Peppery Smoked Salmon Recipe

This is a cut and dried smoked salmon recipe. You cut the salmon into pieces, brine it, dry it, then give it some great smoky flavor in the smoker. To make this salmon special, it's seasoned with black pepper and a few other seasonings before it's smoked.

Like all good recipes for smoked salmon, this one starts with a brine. For this one, use a basic brine containing only water, salt and brown sugar. You'll need 1 gallon of brine for every 4 pounds of salmon you are brining.

Basic Salmon Brine

  • 1 gallon water
  • 2-1/2 cups canning salt
  • 1-1/2 cups brown sugar

Add the sugar and salt to the water, stirring until completely dissolved. The brine is much better if it's brought to a boil. The sugar and salt dissolve much more completely. Cool the brine down to 34-36°F before adding the salmon sections. Brine the salmon for 3 hours, and keep it cold.

Remove the salmon, then rinse it under cold running water. Pat it dry with a clean towel. Season the salmon with this smoked salmon rub:

  • 1 tablespoon coarse ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)

Makes enough for 4 pounds of salmon

Coat the salmon evenly with the rub, then press it in firmly so it remains in place.

Place the fish skin side down on a greased rack to dry and cure. Keep the curing salmon in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours. During this time the pellicle forms, which is a thin layer of dried proteins. This layer traps moisture inside the salmon as it smokes. I have a couple of small racks that I use exclusively for smoking salmon. They're small enough to fit in the fridge, and they go right on top of the racks in my smoker. And they fit in the dishwasher, too!

Cooking This Smoked Salmon Recipe

OK. The salmon is cured, dry and ready to smoke. Place it in the smoker, again skin side down. Keep the smoker temperature at 160-170°F, and remove the salmon when it reaches 145°F. Alder is a good choice for smoke wood, but whatever you have on hand will do. Allow it to cool before serving. Store it in the refrigerator, or freeze it if it's being kept for more than a few days.

You can modify this basic smoked salmon recipe by substituting molasses, honey, maple syrup or a combination of sweeteners for the brown sugar. When using liquid sweeteners, increase the amount used per gallon to 2 cups. Try red pepper flakes, dill, creative and replace the black pepper with something flavorful. This recipe can be a lot of fun!