Cured and Smoked Salmon Recipe

Cured and Smoked Salmon Recipe

Salmon is a fish that I do consume regularly. I especially like it cold cured or smoked. Gravlox is a method of preserving salmon by curing it in dry brine without the use of smoke. It takes about 3 days to mature. Smoked salmon is a slow cooking method that results in a similar preservation technique but with a distinctive flavor. Both are delicious in different ways.

I like to put a slight spin on smoked salmon by combining the two methods. After cold curing, the salmon can be smoked using a charcoal, propane, or electric smoker. Because fish is delicate, we will use the Masterbuilt Digital Electric Smoker for this recipe for even temperature control.

Some Information on Salmon

Salmon is a cold water fish. It is generally caught in the north Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. While it is considered a saltwater species, salmon will often spawn in fresh water rivers and streams. The flesh is firm, fatty, and super nutritious. I am referring to wild salmon. The jury is still out on the health benefits of farm raised salmon due to the confined conditions and the type of feed it is raised on.

A single 4 ounce serving of wild salmon is approximately 210 calories. In addition to salmon being a terrific source of essential amino acids, here is a list of some of the many nutrients in a serving of wild salmon.

  • Fat (mostly unsaturated) = 12.3 grams
  • Carbohydrates = 0 grams
  • Protein = 22.5 grams
  • Vitamin B-12 = 236% RDA (Recommended Daily Amount)
  • Vitamin D = 127% RDA
  • Selenium = 78% RDA
  • Vitamin B3 = 56% RDA
  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids = 55% RDA
  • Phosphorus = 52% RDA

Wild Alaskan salmon is reported to be the least contaminated of the species. Some wild salmon begins life in a hatchery and is then released into the wild. When shopping for salmon make sure the flesh is bright and moist, not slimy, and there is no fishy smell. For smoking, ask your fish monger to remove the skin and take out all of the pin bones. Store the fish in a very cold refrigerator until ready to use.

Cured and Smoked Salmon Recipe

This recipe is a 2 step process that is worth the effort for the end result in both flavor and firmness of the flesh. The dry brine curing process draws a lot of moisture out of the fish. This recipe is awesome for serving on toasted baguette slices, which I will spell out as well.

Cured and Smoked Salmon

Cured and Smoked Salmon

Yield: 4
Prep Time: 12 hours
Cook Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 16 hours

Salmon is very good when cured or smoked. But we'll be combining the two methods to make the best salmon you've ever tasted!


  • 1-1/2 pound whole salmon fillet, skin and bones removed
  • 1 shot (jigger) unflavored vodka or tequila (optional)
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup brown or raw turbinado sugar
  • 2 TBS cracked black pepper
  • 1 bunch of fresh dill, chopped
  • 1/2 lemon, thinly sliced
  • Pecan or alder wood chips



  1. Place the whole salmon fillet in a shallow baking dish, preferably glass or ceramic. Pour the alcohol over the fillet. If you need to cut the fillet in half and stack them, that is fine.
  2. Mix salt, pepper, and sugar together and pat all over the salmon. Top with the lemon slices. Place the dill on top of that and gently press down.
  3. Cover the top of the salmon tightly with plastic wrap, tucking it down into the dish. Place another layer of wrap over the dish to seal it tightly.
  4. Place the salmon in the refrigerator overnight for approximately 8 to 12 hours. Note: This will not result in gravlox, as that would require curing for at least 72 hours. This is more like dry brining or marinating the fish to prepare it for smoking.


  1. Remove the dish from the refrigerator. Discard the liquid. Rinse the fillet under cold water just to remove the seasonings, lemon, and herbs. Pat dry with paper towels and set the fillet aside for approximately 2 hours to allow it to completely dry.
  2. Meanwhile, soak the wood chips in water.
  3. Take one of the grills or grates from the smoker and brush or spray it with olive oil. Place the dry fish on the grate.
  4. Preheat the smoker to approximately 160˚F. Place the wood chips in the side drawer. You may need more wood chips every 45 to 60 minutes. Watch for smoke. If there isn’t smoke, add more chips.
  5. Place the fish inside the smoker and cook for 3 to 6 hours. Check in 2.5 hours and then again each hour after that. Some people like the soft texture at 2.5 hours, while others prefer the firmer texture that you will achieve in 3 to 6 hours. You want the internal temperature of the fish to be at least 130˚F.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving:Calories: 768Total Fat: 31gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 22gCholesterol: 143mgSodium: 3957mgCarbohydrates: 57gFiber: 1gSugar: 50gProtein: 51g

Smoked Salmon Crostini Recipe

Crostini are a wonderful snack, especially for a summer party or a brunch. Feel free to flavor your cream cheese with chives, chopped bell peppers, or horseradish. This recipe is fairly simple and easy to jazz up.

Smoked Salmon Crostini

Smoked Salmon Crostini

Yield: 4
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

Crostini are a wonderful snack, especially for a summer party or a brunch.


  • 1 medium whole grain or white baguette sliced on the diagonal into 1/4″ pieces
  • 2 TBS extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 6 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 3 medium tomatoes, sliced thinly
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  • 6 ounces smoked salmon
  • 1 small jar of brined capers


  1. Preheat an oven to 400°F. Place the baguette slices on a baking sheet and brush both sides with EVOO and a sprinkling of salt. Bake until golden brown, approximately 4 to 5 minutes per side.
  2. Spread the softened cream cheese on each slice of bread. Top with a tomato slice and season with a little salt and pepper. Top the tomato with flaked or sliced smoked salmon and 2 or 3 capers.
  3. Serve with sparkling wine or lemon water.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving:Calories: 496Total Fat: 25gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 53mgSodium: 1601mgCarbohydrates: 48gFiber: 3gSugar: 8gProtein: 20g

More with Smoked Salmon

Salmon that has been dry brined and smoked will keep will in your refrigerator for a few days. There are so many versatile uses for smoked salmon. Try some of these ideas.

  • Add to scrambled eggs for breakfast
  • Pile high on an everything bagel
  • Make into fish cakes or croquettes with quinoa and a side of herbed mayonnaise
  • Turn it into a smoked salmon dip for vegetables
  • Top grilled flatbread or pizza
  • Add flavor and texture to twice baked potatoes
  • Pack your salad with smoky protein

Remember that salmon is good for you. Smoking salmon will make it go a long way.

Comments: 22

  1. Roddo - July 27, 2018 at 1:19 am Reply

    I am not a real salmon fan so I made this for my son and my father. I tasted it and it was awesome! I think I will be eating salmon more regularly! Great recipe if followed!

  2. Kathryn - July 28, 2018 at 7:43 pm Reply

    I plan on smoking a pound or two of salmon. What is best way to keep small sections for future consumption?

    • Jan - August 6, 2018 at 5:56 pm Reply

      freeze it (if you have a machine that sucks the air out and shrink raps plastic (not sure what they are called), this works really well and prevents freezer burn. Other option is pressure canning (you need a pressure canner not a regular canner for this though).

    • George Taruc - November 6, 2019 at 10:43 pm Reply

      I like keeping my recipe simple so I use 2 parts brown sugar and 1 part salt 1/4 part black pepper. I also add a little maple syrup. Rub salmon with ingredients. It dissolves after and become liquidy. I flip the fillets every so often. You will notice the flesh gets firm as it marinades longer.

  3. Nick Griller Diller - April 14, 2019 at 2:01 pm Reply

    I have been using a dry brine for salmon for many years. 1 part kosher salt and 2 parts (white or brown) sugar. Coat the fish with the salt-sugar mixture. Place on a wire rack uncovered in the frig for one hour. then take out and brush excess sugar-salt away and dry with paper towels. put it back in the frig while you light grill.
    build an indirect fire with low to medium heat on my kettle and cook until done, about 30 or so minutes.
    add wood chips to the fire. I use maple.

  4. Tanya - June 24, 2019 at 4:33 pm Reply

    I tried a dry brine and smoke and 2 things went wrong- the fish seemed too salty and by setting the smoker at such a low temp i could not get the chips to smoke …suggestions? I thought maybe my filets were too small or…not sure how to remedy the smoke temp.

    • May - March 26, 2020 at 11:10 pm Reply

      I had the same problem. I would also put put two lumps of coal along with my wood chips of choice. The coal will continue to keep burning for hours so this will light up the wood chips as you keep adding new wood chips

  5. Patti Z - June 27, 2019 at 5:47 pm Reply

    Tanya, You need to turn the smoker to High first to get the chips to smoke. Then turn it down to the desired temperature to continue the cooking process.

  6. David S - September 10, 2019 at 12:11 pm Reply

    The Directions state to let fish dry for 2 hours after rinsing it and toweling it off. Do you put it back in the fridge? I know this seems like a dumb question, but figured I needed to ask it.

    • George Taruc - November 6, 2019 at 10:37 pm Reply

      I always lay mine on an oven grate or the smoker grate and set it on the kitchen sink so the drips go on the sink. The longer it dries the better.

    • Peter Veregge - December 10, 2020 at 1:39 am Reply

      The refrigerator has very dry air, and a fan to circulate the air. This will help dry salmon better than room temperature. Put on a rack in a sheet pan or some foil to catch drips.

  7. Mark Haines - February 8, 2020 at 7:01 pm Reply

    If I do this recipe again I will use a 1/3 of the salt that they recommend. Way too salty

    • Susan Speicher - January 4, 2022 at 8:08 pm Reply

      agreed–it’s almost inedible. We’ll try it again with MUCH less, or no, salt.

  8. Gary Robinson - April 9, 2020 at 12:40 am Reply

    I put it in the brine thismorning, and got home too late to pull it out, dry it, and smoke it tonight, is there any harm in letting it go overnight and smoking it in the morning? That would be 24 hrs in the brine. is that ok?

  9. Anna - May 16, 2020 at 3:38 pm Reply

    I’ve read several recipes and it’s my understanding that high Temperatures dry the fish. So why Some People preheat the smoker, some do not? Some start at low temps 140-150 F? And don’t go higher than 175F? Some smoke for long hours, others just a couple? Some rinse the brine, some wipe it? Some baste the fish with sweets during the smoking process. It’s extremely confusing. Any thoughts, recommend, explanation? Appreciate your help.

  10. John Reed - May 23, 2020 at 12:56 am Reply

    The purpose of allowing the salmon to sit and dry after rinsing off the brine is to form a pellicle. The pellicle is formed by allowing the moisture to evaporate, preferably in the fridge for 2 -12 hours, and a tacky surface forms during this time. This allows the smoke/flavor a better surface to adhere to while in the smoker. It is not unlike sanding a desk you are about to paint. By sanding the desk, the paint has something to grab onto and stick to.

  11. Martin Davis, Jr. - August 28, 2020 at 7:30 pm Reply

    1) As one who was FDA-inspected and -licensed to sell smoked salmon, I can tell you that it is NOT SAFE to let the final temperature of the smoked fish reach only 130 — it needs to reach at least 145 F and stay there for 30 mins to be safe (if you go higher than 145, then you don’t need to stay at that temp as long).

    2) Do NOT pressure can/cook ANY fish unless you know what you are doing else you risk botulism! Additionally, pressure cooking will totally destroy the texture and taste of what you worked so hard to create! Vacuum sealed and then frozen at -4 or below is the safest and most flavor-saving preservation method.

  12. Baltisraul - November 12, 2020 at 2:27 pm Reply

    No need to place wood chips in water. It only extends the life of the wood chips by about 90 seconds or less.

  13. David Danberger - December 6, 2020 at 6:08 am Reply

    Make sure that your salmon fillets are completely Clean, with no pin bones or scales.
    With skin on, remove it after smoking.
    1 inch thick, all around, about 1 pound, each.
    Best that I have found; Brine fillets in water, brown sugar, some salt and spices for 24-48 hours.
    Remove from brine, pat down, let dry for a while…
    Smoke with your Favorite wood for about 5+ hours, at 150-160deg.. (I use Mesquite)
    Slide your spatula between the skin and fillet.
    Throw away the skin.
    Package your fillet in Vac and Seal.
    Bring them to Your Friends and Family for Christmas, with some cream cheese, crackers and capers, in a Gift bag.
    Everybody will Love it!
    God Bless, Merry Christmas! =))
    Everybody will Love it!

  14. Helen Ivy - September 28, 2021 at 6:46 pm Reply

    I am using my Masterbuilt smoker for the first time. (I have been getting excellent results from a Little Chief for months but it’s too small.) I did season the smoker yesterday. After reading things on the internet, I decided slower was better. the Little Chief would only get to about 165 degrees, and it took a long time, but the results were excellent. However, the wood chips aren’t smoking; currently temp is set at 165 degrees. IDK what temp to smoke the salmon — I put in about 15 lbs. Also, I don’t eat sugar so I only use 1 qt water with 1/4 c. salt, and it’s fabulous. No need for sugar. No one misses it. IDK why all the recipes include it, can’t find one that doesn’t but it’s completely unnecessary. How hot do I need to make the smoker to get the wood chips or chunks smoking?

    And yes, I am aware that sugar is necessary to get a pellicle on the fish. I would rather have sugar-free fish than a pellicle.

  15. Rita Boyd - September 21, 2022 at 11:27 pm Reply

    This is not a reply; it is a question. Can you please tell me how to replicate Houston’s (now Hillgroup), appetizer smoked salmon?

    Insofar as I taste, there is no salt, brine, sugar, nor Scotch. The Houston’s I have gone to for 14 years closed during covid. I had lunch there almost every day and I miss the smoked salmon. Thanks in advance for your help.

    • Jeff - April 17, 2023 at 8:01 am Reply

      Use chips not chunks for smoke

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