Peppery Smoked Salmon - Dry Cure
Updated: Jan 2
We used to buy smoked salmon at our local grocery store. That was before I bought a slow smoker. My version of this spicy and peppery ocean delight turned out to be a favourite in our household, and with friends. When we are entertaining or being entertained, it tends to be served or given as a gift.
There is nothing liked a few flakes of peppery smoked salmon on a crisp cracker (gluten free crackers = happy belly). Add a little smooth cream cheese and sweet jelly – yup!
Smoking the salmon yourself allows you to control the amount of seasoning and heat. Also, there are no “nasty” preservatives (e.g. monosodium glutamate, excessive salt). There is only good stuff in this recipe.
I usually smoke 2 large fillets at a time. Once cooked, I let the fillets cool and vacuum pack into portions (e.g. 4 – 6 oz). Place the packets into the freezer and serve whenever you want. Trust me, they aren’t in the freezer long before it is time to smoke another batch. It also only requires an hour or 2 to thaw at room temperature – ready to serve. Juices are retained nicely as it is sealed in a pouch just after cooking and letting cool.
Trust me! Your friends will love you for this. Take the time and experiment with the recipe including adjusting seasonings and heat.
Skin on or skin off? That is the question! I have been slow smoking salmon for about 2 years. In my opinion, smoking the fillets with the skin on is the way to go - definitely juicier. That being said, it is delicious either way.
Let’s do this! The brine!
Rinse the salmon with cold water, pat dry, and remove any small bones with tweezers. Hint - run the back of a knife or your thumb down the filet (skin down) to feel for the bones.
In a bowl, combine the cure ingredients and mix well. Go ahead and use your fingers (clean fingers that is). Become one with your food – you know what I mean…
Prepare 2 layers of plastic wrap overlapped about 3” and at least 6” longer than the fillet ends. Spread ¼ of the mixture on the plastic wrap where the fillet will lie. Lay the fillet in the center of the plastic wrap and spread the remaining mixture. Fold the sides, then the ends. Ensure the seam is on top.
Add the wrapped fillet(s) to a large pan and place in the refrigerator to cure for 6 – 8 hours, or overnight (curing time will depend on the thickness of the filet). Don’t cure the filet(s) too long. You want to ensure there is a good balance of spices, heat and salmon. Remember the salmon is the star of the show.
Slow Smokin’ Time!
Remove the fillets from the refrigerator, remove plastic wrap, rinse thoroughly, and pat dry with paper towels. Place the filet(s) on a cutting board or rack and evenly sprinkle the seasoning. Air dry at room temperature for approximately 30 minutes to 1 hour. Spray or gently rub a light coat of olive oil on both sides of the fillet.
Prepare your smoker and bring to a temperature of approximately 170’. Add 3 or 4 Apple or Cherry Wood Chunks to the coals. Brush or spray a light coat of high temp oil (e.g. grape seed or avocado) on the smoker rack. (Side note: you can also do this on your BBQ by propping the lid open with an object like a brick and on indirect heat with soaked wood chips)
Place the fillet(s) on the smoker rack and maintain the temperature at 170’. Continue to slow smoke the salmon for approx. 2 – 3 hours, depending on thickness. After 1 hour add additional wood chunks. Cook to an internal temperature of 145’, for a safe temperature. Always practice clean food prep and proper cooking methods.
Serve hot, room temperature or chilled. Enjoy!
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Prep Time: 15 mins
Cooking Time: 3 hrs
Serves/Yields: 6 servings
3 lb salmon filet (skin on)
Cure (for 5 lbs of salmon):
1/2 cup coarse sea salt 4 cloves of garlic – mashed 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar 1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp onion powder 1 tsp ground white pepper
1 bay leaf pulverized or finely crushed
½ tbsp fresh crushed black pepper
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp white pepper
Apple or Cherry Wood Chunks
Instructions - Cure:
Rinse salmon with cold water, pat dry, and remove any small bones with tweezers
In a bowl, combine the cure ingredients and mix well
Layout 2 layers of plastic wrap overlapped about 3” and at least 6” longer than the fillet ends
Spread ¼ of the mixture on the plastic wrap where the fillet will lie
Lay the fillet in the center of the plastic wrap and spread the remaining mixture on the fillet
Fold the sides, then the ends - Ensure the seam is on top
Add the fillet to a large pan and place in the refrigerator to cure 6 – 8 hrs or overnight (curing time will depend on the thickness of the filet)
Remove from the refrigerator, rinse thoroughly, and pat dry with paper towels
Instructions – Seasoning and Slow Smoking:
Place on a cutting board or rack and evenly sprinkle seasoning
Air dry for approximately 1 hour
Spray or gently rub a light coat of olive oil on both sides of the fillet
Prepare your smoker and bring to a temperature of approximately 170’
Add 3 or 4 Apple or Cherry Wood Chunks to the coals
Brush or spray a light coat of high temp oil (e.g. grape seed or avocado) on the smoker rack
Place the fillet on the smoker rack, maintain temperature at 170’
Continue to slow smoke the salmon for approx. 2 – 3 hrs, depending on thickness
After 1 hr, add additional wood chunks
145° internal temperature is considered a safe temperature
Serve hot, room temperature or chilled
Store unused salmon (e.g. vacuum packed and frozen until ready to use)