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posted January 16, 2023

Smoked Salmon Brine

This smoked salmon brine will give your hot smoked salmon the most amazing flavor around. It’s a simple combination of sugar, salt, and lemon that packs a big punch.

Salmon brine being poured over a large salmon filet with text overlay - Smoked Salmon Brine.

Smoked Salmon Brine

This is a wet brine used primarily for hot smoked salmon. It infuses the entire salmon filet with the perfect amount of sweetness and salinity that perfectly balances the rich and fatty fish.

Cold smoked salmon typically uses a salt cure and that is the process that lends itself to the thinly sliced salmon you’ll see on bagels piled high with cream cheese.

Hot smoked salmon is a wet-brined and cooked variety of smoked salmon. It’s a little simpler to prepare, cooks in much less time, and is fantastic as a main course with tartar sauce, on a charcuterie board with crackers and spreads, or flaked and mixed up for a smoked salmon dip.

Pick your favorite salmon variety, they all work with this recipe. If you prefer sockeye or other wild-caught salmon, this recipe works great! Those are leaner varieties, so watch your cook temp closely and don’t overcook. Fattier salmon like King or Atlantic salmon is a little more forgiving and maintains a bit more juiciness since it has that higher fat content.

Salt being poured into a glass dish for smoked salmon brine.

Ingredients for Smoked Salmon Brine

This smoked salmon brine only requires 5 ingredients, all of which you likely have in your refrigerator or pantry.

  • 4 cups cool water
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup kosher salt
  • zest of 1 lemon

Once you have all your ingredients assembled, combine them in a small mixing bowl and stir well until all the salt and sugars are dissolved.

Salmon brine being whisked in a large glass bowl.

How to Brine and Smoke Salmon

Let’s get to making this delicious brined and smoked salmon, shall we? Here’s how to brine and smoke salmon.

  1. Brine the salmon. Place the salmon in a large glass baking dish and add the brine. ensure your salmon is fully submerged before placing it in the refrigerator to brine for 8-12 hours.
  2. Develop a pellicle. Remove the salmon from the brine and place it on a metal cooling rack above a cookie sheet. Place the salmon filet back in the refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight to develop a pellicle on the surface of the fish.
  3. Smoke the salmon. When you are ready to smoke the salmon, preheat the smoker to 165 degrees F. Place the salmon on the grill grates skin side down and smoke until the internal temperature of the salmon reaches 145 degrees F. This process can take anywhere from 3-4 hours. Be sure to keep an eye on the temperature of the fish while it cooks using an instant-read meat thermometer.
  4. Dig in! Remove the fish from the smoker to a serving platter. This salmon can be enjoyed immediately for a hot smoked salmon dinner, or you can chill it to be used later for sandwiches or salads.

Salmon being added to smoked salmon brine.

How Long to Brine Salmon

I recommend brining a fresh salmon filet for around 8-12 hours.

This time can vary depending on the thickness of your salmon filets. Leave the salmon in the smoked salmon brine for 8 hours if the filets are thin. If you have an average thickness filet, aim for around 10 hours. Finally, if you have quite thick filets, plan to brine them for a total of 12 hours.

Use your best judgment here. If you don’t have 12 hours to dedicate to brining your thick salmon filet, 8-10 hours will be fine as well. Plan ahead if you can to get the best brine time for your salmon.

More Smoked Salmon Recipes

Looking for more tasty smoked salmon recipes? Check out a few of our favorites below!

Smoked Salmon Brine Recipe

This recipe was created for you, backyard griller! Here at Hey Grill Hey, we’re in the business of helping you make better BBQ, feed the people you love, and become a backyard BBQ hero. You can find more of my smoking and grilling recipes here on my website (browse the Homepage for inspiration) on Instagram, YouTube or our Facebook Page.

Salmon brine being poured over a large salmon filet.

Smoked Salmon Brine

Susie Bulloch
This smoked salmon brine will give your hot smoked salmon the most amazing flavor around. It's a simple combination of sugar, salt, and lemon that packs a big punch.
4 from 1 vote
Prep Time : 15 mins
Cook Time : 4 hrs
Brine and Fridge Time : 20 hrs
Total Time : 1 d 15 mins
Servings : 6 people
Calories : 215kcal

Ingredients
 

  • 2-3 pound salmon filet (cut into individual portions)

Smoked Salmon Brine

  • 4 cups cool water
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • cup kosher salt
  • zest of 1 lemon

Instructions

  • Brine the salmon. In a glass baking dish, combine all of the ingredients for the brine and stir until the salt is dissolved. Gently submerge your salmon portions in the brine, cover, and refrigerate for 8-12 hours. If your salmon filets are thin, 8 hours should be enough. Thicker filets will take 12 hours.
  • Develop the pellicle. Remove the salmon from the brine and transfer it to a cooling rack positioned over a cookie sheet. Place the salmon in the refrigerator for 8 hours, or overnight to develop a pellicle.
  • Preheat. Preheat your smoker to 165-170 degrees F using your favorite hardwood.
  • Smoke the salmon. Place the salmon on the grates skin side down and smoke for 3-4 hours, or until the internal temperature of the salmon reaches 145 degrees F.
  • Enjoy. Once your fish has reached 145 degrees F, remove the salmon from the smoker. Serve immediately if you want a hot dinner or chill and serve cold in a salad or sandwich the next day.

Nutrition

Calories: 215kcal | Protein: 30g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 83mg | Sodium: 74mg | Potassium: 741mg | Vitamin A: 60IU | Calcium: 23mg | Iron: 1mg
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