smoked salmon lox bagel

homemade smoked salmon (lox)

I love smoked salmon or lox, but hate to pay $8.00 a tiny little package, so a few years ago I started to research the process of cold smoking. I came up with the simple method below. The key is the ratio of salt to sugar. Make sure to use kosher salt so your salmon doesn’t end up too salty. Note that you don’t need a smoker to smoke this salmon, you can do it on your barbecue, as long as it has a lid.

For those of you averse to reading, my video tutorial is at the bottom of this page. The whole process takes 4 days or so to complete, but the steps themselves are not particularly time consuming.


homemade smoked salmon (lox)
Make cold smoked salmon at home. No smoker required.
  1. 1 – 2 lb skin on salmon fillet
  2. 3/4 of a cup of kosher salt
  3. 3/4 dark brown sugar
  4. 1 tsp granulated garlic
  5. 1 tsp granulated onion
  6. 1 tsp allspice
  7. 1 tsp mace
  8. 1 tsp black pepper
  1. Mix all the dry ingredients thoroughly to create your cure. I usually throw them all in a KitchenAid and mix at a low speed with the paddle mixer. If there are any chunks of brown sugar left, smoosh them with the back of a fork. “Smoosh” is a technical term I learnt in Scotland, it means to break up chunks of brown sugar with the back of a fork.
  2. Rinse the salmon fillet and score the skin in 2-3 places.
  3. Line a Pyrex or any non-reactive dish with either a clean cloth dish towel or cheese cloth. The plainer the dish/tea towel the better. You do not want to use something with lots of dye. I have also used cling film/wrap, but I the dish towel allows the fish to dry a little as you cure, which is a good thing. You want a nice firm cured fish at the end of the process.
  4. Lay a bed of the cure (about half) on the dish towel and nestle the salmon into the cure, skin side up. Pour the rest of your cure over the fish. The fish should be completely encased in the cure. Fold the loose edged of your dish towel over the salmon so that you have a wrapped up package of fish deliciousness. Place your wrapped salmon and non-reactive dish in your fridge for 2-3 days to let the cure work its magic. The sugar and salt in the cure pull water out of the salmon through osmosis and infuse it with flavor.
  5. Turn your salmon over every day or so and poke it with your finger to check its firmness. If anyone sees you do this, consider saying something like, “Hmm, almost done, it should be fully cured in another day or so,” so that you appear to know what you are doing.
  6. After 2-3 days unwrap your salmon and rinse off the cure. Dry the salmon with some kitchen towel, it should be fairly stiff/firm. Place your salmon on a cooling rack on a plate and put it back in the fridge for another 12-24 hours. Your fridge will dry the fish out even more and will create a slightly sticky coating on the outside of the fish called a pellicule. When you smoke your fish the smoke molecules will stick to the pellicule enhancing the smoky flavor.
  7. At this point in time you need to decide whether to just go ahead and eat you salmon (unsmoked it is grava lox) or go ahead and finish the process. Personally I think you should just finish it, but if the whole idea of smoking is preventing you from trying the recipe, just skip the smoking, slice your salmon and enjoy.
  8. For those of you that want to forge on ahead you will need some charcoal, some foil and some apple or cherry wood chips. Make sure to buy wood chips and not the large chunks. Many supermarkets carry wood chips, but hardware stores that sell barbeques usually carry them as well.
  9. We are going to cold smoke, so you do not want to do this in the middle of a hot summer day. I usually smoke the fish in the evening, you want to avoid your salmon getting too warm, cold smoking, remember? If your smoking container goes above 90 degrees Fahrenheit you will just want to go ahead and cook the fish, to avoid a build up of bacteria. The smoking process takes about 3 hours, so don’t start too late.
  10. First create a couple of foil trays, one of them will hold hot coals, the other will be used to create smoke. Light your charcoal with a charcoal chimney, you only need to half fill the chimney. Place one of your foil trays on a non-flammable surface and dump the lit coals into the tray.
  11. Place the other empty foil tray on your unlit barbeque. Place a handful of wood chips in the tray and then using tongs, take two lit coals from your other tray and place them on the wood chips after the few minutes the wood chips should start to smolder and release a sweet smelling smoke. Remove your salmon from the fridge and place in on the unlit barbeque beside the foil tray and close the lid of your barbecue to trap the smoke with the fish.
  12. Every half hour or so or of you notice the smoke reducing add a hot coal or some additional wood chips to your makeshift cold smoker. If you start to run out of hot coals add some unlit ones to your hot coal tray to keep a continuous supply of hot coals available.
  13. After 2-3 hours of smoking remove your fish from the barbecue and slice it thinly with a sharp non-serrated knife.

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2 years ago

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