Basic smoked Salmon

Basic smoked Salmon
One of the triggers for me first buying a Big Green Egg was the possibility of using it for cold smoking as well as all the other things the Big Green Egg excels at. It was also something that, at the time at least, very few if anyone talked about, and something that has never been pushed by the company. The BGE is, however, fabulous for home smoking – and it is so easy! Smoked Salmon is probably the most rewarding place to start. We are talking here of the European style of smoked salmon – cold smoked. Many of the American sites I have seen with recipes for smoked salmon are for ‘hot smoked salmon’ equally delicious, but quite different! (more of that later).

For cold smoked salmon the principal is to ‘cure’ the salmon first, a simple act of preserving the salmon which changes its taste and texture. Then the cured salmon is ‘smoked’ by surrounding it with slowly moving cold wood smoke for 8-12 hours ideally at temperatures below 10C and that is basically it! Whilst smoked wild salmon is truly wonderful, smoked farmed salmon is really very good indeed, and I would suggest that is the place to start. Firstly go and find a nice firm piece of salmon, you are looking for a single side, perhaps weighing around a kilogram, ideally with the skin still on, but again it will work without. Once you have got it home, run your hand along the top surface of the salmon and check that there are no pin bones left in the fish, if there are remove with a pair of tweezers.
Before going further I should share one precaution with you – you will need to freeze the salmon for a week either before or after smoking as this kills any parasites that might otherwise be present in the fish. It is really not an issue but a step that I would always take. The good news is that the salmon freezes beautifully – I have tried them with and without freezing and the taste and consistency remains unchanged!!! I almost always now freeze after smoking, but just as this works well for me.
Curing the salmon is easy, and certainly even easier than for meats. The ‘cure’ is a mix of salt and sugar with a series of different spices – my basic ‘go to’ mix is shown in the recipe below. Sweet cures are currently my favourite. This is where the sugar:salt ratio is 2:1 in favour if the sugar, but this ratio can be reversed to produce a ‘basic’ cure – equally effective and a little cheaper!  To either mix, spices and herbs are added for the first stage of the flavouring process (see ingredient list)

Find a food grade plastic dish that you can lie the salmon in comfortably, sprinkle a layer of the cure in the base of the dish and lay the salmon on this, skin side down.

Rub the top surface with some more of the cure and lightly dust more on the top till all surfaces are just covered, slightly thicker, where the salmon is thicker.

Cover and leave in the fridge for at least 12 hours, usually overnight. In the morning the ‘cure’ will have drawn moisture out of the salmon leaving the salmon bathed in a rich syrup.

The syrupy cure should now be washed off and the salmon patted dry.  The salmon will feel firmer than before as the cure has drawn out some of the water from the fish.  The salmon should now be left to dry for a further 3 to 4 hours, this is again best done in the fridge and ideally on a rack so the air can reach all surfaces. During this time a slightly sticky ‘pedicle’ will form which helps the salmon to take on the smoke flavours.

This is now a good time to clean out you EGG (or whatever smoker you are using). I use the ProQ smoker to generate the necessary smoke. This is a little metal maze that is filled with ‘wood dust’. It is lit at one end and then allowed to smoulder. This smouldering area tracks around the metal maze for around 12 hours producing the smoke that is the second flavouring agent and the second preservative for the salmon.  I purchased my ProQ and the different wood dusts from the very helpful people at

The ProQ, once lit, is stood on the bottom grate of the charcoal free EGG, the stainless steel grill is put in place and the cured salmon placed on top. Close the EGG, open the vents slightly and let nature take its course. In winter in the U.K. you can usually do this stage at any time of day as the temperature will be on the cold side. If doing it in the summer, avoid what passes for a heat wave in the U.K. and do the smoking at night. If you can plan to avoid days with high humidity, including rain, I have found the smoked result a little better, but this is not something to get too concerned about.

After 8-12 hours the salmon will have taken on a little more colour and a gloriously smoky aroma.  The salmon in the picture to the left were smoked over a mixture of Whisky Barrel Oak and Beech.  The salmon should now be removed from the smoker, wrapped in cling film and put in the fridge for a day or so to let the smoking mature and equalize through the fish. If you didn’t freeze the salmon for a week before curing it is time to do it now. I cut the side into convenient size pieces, vacuum pack them, label and pop them into the freezer – ready for use in a week’s time!
When defrosted, the salmon is simply sliced with a long sharp knife at around 45 degrees across the breadth of the salmon – or which ever way serves your creative mood!! I will be amazed if your first attempt is not at least as good as any commercial salmon you have had before.
If the salmon had already been frozen before curing and smoking, then although it is better to leave it for a few days, don’t resist the temptations to have a little straight away!
Smoked salmon and scrambled eggs? ………..
……………….try it once and you will be hooked!!

Basic Smoked Salmon

December 7, 2017
: 6-18
: 16 hr
: 12 hr
: 28 hr
: Easy

A simple cure and cold smoked salmon recipe


  • 1 or more sides of salmon - ideally skin on
  • 250g salt
  • 500g brown sugar (soft dark brown)
  • 25g of ground ginger
  • 25g of ground white pepper
  • 3 crushed garlic cloves
  • 5g or 1 teaspoon of ground allspice
  • Step 1 Run your hand along the top surface of the salmon and check that there are no pin bones left in the fish, if there are remove with a pair of tweezers.
  • Step 2 Mix the ‘cure’ using the ingredients listed or your own favourite variant.  As listed this will produce a sweet cure.  The ratio of salt and sugar can be reversed for a basic cure. The quantities in the ingredient list should easily be enough for 2 sides of salmon
  • Step 3 Sprinkle a layer of the cure in the base of a food grade dish that will hold the salmon. Lay the salmon on the cure, skin side down.
  • Step 4 Rub the top surface of the salmon with some more of the cure and lightly dust more on the top till all surfaces are just covered, slightly thicker, where the salmon is thicker.
  • Step 5 Cover and leave in the fridge for at least 12 hours, usually overnight. Wash off the now syrupy cure and pat the salmon dry. Leave the salmon to dry for a further 3 to 4 hours. This is best done in the fridge and ideally on a rack so the air can reach all surfaces. This allows a sticky ‘pedicle’ to form which helps with the smoking
  • Step 6 Whilst all this is going on, clean out you EGG (or whatever smoker you are using) to make space for your smoke generator.
  • Step 7 If using the ProQ smoker fill with a ‘wood dust’ of your choice: a really good general starting point is Beech dust. The dust is lit at one end (this can take some time) then allowed to smoulder.  Once lit, the ProQ should be stood on the bottom grate of the charcoal free EGG and the stainless steel grill put in place. The cured salmon can then be placed onto and left for 8-12 hours with the BGE closed and the top and bottom vent opened a little
  • Step 8 After 8-12 hours the salmon should be removed and wrapped in cling film and put back into the fridge for the flavours to equalise.
  • Step 9 Remember – Freeze the Salmon for one week before or after curing and smoking
  • Step 10 Present the salmon in your favourite way – the simplest is probably slicing the salmon with a sharp knife at 45 degrees to the surface. Sliced towards the head end moving towards the tail with each slice

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4 thoughts on “Basic smoked Salmon”

  • Love this smoked salmon recipe. Also got my wife’s strong approval! Easy to follow and turned out a treat. We’ll be doing it again soon!

    • So pleased you liked it Nick. It is a really versatile way of preparing fish and lends itself beautifully to personalisation as long as you keep the basics right!! Let me know if you develop other good ways to do it – or some great things to make with it!!

  • Thank you so much! This smoked salmon recipe, method and technique, is genuinely the best and most informative on the net, right down to every last detail. I’ve made home cured and cold smoked salmon countless times now and even though I’ve got my technique pretty much where I want it, I still come back every now and again, solely for the pleasure of reading such a nicely written and detailed description of the whole cure/smoking salmon process. I like to add coriander seed and juniper berries to my cures. And for the most amazingly silky smooth textured and flavoured finish on the end product, I love to use Korean, roasted solar salt, available at the larger online Korean stores. It really does taste amazing. It was this site that actually gave me the confidence to try my hand at home curing and smoking salmon for the first time, and now, I’m hooked! home made cold smoker and everything! So a big, big thank you :))

    • Hi Tony – so glad you like the recipe and have taken the time to let us know – it does so make things so worthwhile! Delighted you like the writing too!! Thank you!!
      I love your comments about Korean salt – that is new to me and something I will try and find so I can try it! Do keep in touch and thanks again for the feedback!

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