Delicious Dry Brined Smoked Salmon

Updated on March 9, 2020
Paul Edmondson profile image

Paul is a barbecue enthusiast. He is currently grilling and smoking on a Komodo Kamado Ultimate 23.

Smoked Copper River Salmon

We smoked two sides of copper river salmon.  The extra fat is delicious and the dark red color is beautiful.
We smoked two sides of copper river salmon. The extra fat is delicious and the dark red color is beautiful.

Smoking Salmon With Brown Sugar Dry Brine Recipe

Smoked salmon is one of those dishes that tastes great because of its rich and distinct flavor. The beauty of this recipe is that it's very simple to make, although it does take a bit of planning to have enough time for the brining period and the smoking to complete. This recipe is a popular one that uses brown sugar and salt as the main dry brine ingredients.

A dry brine is typically a combination of sugar and salt, opposed to most (wet) brining recipes that dissolve salt and sugar in water or beer. Wet and dry brines both require a submersion time, but with dry brines the meat just absorbs the seasoning and relies on its own fat content to provide the moisture. A salmon with a healthy fat content is the ideal choice to dry brine and smoke.

Smoked Salmon

3.5 stars from 82 ratings of Smoked Salmon

Brining and Smoking Time

Prep time: 2 hours 30 min
Cook time: 2 hours 30 min
Ready in: 5 hours
Yields: 4 to 8 servings of smoked salmon

Smoked Salmon Ingredients

  • 1 side salmon, fresh
  • 2 lbs bag brown sugar, 1 bag
  • 1 lbs 10 ounce iodized salt, one round can
  • 1 tablespoon cloves, ground cloves

Smoked Salmon Instructions

  1. Mix the salt, clove and brown sugar in a bowl well.
  2. Put half of the mixture in a baking pan. Place the salmon skin side down.
  3. Take the remaining salt and brown sugar mix and cover the top of the salmon. Pat it down.
  4. Place it in the refrigerator and let it sit for 2.5 hours. This is like brining the salmon.
  5. Rinse the brown sugar and salt mixture off the salmon and pat dry.
  6. Place it on the barbecue with indirect heat and hickory smoking chips at 250 degrees.
  7. Let it smoke for 2.5 hrs. Remove and serve.

Brown Sugar and Salt Salmon Dry Brine

Mix the salt and brown sugar in a bowl to make a dry brine solution for the salmon
Mix the salt and brown sugar in a bowl to make a dry brine solution for the salmon

Combine all the salt and sugar in a bowl and mix well. This makes a dry brine for the salmon.

Add Dry Brine to Bottom of Pan

softly pat the dry brine in the bottom of a large baking pan
softly pat the dry brine in the bottom of a large baking pan

Softly pat the dry brine in the bottom of a large baking pan that can hold the entire piece of salmon.

Place Salmon Skin Side Down

Salmon skin side down on top of dry brine mixture
Salmon skin side down on top of dry brine mixture

Lay the side of salmon on top of the dry brine mixture with the skin side down. We used a beautiful piece of Copper River Salmon. Copper River salmon is a premium salmon that has a higher fat content. The fat helps absorb the dry brine and keeps the fish more moist as it is smoked. Copper River Salmon is seasonally on sale at Costco for about $10 a pound. A side of salmon is about two pounds.

Bury the Salmon in the Dry Brine

Salmon buried in in the dry brine mixture
Salmon buried in in the dry brine mixture

Bury the salmon in the remaining half of the brine and pat it down. Crimp the edges of brine mixture down so that the salmon is completely sealed in the mixture. Place in the refrigerator for two and a half hours.

Soak the Hickory Chips

soaking hickory chips
soaking hickory chips

Take four good sized handfuls of hickory smoking chips and place them in a good sized bowl of water. Let the chips soak for about twenty to thirty minutes.

Create Smoking Packs

Hickory chips in tinfoil package
Hickory chips in tinfoil package

Scoop a handful of the chips out of the bowl and place them on a good size square of tinfoil. Fold the chips in the tinfoil up in a square and poke holes with a fork.

Set Up Charcoal and Smoking Chips for Indirect Heat

Smoking chips on top of charcoal setup for indirect smoking
Smoking chips on top of charcoal setup for indirect smoking

Place your charcoal in your barbecue on one side. This works well for Kamado type grills and charcoal Weber grills. For gas grills, place the smoking chips on the grill over the hot burners. You'll need at least two burners in a gas grill to setup indirect heat. Turn one burner on and place the fish on the opposite side.

Remove Salmon from Refrigerator

Salmon after two and one half hours brining in the refrigerator
Salmon after two and one half hours brining in the refrigerator

Remove the salmon from the refrigerator after two and one half hours. Notice the moist outline around the salmon packed in the brining mixture. This means that the fish has had plenty of time in the mixture.

Rinse the Brine Off the Salmon with Cold Water

Rinsing the brown sugar and salt brine mixture off the salmon
Rinsing the brown sugar and salt brine mixture off the salmon

Run cold water over both sides of the salmon and rinse the salt and brown sugar off of the meat. Then pat the salmon dry with paper towels.

Salmon with Pellicle Formation
Salmon with Pellicle Formation

After drying the salmon off, an extra step that can add to a rich smokey flavor is a process of adding a pellicle formation to the salmon. A pellicle formation is where the skin will become tacky to the touch and the meat will have shine on it. To get a pellicle formation, lay the salmon on a rack in a cool place and circulate air over it for as short as two hours and up to six hours.

This process will help the meat absorb smoke, it also seals in some of the moisture. I've noticed that when I use this step, it prevents the white fatty substance from oozing out of the meat.

Place Salmon on Pan

Salmon on pan
Salmon on pan

Place the salmon on a baking sheet while you make sure your fire is at about 250 degrees. Either use a grill thermometer or on a Webber grill, this is the bottom holes closed and the top holes about half open.

Place Salmon on Grill

Salmon smoking on grill
Salmon smoking on grill

Place the salmon on the grill. It should be placed on the side of the grill without direct heat. Be sure to spray a little oil on the grill before putting the fish down. The smoke will cook the salmon. Close the lid on the smoker and let it smoke for two and a half hours.

Smoked Salmon Ready to Eat

Smoked Salmon
Smoked Salmon

After two and a half hours the salmon is fully smoked. Remove from the grill and serve. We serve this with crackers and lemon slices as an appetizer. For a main course we serve it over the top of a citrus salad. The grilled salmon in this recipe can be replaced with the smoked salmon in this delicious recipe for an outstanding smoked salmon salad.


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    • profile image


      2 years ago

      can you stack fillets meat side to meat side and cover each piece with mixture?

    • Paul Edmondson profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Edmondson 

      7 years ago from Burlingame, CA

      To avoid burning salmon while smoking it, use a low indirect heat (250 degrees). If I'm doing this on a gas grill, I just turn the burner on the opposite side than I'm smoking the fish. If I'm doing it on a charcoal grill, I'll sometimes use a brick to keep the charcoal from spreading out.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      There is nothing more healthy or delicious than smoked salmon. Question: How do you cook it so the inside gets cooked but the outside doesn't burn?

    • Paul Edmondson profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Edmondson 

      8 years ago from Burlingame, CA

      This is super tasty, easy to make and can be served as an appetizer or main course.

    • vespawoolf profile image

      Vespa Woolf 

      8 years ago from Peru, South America

      Wow, I would so like to taste this smoked salmon! Thank you for all the photos and detailed instructions. We recently enjoyed salmon smoked in Southern Chile...there's nothing like a good smoked salmon. Voted up and shared.

    • daisydayz profile image

      Chantele Cross-Jones 

      8 years ago from Cardiff

      Oh this sounds yummy! I love a good piece of salmon

    • Gordon Hamilton profile image

      Gordon Hamilton 

      8 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

      This looks absolutely delicious, Paul. I love smoked salmon and although I personally don't have a smoker, my brother has three (two hot smokers, one cold) to which I am granted occasional access when I visit! :) I've only ever tried wet brining so am intrigued by and desperate to try your dry curing technique. I'm not sure if I would have access to hickory wood here in Scotland and will need to check. We usually use oak, often from former whisky barrels.

    • Paul Edmondson profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Edmondson 

      8 years ago from Burlingame, CA

      You would need to do it outside, but lots of smokers are electric. You could get a Webber Smokey Joe grill and do a smaller piece of smoked salmon on it. The smokey joe is a small charcoal grill, so it will work on an apartment balcony or steps.

    • Marina Lazarevic profile image


      8 years ago from San Francisco, CA

      This looks delicious, I love salmon. Though it probably wouldn't taste as good, do you think a small electric grill (like a Foreman grill) would work?

    • GinnyLee profile image


      8 years ago from Arlington, VA

      I am jealous! My Big Green Egg is in storage and we should be getting it out when we move into our new house next week. I think it will be an all-day BBQ-fest for the family and this salmon recipe will be on the menu. Thanks!

    • boundarybathrooms profile image

      Thomas Mulrooney 

      8 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      I love Salmon, never had it smoked though so it's on my list to give it a try. Thanks!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 

      8 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      That looks amazing! And the photos are excellent. Many votes and sharing!


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