Homemade brown sugar smoked salmon is among my favorite kosher foods to make all year round. This recipe uses very simple rub that is not too complex, and really lets the natural flavors of the fish and the smoke be the highlights of the dish. This recipe is kosher, non-dairy, pareve, and gluten free. Read on to learn how to make the best homemade smoked salmon recipe.
Why This Recipe Works
- Homemade smoked salmon is easy to make: because it does not require a lot of cooking experience or technique.
- Quick preparation time: ready for smoking in under 5 minutes.
- Cost effective: homemade smoked salmon will cost you little more than the price of the fish.
- Mild flavors that everyone can enjoy: smoked salmon has a distinct smoky flavor but this recipe yields a milder smoky sweet taste that is sure to please everyone in the family.
Quick and Easy Preparation
Fish and rub. That's it, two ingredients to make homemade smoked salmon! The rub is quick and easy to put together and only requires a few ingredients. Plus, if you make a lot of it beforehand, all you need to do is rub it on the fish and you are set for smoking. Here is what you will need for the rub:
- Salt - all good smoking rubs start with salt. This is because the salt is what begins the curing process and takes some of the excess moisture out of the meat or fish. The salt also brings the other flavors together nicely.
- Black pepper - gives the rub a little bit of a kick.
- Brown sugar - this is the star of the show for this recipe. The brown sugar adds sweetness to the rub and caramelizes slightly during smoking.
- Chili powder - brings a little bit of smokiness to the rub.
- Crushed red peppers (optional) - strictly for heat.
A Step by step guide to making this recipe
Time needed: 1 hour.
The best homemade smoked salmon step by step.
- Apply the spice rub
If you have not yet prepared the spice rub, prepare that before applying anything. Once you have the rub, slather it all over the surface of the salmon using your hands. (It's not called a sprinkle its called a rub). It should start to melt immediately as the moisture is drawn out of the salmon and the sugar in the rub starts to break down. Rub for about 30 seconds and you will see some of the excess fall to the side, this is ok.
- Let the salmon sit while you prepare the smoker and wood
I like to let the salmon sit on a wire rack while I start my grill or smoker. This will give the rub a chance to draw out some more of the excess moisture while the heat is prepared. The rub tenderizes the fish as it does this so it is never a bad thing to wait for up to an hour before smoking. During this step, you should also soak your wood chips or wood chunks in tap water.
- Place the fish on the smoker or grill
I use a dedicated gravity feed smoker and not a grill. This means that I can just place the fish on to a piece of aluminum foil and the smoker does the rest. (It almost feels like cheating). For those of you that are using a simple charcoal grill, you will want to use indirect heat. This means that you should have your coals on one side of the grill and the fish on the other side not directly above the coals. When the temperature of the grill or smoker has reached 225ºF, it is time to place your fish on the grill or smoker. Place it skin side down.
- Add the smoking wood
After the fish has been on the smoker for 15 minutes, add 2-3 wood chunks to the dedicated wood chip/ wood chunk box. (If you are using a charcoal grill, add 1 cup of wood chips directly to the coals. Close the lid and finish the smoking.
- Finish the smoking
This is always a subject of controversy in our house. I like my fish on the less cooked side and everybody else likes it more cooked. If you like the fish on the lighter side of medium then remove the fish after 45 minutes. If you like it on the more well done side of medium, remove the fish after 1 hr. Either way, the outside of it should look like this:
- Cut away the skin
In some ways this is the most fun part of the recipe. When the salmon has finished smoking, peel back a small part of the skin and slide a butter knife along the bottom of the fish between the skin and fish. The knife should just glide along the bottom and separate the two layers without much resistance.
Most times, dried out smoked fish comes from overcooking it. There is no shame in checking the fish midway through the middle of the smoke in order to see if it is done to your liking. You can always cook for longer if the fish is not yet done, but you can't reverse it if it is over cooked.
We used hickory for this recipe but any wood with a lighter smoke profile is good for fish. Other options are cedar, cherry, and apple woods.
Fish is a lot lighter and less dense than chicken thighs or beef and do not need as much smoke to give it the same smoky flavor. We recommend that you use enough smoking wood to burn for 15 minutes. This should give you enough smoke to really flavor the fish without overpowering the other flavors. If you like smokier fish then double that amount.
Smoked fish is really easy to store. Just get a resealable plastic bag and place any leftovers inside. You can refrigerate homemade smoked salmon for up to 7 days. Smoked salmon also freezes very well and can last up to 6 months in the freezer.
- With coleslaw or potato salad
- Alongside an Israeli salad
- Cut into pieces and put on top of a bagel with cream cheese
- At a Shabbat morning kiddush
- Topped with capers
- Shred and mix with mayonnaise to make a smoked salmon salad.
More recipes like this one
Homemade Brown Sugar Smoked Salmon
- grill or smoker
Brown Sugar Rub
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- ½ tsp chili powder
- ½ tsp crushed red peppers optional
- 2 lbs salmon fillets
Brown Sugar Rub Instructions
- Mix together the brown sugar, salt, black pepper, chili powder, and crushed red peppers
- Using your hands, rub enough of the brown sugar rub into the salmon fillets to completely coat the top of each fillet.
- Heat your grill or smoker to 225ºF.
- Let the salmon fillets sit while the grill or smoker is heating up. Also, at this time soak the wood chips or wood chunks in tap water for 30 minutes.
- When the grill or smoker has reached 225ºF, place the salmon on to a piece of aluminum foil skin side down and place it on to the grill or smoker for 15 minutes.
- After 15 minutes add the wood to the coals or smoke box. Let smoke for 30-45 minutes.
- Remove the fish from the grill and run a butter knife in between the skin and bottom of the fish.