While brining salmon before smoking it is not obligatory, it does help reduce and prevent the development of the unsightly white albumin, which can appear on the texture of the raw fish during the smoking. The smoked salmon brine also helps break down the muscle fibers close to the outside of the fish, making it juicier and better seasoned than drying out the fish.
Making the smoked salmon brine is quick and easy but will do wonders for the end results after you have smoked that beautiful salmon.
Why is salt essential for the smoked salmon brine?
Salt has been used for brining and curing meat and fish for ages, even before refrigerators were invented.
Using salt for the brining is crucial because of the following:
- It helps dehydrate the fish, and thus reducing the risk of harmful bacterial growth and allowing it to be smoked properly
- It helps break down the protein to keep the fish shiny and juicy even after the smoking
- It reduces the unpleasant white albumin which can appear on the exterior of the fish
- It increases the shelf life of the smoked salmon as it has natural preservative qualities
- It gives the fish that distinct delicious flavor of smoked salmon
Why is sugar used for making smoked salmon brine?
Not only does the sugar in the brine provide that sweeter smoky taste to the fish, but it also helps for:
- Extending the freshness of the fish and increasing the storage quality by inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria
- Retaining the water and thus adding some moistness to the smoked salmon during the cooking
Smoked salmon brine recipe
The recipe for brining the salmon prior to smoking it is pretty straightforward, but remember to use pure salt for the brine. Salt like Kosher salt, pickling salt, or canning salt are great options.
When choosing brown sugar, you should opt for dark or light. The dark brown sugar will add more of a molasses flavor to the fish. If you are not fond of this taste, you can use a combination of brown and white sugar for this brine.
Do you like the taste of smoked fish? Try out this smoked cajun catfish recipe!
Ingredients for preparing smoked salmon brine
This is the recipe for the brine for prepping 4 lbs. of salmon for smoking:
Canning or table salt – 3/8 cup, or ½ cup of Morton Kosher salt
Brown sugar – 1 ½ cups
Filtered (clean) cold water – 1 quart
Tips for properly preparing the smoked salmon brine
While it may sound simple to mix some salt and sugar into water, there are some tips that will help you make better and more efficient brine for prepping your salmon for smoking.
First of all, you should bring the brining solution to a simmer or boil to allow for the salt and sugar to dissolve and mix properly in it.
You can improve the taste of the seasoning by simmering the solution first and adding some more spices, herbs, and seasoning.
Related content: Smoked Trout Recipe
Additional seasoning you can add to your smoked salmon brine
Depending on your preferences, you can add some other flavors to the brine for your smoked salmon. Some of the most commonly used ingredients to enhance the flavor of the smoked salmon through the brine include:
- Fresh herbs
- Lemon pepper
- Different spices or a dry crab seasoning mix
- Freshly crushed garlic cloves
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Soy sauce
- Hot peppers
- Chopped onions
- Sliced and crushed lemon, orange, or lime slices
Preparing the smoked salmon brine
Bring half of the water to a boil in a saucepan, and then immediately remove it from the heat. Add the spices and herbs and allow the mixture to steep for about 10 minutes.
After that, add the salt and the sugar and stir the steeped solution. Add the remaining water and continue stirring the solution until the salt and sugar are fully dissolved and combined.
Let the brine chill in the refrigerator to 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower before placing the fish in it.
If you have larger pieces of herbs and spices in the brine and you don’t want them stuck on the fish, you can strain the brine using a suitable strainer before brining the fish.
Let the fish sit in the brine in the refrigerator, and remember to follow the recommended guidelines for preparing seafood by the FDA when storing, prepping, and cooking the salmon.
The safe temperature for storing fish for up to 2 days is up to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. This is essential, so make sure you use a thermometer to check the temperature in your fridge.
You should also keep the fish in the brine at the recommended temperature for about 12 to 36 hours for the best results.
Before smoking the salmon, pat it dry with paper towels, and do not rinse it out from the brine, unless your recipe requires additional rinsing and seasoning.
Use your favorite wood chips and smoking recipe, and enjoy your delicious smoked salmon!
Related: Salmon Internal Temperature: Guide to the Perfect Cooked Salmon