Syrup Glazed Smoked Salmon

Bristol Bay, AK Wild Salmon: There’s nothing quite like salmon. Delicate and uniquely textured, it’s no secret why their meat is so prized. But while we can all make salmon in the oven or using other simple methods of preparing fish, you can really kick things up a notch with smoked salmon! Combined with a sweet glaze, it’s sure to be as much of a family favorite as a party favorite. If you’ve never tried smoking before, now’s the time!

When you are ready to start, you will need smallish pieces of salmon about 1/4 to 1/2 pound each. Any type of salmon, such as king, sockeye, and pink, will work with this recipe. Smoking salmon with skin on is recommended, but not required.

This salmon cure is simple and works for up to 5 pounds of fish. Add or subtract ingredients to taste.

Salmon Cure:

  • 5 pounds salmon, trout or char
  • 1 quart cool water
  • 1/3 cup Diamond Crystal kosher salt (about 2 ounces of any kosher salt)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup birch syrup or maple syrup
  • More birch or maple syrup for basting

Mix together all the brine ingredients and place your fish in a plastic or glass container. Cover and put in the refrigerator. The salmon needs to cure for at least 8 hours, even for thin fillets from trout or pink salmon. Large pink, sockeye and silver salmon may need 24-30 hours. Very thick pieces of king salmon might need as much as 30-36 hours. Don’t go more than 48 hours, though, as the quality will go down fast at that point.

pellicle-on-salmonDry Alaska Salmon on a Wire Rack

Take your fish out of the brine and pat it dry. Sit the fillets on your cooling rack, skin side down. Let the fish dry for 2-4 hours. The surface of the fish should develop a shiny skin called a pellicle. Drying your cured, brined fish in a cool, breezy place is vital to properly smoking it. The pellicle, which is a thin, lacquer-like layer on top of the fish, seals it and offers a sticky surface for the smoke to adhere to. Once you have your pellicle, you can refrigerate your fish for a few hours and smoke it later if you’d like.

For Smoking:

  • A smoker. No matter what smoker you use, you will need to be able to a) know the smoking chamber’s temperature, and b) control the heat as much as one can.
  • Wood. Alder wood, apple, cherry, oak, maple or hickory works fine. Avoid mesquite, as it overpowers the fish.
  • Salt. Buy a box of kosher salt from the supermarket. Regular table salt is not recommended due to
  • Birch or maple syrup.
  • Large plastic container
  • Wire rack
  • A basting brush.

Now you are ready to smoke your fish. Even though this is hot smoking, you still do not want high temperatures. Start with a small fire and work your way up as you go. The goal should be an internal temperature of about 130°F to 140°F, especially if your smoker doesn’t have heat controls.  Smoking is an art, not a science- it takes practice. To keep temperatures mild, always put water in your drip pan to keep the temperature down. If your smoker is very hot, put ice in the tray.

GoldenSyrupSmokedSalmon5inthesmokerBristol Bay Fresh Wild Salmon, Watch The Heat

Be careful with your heat! Other than failing to dry your salmon long enough, the single biggest problem in smoking salmon is too high heat. If you cook a piece of salmon at too high of a heat, the muscle fibers in the meat contract violently. This causes a release of albumin, which immediately congeals on the surface of the fish. It’s ugly, and dries out your salmon. This is why you need a solidly formed pellicle, and to keep your heat gentle.

Once your fish is smoked, let it rest on the cooling rack for an hour before you put it in the fridge. Once refrigerated and wrapped in plastic, smoked fish will keep for 10 days. If you vacuum-seal it, the fish will keep for up to 3 weeks. Freezing works too, for up to 6 months.


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