Love Costco Smoked Salmon? Here’s how to make a smoked salmon recipe without a smoker just like Kirkland! With the help of a dry brine and liquid smoke, the fillet decreases in weight with a strong cure right in the fridge. After this easy curing process it is safe to eat and ready to be used in your favorite lox recipe!
We love smoked salmon! It’s best topped over bread with purple onions and cream cheese! However, you’ll find it in Eggs Benedict, Sushi Rolls, layered over lox Bagel, tossed into Scrambled Eggs, and found in appetizers like our Smoked Salmon Tea Sandwiches (Canapés). Smoked salmon makes a delicious lunch sandwich or a fancy breakfast! Host brunch like a Chef!
Lox vs Smoked Salmon
Smoked Salmon goes by so many names that you’re probably confused! It’s called gravlax, lox, cold-smoked salmon, cured salmon, and Selyodka-style Salmon (Russian type of marinated Salmon.)
Today we’re making Costco Smoked Salmon like those Kirkland packets, not hot smoked salmon or cold smoked salmon that typically requires, using a smoker or sometimes pellet grill. I’m talking no cooking whatsoever! Is that even possible? Yes! Learn all you need to know about making smoked salmon at home safely!
Is Smoked Salmon Raw?
Smoked Salmon Lox is not cooked. Even when it goes through a cold smoking regime it kills most of the pathogens from the dry-brine that is heavily loaded with sugar and sea salt (preservatives.) Since cold smoking is typically held at a smoking temperature no higher than 80°F for 24 hours it does not cook the fish but rather infuses hickory flavor. So, yes commercially smoked salmon is raw.
How To Smoke Salmon Without A Smoker:
First things first, you need to purchase a fresh salmon fillet. Never use frozen for curing salmon. Costco, Aldi, or Walmart have beautiful fresh 3-pound salmon filets for around $25 right in the seafood department. Prepare the salmon fillet by rinsing it well and then patting it dry to adhere to the rub better. Leave the skin on (it makes better slices!)
Next, make the dry rub with equal amounts of sugar and sea salt. Use a good quality kosher coarse salt not iodized salt, we want the best possible results to draw out all of that moisture from the fish. I also used brown sugar (molasses-infused sugar granules) which deepens the red hue.
Finally, don’t forget the hickory liquid smoke which will give you so much smokiness without the smoker. I simply add it to the dry rub and massage it in. Now you’re ready to make smoked salmon like a pro!
P.S. Did you know you’ll get 2 pounds of salmon slices from a 3-pound salmon fillet! That’s $15.99 a pound of Kirkland smoked salmon when you can buy a fillet and make your own for around $8-10 a pound.
How To Make Smoked Salmon:
After you have rubbed all the cure into the fillet place the fish into Tupperware or a large container with a lid. I like to ensure the brine is working by leaving it out on the counter until I see lots of liquid released.
This process slows down if you just put it in the fridge right away, but I typically leave it in the brine at room temperature for 4-5 hours before storing it in the fridge. However, this is totally optional and if you feel hesitant, just put the salmon immediately in the fridge, the liquid will still draw out.
- Fresh Salmon Fillet- always use fresh salmon never frozen.
- Brown Sugar and Salt- work as preservatives.
- Hickory Liquid Smoke- will give you that smokey flavor without an actual smoker!
What Is Smoked Salmon?
Traditionally cured smoked salmon was a way for curing fish and then smoking to preserve without refrigeration. Before the salmon sits for 24 hours in heaping amounts of salt and sugar the dry-brine draws out most of the moisture and works as a preservative. The fish is then moved to a kiln to dry while oak blocks are burnt using friction to release oak smoke into the fish.
This is a great way to prolong the use of salmon, However, immigrants still pickle fish and smoke fish without a smokehouse.
How To Make Smoked Salmon Brine for Lox?
Typically if you were cold smoking salmon for lox or gravlax you’d want to smoke salmon for a long period of 24 hours at a very low temperature (80°F.) This low smoking temperature will not cook the fish since cold-smoked salmon is technically cured rather than cooked.
So to make the cure were are going to use 1 cup of salt and sugar to ensure we release as much moisture as we can for safe consumption.
- Wash the salmon fillet with cold water with the skin on. Pat dry with paper towels and place into a large container or tray.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the dry brine by mixing together the sugar, salt, and liquid smoke.
- Rub the cure mixture all over the fillet (fleshy meaty side.)
- Leave out for 2-4 hours until a lot of liquid releases.
- Once the fish has released liquid, cover and place salmon in the fridge for 24-72 hours. (DO NOT wash off rub.)
- After the curing time, remove the fish from the fridge and wash with cold water to remove any rub. Pat dry with paper towels and rub with 1 Tbsp oil. Allow salmon to dry open in the fridge for 1 hour to develop a slicing texture.
- Place salmon on a large sheet of parchment paper and using a very sharp knife, position the blade at a straight angle and move the blade to the right carving thin salmon slices.
- Keep salmon slices stored in an airtight container until serving.
Note: if you don’t have the proper Tupperware simply use saran plastic wrap to wrap the fish up in brine.
What Type of Salmon Is Best For Smoked Salmon?
Always begin by buying Atlantic or Sashimi-grade salmon. Fresh salmon is ideal for making smoked salmon at home. Never use frozen fillets it needs to be fresh. If you go to the fish market by a whole salmon and clean it out at home you can save money! And if you can smell the fish avoid buying a fillet that smells very fishy, which means the fish has been hanging around for a while.
We like Fresh Atlantic salmon but if you’re at the seafood market you can choose from Scottish, Baltic fish, Steelhead salmon, King salmon, or Wild-caught salmon which is deeper in red color and lean in texture. The sockeye salmon (species of Alaska) has a deep red salmon color and pink salmon is a pacific salmon popular in Russia. Whichever fillet you choose will work for this smoked salmon recipe.
The types of salmon may vary from region to region depending on which coast you live on, look for varieties easily available to you. You want a red salmon color however, most selections come in pink which will darken after the dry-cure.
Can You Eat Salmon Skin?
You can eat the skin of your salmon fillet if it has been cooked (just make sure the scales are removed.) In fact, healthcare experts claim that the salmon nutrition for eating salmon skin contains the highest application of omega-3 fatty acids on the fish. However, I don’t eat the skins for smoked salmon since it is raw fish.
To Remove Skin Off The Salmon: using a sharp knife, slide the knife right under the corner of the skin. Continue to carefully run the knife under the skin pulling up the skin to peel it off.
Checking For Bones:
Generally, large salmon fillets are already cleaned with the center bones already removed, however, if you purchase a whole salmon fish you will need to remove any long white pin bones running down the middle of the fillet with tweezers or thin pliers. Pick them out in the direction the grain is facing to prevent the flesh from tearing on you.
A smoked Salmon Fillet can be seasoned so many different ways with different salmon rubs!
- Dill Cured Salmon- add lots of fresh dill and garlic.
- Everything Bagel- make everything bagel seasoning.
- Pastrami Smoked Salmon- pepper and mustard seed seasoning that goes well with rubs.
- Traditional- is just plain cured salmon with the basic salt and sugar brine.
- Pepper- make a ground black pepper crust.
Note: Rub the seasoned herbs after the salmon has cured so they appear when slicing.
Can I Cold Smoke Salmon?
If you have an electric smoker or pellet grill, then cold smoke with sawdust for a low smoking temperature of 80°F Typically, the salt and sugar have already pulled that moisture out of the fish by now, so, you should have a firm and tightened up fish.
The salt should have done its work by shrinking the salmon slightly and now cold smoke (would infuse the smokey flavor.) This step is optional and can easily be replaced with liquid smoke to avoid using any kind of smoker.
How Long Does Smoked Salmon Last In The Fridge?
Wondering how long smoked salmon is good for? Homemade gravlax can keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks if cured properly. That is why it’s important to use a generous of salt and sugar which work as preservatives.
Is Smoked Salmon Healthy?
Salmon is good for you if you can get wild-caught or Alaskan salmon. It has a good source of vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, potassium, and selenium. It’s lean and a lighter protein than chicken. This fatty fish is nutritious especially as a broth to fish soup, so, don’t throw away those bones if you’re cleaning a wild-caught salmon!
Can Pregnant Woman Eat Smoked Salmon?
Smoked salmon and pregnancy do not go together. A pregnant woman should not eat raw fish because too much mercury could harm her baby’s developing nervous system. Mercury is found in seafood.
Can You Freeze Smoked Salmon?
To freeze smoked salmon slices; layer a single layer of salmon over parchment paper and stack until needed. Keep in an airtight container (or freezer bag) for up to 3 months.
How To Eat Smoked Salmon?
Our favorite way to eat smoked salmon is over a slice of bread or bagel smeared with mayo or cream cheese and topped with cucumbers or purple onions. Smoked salmon goes so well with a cream cheese spread, it’s no wonder a lox spread at a bagel shop can be one too many!
Here are recipes using smoked salmon:
- Top it over a Pizza.
- Fold it into an omelet or frittata!
- Make Chowder soup!
- Garnish it over Salads.
- Mix it into Pasta.
- Roll them into your favorite Sushi Rolls.
- Layer it over multigrain toast and a layer of cream cheese.
- Use this smoked salmon for any gravlax recipe or nova lox!
What is Lox or Gravlax?
Gravlax is a dry-cured salmon marinated in seasoning or herbs. Lox is another word for smoked salmon both are recognized as the raw fish that goes over a bagel or toast.
Is Gravlax Safe?
How you make gravlax or the way you prepare gravlax all matters from the freshness of your fish and how much brine you use for the weight of your fish.
If curing went well and the salmon released a lot of moisture and liquid, it is a sign of successful curing. Discard the fish if you see mold or smell any strong and odd odors.
Best Tips Dry-Curing Smoked Salmon:
- Leave the skins on for easy slicing! You want to begin at the tail when carving.
- Invest in a very sharp knife for carving wafer-thin salmon pieces.
- Freeze already cured smoked salmon slices over layers of parchment paper!
- Use brown sugar to deepen the salmon color.
- Carve the salmon at a straight angle to get evenly flat pieces.
- Buy a whole salmon and clean it yourself to save money!
- Use hickory-flavored liquid smoke, not mesquite.
More Salmon Recipes:
- Easy Salmon Burgers
- Teriyaki Glazed Salmon Recipe (One Pan Meal)- baked salmon fillets with soy sauce and a honey glaze.
- Salmon Avocado Canapés– with mashed avocados and smoked salmon.
- Salmon with Shrimp and Mushroom Alfredo
- Spicy Tuna Roll– turn it into a spicy salmon roll!
Handy Equipment For Cooking Salmon:
- Large Plastic Tray– to marinade salmon fillet or use a disposable turkey bag.
- Measuring Cups- love these scoops (the handles don’t bend) and make packing brown sugar easy.
- Shallow Food Container- to cure the salmon in if you don’t have a tray.
- Sharp Knife- that will even go through bones.
- Hickory Liquid Smoke- to copycat the smokey flavor without actually smoking for hours.
How to Make Smoked Salmon:
Costco Smoked Salmon
- 1 large food container
- 1 sharp knife for carving
- 3 lbs fresh salmon fillet
- 1 cup salt
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 Tbsp liquid smoke (Hickory flavor)
- Wash and pat dry the salmon fillet. Keep the skin intact and set aside.
- Mix together the dry cure and rub it all over the top of the fillet. Place fish into a container and allow it to sit until the juices release (anywhere from 2-5 hours.)
- Cover the salmon (DO NOT WASH OFF RUB) and allow it to marinade in the fridge for 24-72 hours. Salmon should decrease slightly in size and become tougher.
- Remove the smoked salmon from the fridge and wash off the rub with cold water. Pat dry clean and rub with 1 Tbsp of oil. Place salmon back in the fridge and allow it to dry in the open for 1 hour.
- Starting at the tail, place your knife at a flat angle and carve into wafer thin slices moving the blade away from the fish.
- Store salmon slices in an airtight container until needed.
- Use a large sheet pan or tray and cover fish with plastic wrap, if you do not have a large food container.
- Do not use mesquite liquid smoke that will give another smokey flavor.
- Smoked salmon slices can keep fresh for up to a week in the fridge. Anything longer can be frozen between parchment paper in an airtight container.
Nutrition per serving