Smoked Salmon

Total Time:
29 hr 30 min
24 hr 30 min
5 hr

20 to 30 portions, depending o

  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon crushed black peppercorns
  • 2 large salmon fillets or sides, pin bones removed

In a bowl, mix together salt, sugar, brown sugar and peppercorns. Spread extra-wide aluminum foil a little longer than the length of the fish and top with an equally long layer of plastic wrap. Sprinkle 1/3 of the rub onto the plastic. Lay 1 side of the fish skin down onto the rub. Sprinkle 1/3 of the rub onto the flesh of the salmon. Place second side of salmon, flesh down onto the first side. Use the remaining rub to cover the skin on the top piece. Fold plastic over to cover then close edges of foil together and crimp tightly around the fish.

Place wrapped fish onto a plank or sheet pan and top with another plank or pan. Weigh with a heavy phone book or a brick or two and refrigerate for 12 hours. Flip the fish over and refrigerate another 12 hours. Some juice will leak out during the process so make sure there's a place for the runoff to gather.

Unwrap fish and rinse off the cure with cold water. Pat salmon with paper towels then place in a cool, dry place (not the refrigerator) until the surface of the fish is dry and matte-like, 1 to 3 hours depending on humidity. A fan may be used to speed the process.

Smoke fish (see Note) over smoldering hardwood chips or sawdust, keeping the temperature inside the smoker between 150 degrees F and 160 degrees F until the thickest part of the fish registers 150 degrees. Serve immediately or cool to room temperature, wrap tightly and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Cook's Note: Trout, mackerel, and bluefish also smoke well.

Per Serving (about 1.6 ounces per serving): Calories 86; Total Fat 5 grams; Saturated Fat 1 gram; Protein 8 grams; Total Carbohydrate 1 gram; Sugar: 1 gram; Fiber 0 grams; Cholesterol 22 milligrams; Sodium 484 milligrams

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Pairs Well With
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Acidic, refreshing white wine

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    82 Reviews
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    I have used this recipe at least 4 or 5 times and it works like a champ. I however smoke my salmon on my XL Big Green Egg. In addition to the wood coal I burn I also add some wet wood chips. It is easy to set your temp on the Egg to 160. The first time I cured my salmon for 24 hours and it was a bit salty. Every other time I cured it for 18 hours, and that suits my taste better. Don't skimp on the drying time after the rinse as Alton says in the video. I'm sure other smokers work well too.
    Hugh hit at Christmas party. Served with bagels and cream cheese to picky fish people. They loved it.
    This was delicious. I just did it as a thanksgiving appetizer, were putting it out with crackers and some cream cheese. Just came out looking perfect. Tastes great, the only slight issue was it was a bit salty, but once on the cracker it was fine. Next time I'll use a tad less rub and rinse it a bit better, but besides that it was perfect. Alton Brown has never let me down.
    I have done this recipe a few times. An important point is not to use table salt. The last time I ran a little short on Kosher salt so added a 1/4 cup of table salt... wow it was salty. Thanks Alton!
    This was great, my family lived in Washington as a kid so we had ample smoked salmon growing up. I cut the salt in half right off the bat from one to a half of a cup. Dut to timing i was only able to board press the salmon for 16 hours. pressing the salmon with the rub draws moisture out of the fish which the end result keep better and taste better.  
    I also kept my temp between 140-160. The entire process took 6.5 hours. I soaked my chips and switched them out event half an hour. The end result was rich fully flavored smoked salmon I will use this again next season.
    I've lived in Alaska my entire life and have smoked hundreds of salmon. This is the coolest recipe/method I have tried yet. It produces a firm, moist and beautiful smoked filet. As noted in other reviews it is salty, but I use it in spreads, and pastas and on top of salads and I don't mind the saltiness. 
    One smoking tip. As Alton notes in the video, you have to replace your wood dust and or chips frequently. One old trick is to use wet wood chips. Soak half of your woodchips for a few hours beforehand. Drain excess water. Fill half of your smoking tray with dry chips, the other side with wet chips. Your wet chips will burn slower and you'll have to fill your tray half as many times. You will also get a steadier and more consistent level of smoke. 
    I love smoked salmon and this was my first attempt at making it after recently buying a smoker. The best thing I can say about this recipe is that I got the salmon on sale. The end result was smoked salmon that was so salty that we ended up throwing most of it away. I doubt that I will ever use this recipe again, but if I did, I would cut the amount of salt to 1/4 cup.
    I've never made smoked salmon before but this is my new favorite recipe for gatherings! I used only one large side (no skin, no weights. I cured it for 24 hrs and dried it for 3 and smoked it on the rack for 3 hr . It came out excellent but slightly salty. I'm going to make another one for New Years, I'll cut back on the salt slightly.
    The salmon was good, but too salty. I only smoked one fillet (cut in half and stacked per recipe, so I made 1/2 recipe of salt mix, and used about 2/3, but still very salty vs. other smoked salmon I have had.I am thinking that I did something wrong. This was my first attempt at smoked salmon.
    All I can say is Alton did not disappoint once again. We went to Alaska as a family trip this past summer and went salon fishing. Our guide not only cut off the filets but also gave us the meat located directly underneath the belly of the fish. Not knowing exactly what to do with these tasty little morsels of salmon delight I decided to use Alton's recipe and my Weber grill to smoke them (both found off the web.  
    The salmon was EXCELLENT !! We shared with my mom who was visiting us from Lake Chautauqua, New York and she agreed. We will definItely make this again and share this recipe with our friends - it is easy to do and KNOCKS THEIR SOCKS OFF !!!
    I can't that Alton enough for this recipe. $45 worth of Salmon that came out perfect. All you have to do is follow his step-by-step instructions. Do not take any shortcuts. Plus, feel free to vacuum pack the left overs and freeze. Once thawed you will never know it had been frozen. ENJOY!!! And once again, thank you Alton.
    The best recipe (this is also the easiest. Thanks Alton.
    My previous attempt at smoking salmon was not successful. I suspected brining was the key and was happy to find Alton's recipe, which I followed exactly. Having spent $42 on two salmon fillets (on sale no less!, I was reluctant to change a thing! Glad I didn't; fish turned out perfectly after following the specified curing, drying and smoking techniques. Smoked for about two hours in an electric Brinkman smoker with Pecan wood and sawdust. A thermometer was used to keep watch on the smoking temperature because there is no heat control on the smoker. We lowered the temp when necessary by cracking the lid a bit. Enjoyed two large portions for dinner straight from the smoker and froze the balance in small packets. Have defrosted and served three portions since. Thank you, Alton.
    I wanted smoked salmon for our family Christmas party. Instead of just buying smoke salmon at the store my husband bought me a smoker. I've never used one before. I looked up recipes and used this with regular salt. I made the mistake of reading reviews after starting the fish. Luckily I read the reviews before finishing. I only let my fish rest 10 hours and it turned out perfect. Got many raves and no left overs.
    people's comments led me to change the recipe to reduce salt.
    For an easier version I used a zip lock bag and drained prior to
    the fanning.

    For a 7x7inch piece salmon:(just an estimate
    Sprinkle with: 1 1/2 tsp sea salt, 4 tsp brown sugar and lots of pepper. Add 3 TBspn soy sauce. I added liquid smoke--thinking I'd do it in the oven, but
    ended up grilling over very low heat.(soy sugar burns quickly

    Marinate overnight. (I put it on a slant with milk and water gallons
    to force some liquid out. The fan is an important step.
    Best salmon I've ever had!! Alton you are the best!
    I made this, although I left in the frig for a week with a brick on it. I used a little chief smoker-no heat. I gave some to my boss he happens to be Jewish he said it was the best smoked salmon he ever had, and I have had a lot of salmon.i agreed just went to the store and bought another salmon.
    I used this recipe to smoke some salmon a buddy brought back from Alaska. Everyone wants either the recipe or more fish. I think the reason it is so popular is that it allows the flavor of the salmon to shine as the star. Thanks Mr. B.
    This recipe worked well for me!

    I didn't use kosher salt, so I can't comment on the saltiness factor of the recipe as written. I will say that I used table salt and halved it, and it came out a smidge salty--so definitely go easy if you are using table salt.

    To smoke I lit four charcoal briquettes, lined them up on the left side of my charcoal grill, and laid maple twigs on them. I put the fillet as far to the right as I could and smoked for an hour or so for a very thin fillet.

    My one other suggestion for this recipe: when your smoked salmon is all gone, fry the salmon skin and eat it! Yum.
    To the person that used the Brinkmann: how did you regulate the temperature to 100/175? The Brinkmann seems to heat to 250 F. There is no regulator on the smoker except the plug. Hard to keep doing for 12 hours.

    Did you do it by reducing the wood or something?

    I have to agree with the person regarding salt content. I LOVE salt, but I have found Alton's recipes for pork shoulder to be too salty, even for me. Sorry Alton, I love you and your method's anyway and thank you for your contributions to cookingdom and will continue to use them with modification! :
    I have smoked hundreds of salmon filets, from Kings to my favorite sockeye and this recipe is a disaster for those with low salt diets. I prefer after some thirty years of trials that one part salt to four parts brown sugar and a little garlic powder is much better. After about two days of brining, using no water, wash, dry and then air-dry and begin smoking with alderwood, keeping the temperature at 100 degrees for the first hour and then increase to 175 until done. May take 12 hours or more.
    Actually, I just stumbled across this recipe, very similar to my usual except I add some garlic, onion and celery powders. One thing you have to consider regarding salt cured food is that it is best treated as a condiment rather than the main menu item. I think if handled that way, the saltiness would not be an issue.
    i have tried this and it is just great! we did our salmon on our back yard brickman smoker and it turned out just wonderful
    I followed the recipe exactly and the results were horrible. The salmon was so salty it wasn't edible. Had to throw it all out. I used beautiful salmon filets without the skin, maybe that was the problem.
    I hate fish, but I made this for a party and it was a huge hit. Deviated a little: used the flower pot smoker Alton made the pulled pork in, instead of the cardboard box smoker. also, had a much, much smaller piece of fish, so I quartered the rub. 
    Everyone loved it, friends immediately asked for the recipe.
    Best Smoked Salmon I've eaten. Used a two pound tail end Atlantic salmon fillet and the 1/2 salt 1/2 sugar recipe but only cured the fillet for 14 hours. 3 hour dry and smoked fairly hard (ie a steady plume of smoke from smoker) for 2 hours at 180F and fish reached 155F. Result was a firm caramelized layer on the salmon (which we love) and fantastic most meat underneath. Well seasoned but not too salty. Served still warm over a creamy Caesar Salad. A-mazing. Alton, you are the man.
    Before I put the fish in the salt/suger cure I put it in Bourbon for about 1 hour. Really gives it a great flavor. Spiced Rum works well also.
    Really great recipe. I halved the salt as others recommended and cured the fish for about 19.5 hours in the fridge (flipped after 10 hours). I used two steelhead fillets, about 2 lbs total and smoked at 150F for 1hr and 15 minutes. It was perfect! I don't have an instant read thermometer so I had to wing the temperature part. I can't wait to smoke more fish!
    Love this recipe. Easy to follow. I prefer this to store bought smoked salmon
    I just finished smoking a salmon filet using my stovetop smoker. WOW!!! I followed the advice of other reviewers and cut the salt in the cure by 1/2. Also added garlic powder and onion powder to the cure. Topped the filet with cracked white and black peppercorns and presto---the perfect smoked salmon. YUMMY.
    Loved the taste of the brown sugar, white sugar and pepper however, the SALT need to be reduced by half or more. The fish looked and smelled great sorry just could not eat all that salt. Next time will change-up the recipe and not ruin a twenty dollar piece of meat.
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