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Smoked salmon on a wooden board with capers and lemon slices on top.
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Smoked Salmon

Homemade Smoked Salmon is a treat all on its own, on a bagel, in a dip, or as part of an appetizer board. My Smoked Salmon recipe is tender, smoky, and yes, absolutely worth it to DIY.
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Prep Time 3 hours
Cook Time 3 hours
Chilling Time 1 day
Total Time 1 day 6 hours
Servings 12 (4 ounce) servings
Calories 231kcal

Ingredients

  • 3 pound salmon filet about 1 1/2-inch thick, skin on
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup kosher salt

Instructions

  • In a large, flat non-reactive glass or plastic dish, add salmon filet. In a small bowl, whisk together the brown sugar and salt. Rub generously over both sides of the salmon. Cover the salmon with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours.
  • Rinse salmon thoroughly under cold water to remove the sugar and salt mixture. Lay salmon on paper towels and pat dry on both sides.
  • Transfer the fish to a baking rack set over a clean rimmed baking sheet, skin side down,  and let it sit at room temperature for 2 to 4 hours to dry. Once the salmon feels firm and has developed a smooth, shiny skin (called a pellicle), return to the refrigerator until you're ready to smoke.
  • To smoke the salmon, preheat smoker to 150 degrees. Place salmon directly on the grate. Smoke the salmon until it is firm and tender and reaches 145 degrees, about three hours, keeping the temperature very low, around 130 to 150 degrees.

Notes

  1. Salmon: Any salmon will work with this technique: wild salmon, Steelhead, trout, sockeye, or coho. You can also smoke farmed or wild, line-caught salmon. It's entirely up to you; just seek out skin-on of whatever variety of salmon you choose, if possible.
  2. Brown Sugar: Light brown sugar makes a delightful dry brine when mixed with the salt.
  3. Salt: Kosher salt, such as Morton or Diamond Crystal, is what you'll want for homemade Smoked Salmon. Ordinary table salt will not work, because it has anti-caking agents in it that will impact the salmon's flavor. It also measures slightly differently than kosher salt, and my recipe is tailored to the latter.
  4. Yield: This recipe makes 12 (4-ounce) servings of Smoked Salmon.
  5. Storage: Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
  6. Freezer: Freeze smoked salmon for up to 2 months. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, label, and date. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator. If you see any flaky, dry edges from air exposure, trim them off with a sharp knife.
  7. Smoked salmon vs. Gravlax vs Lox: Smoked salmon is cured in a salt and/or sugar mixture, then smoked (and it can come from any part of the salmon). Gravlax is cured in salt-sugar-dill mixture and NOT smoked. Lox is cured in a salt mixture and NOT smoked (and it must come from the belly of the salmon). 
  8. How to use Smoked Salmon: Try this completed recipe flaked over salad or pasta, folded into creamy dips (it would be stellar in Easy Dill Dip!), stacked atop a cream cheese-covered Bagel, tucked inside an Omelet, or as an unexpected and amazing substitute for Canadian bacon in Eggs Benedict (Eggs royal).
  9. Tools of the trade: A handful of products will ensure the best results. (Culinary Hill may earn money if you buy through these links).
    • A smoker. I swear by my Weber Smokey Mountain. It uses regular charcoal or briquettes and wood chips. You can make Smoked Salmon on a Traeger, a kamodo grill such as a Big Green Egg, a pellet smoker, or an electric smoker, as long as you can control the heat and keep things nice and low.
    • Wood chips. Adding hardwood chips boosts the flavor of smoked meat. Play around with this variety pack of wood chips to determine your favorite infusion. Mesquite, pecan, apple, hickory, or cherry all work well.
    • A coal chimney. Chimney fire-starters chimney fire-starters are indispensable for grilling and smoking, as they can lights coal perfectly, every time, without lighter fluid. All you need is a match and a couple sheets of newspaper.
    • An instant read probe thermometer. I adore my Thermapen.
    • A cooling rack. A cooling rack will help dry the fish before smoking, and is also useful for cooling the fish once it comes out of the smoker.
    • Plastic or glass container. Those big, shallow food storage containers handle the task beautifully because they fit in the fridge easily and can be stacked on top of each other. You can use a shallow glass baking dish, too.

Nutrition

Serving: 4oz | Calories: 231kcal | Carbohydrates: 18g | Protein: 23g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 62mg | Sodium: 7128mg | Potassium: 581mg | Sugar: 18g | Vitamin A: 45IU | Calcium: 33mg | Iron: 1mg