. Maybe one more batch this summer while the run lasts. We're not eating as much as we used to, and we're not anticipating the holiday parties with demands for smoked salmon spread we usually have. Still about 8 lbs left over from last year. So total about 26 lbs or so in the freezer as of tomorrow. Pretty good supply.

Last edited by jay1924

Hey soleman! My spread recipe:

8 oz cream cheese, softened (quite soft)

About 6 oz sour cream, mix w/cream cheese to desired consistency for the spread.

6 - 8 oz smoked salmon (depending on how generous you are), crumbled

2 T finely minced sweet onion

Ground white pepper to taste

About 1 T worcestershire, or to taste

Add the rest of the ingredients to the cream cheese - sour cream mix and stir gently to mix. Refrigerate for an hour or overnight to blend flavors.

This is fabulous on bagels or toast for breakfast, or on crackers or pumpernickel squares as a party dip.

Looking forward to yours!

 I checked out Wild Alaskan. Pretty pricey. I get the wild sockeye for $10.99 a pound at Costco. But either way, you can't get really good smoked salmon for as cheap as you can make it yourself.

Last edited by jay1924

looks good Jay, I will try it. I have one piece left from my last smoke.

Here is what I use. I got it from the forum, but don't remember from where, so I can't give credit without searching for the author. Its even possible in might be in this thread.

8 oz cream cheese (I have found the flavor is a better if I use less than this however)

6-8 oz smoked salmon (half of this I chop fine. Half I leave in bigger pieces)

3 TB sour cream

2 TB Mayo

3 TB finely chopped jalepenos (of the sliced in jar variety)

dash cayenne

dash black pepper

dash of my homemade chipotle powder (simply smoked jalepenos that have been finely ground)

granulated garlic to taste (I don't measure, just sprinkle some in)

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