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Delicious Dry Brined Smoked Salmon

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

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, as 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 moisture. A salmon with a healthy fat content is the ideal choice to dry brine and smoke.

Brining and Smoking Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

2 hours 30 min

2 hours 30 min

5 hours

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.
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.

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.

Salmon skin side down on top of dry brine mixture.

Salmon skin side down on top of dry brine mixture.

Lay the side of the 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 moister 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.

Salmon buried in the dry brine mixture.

Salmon buried in the dry brine mixture.

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

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.

Hickory chips in a tinfoil package.

Hickory chips in a 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.

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 set up indirect heat. Turn one burner on and place the fish on the opposite side.

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.

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 the 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.

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 a Webber grill; this is the bottom holes closed and the top holes about half open.

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

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 the 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.

Smoked Salmon