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cold smoked salmon on a chopping board
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5 from 4 votes

Cold Smoked Salmon Recipe

This is a basic recipe for cold smoked salmon or Lox. It is a great recipe to use a base to work on your own secret recipe to make the fish taste perfect for your preference. Please feel free to swap out the cure ingredients with your own herbs and spices.
Prep Time1 hr
Cook Time12 hrs
Cure Time2 d
Total Time2 d 13 hrs
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: seafood
Servings: 10
Calories: 200kcal
Author: Charlie
Cost: 40


  • Smoker with the ability to cold smoke
  • glass dish or baking dish
  • paper towels
  • wire rack and sheet pan


  • 2 - 3 pounds salmon fillet fresh and from the head end if possible
  • cold water


  • 2 tablespoons crushed black pepper
  • 3 cups brown sugar
  • 3 cups Kosher salt or sea salt or enough to cover you salmon
  • 4 cloves of crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp crushed fennel seeds

Garnishes (optional but recommended)

  • brined capers Drained
  • brioche toast points or crackers Toasted or grilled
  • fresh dill Chopped
  • lemon Sliced
  • red onion Thinly sliced


  • Place the salmon fillet on a flat surface flesh side up. If the salmon is not at room temperature, let sit for an hour or so for it to come to room temperature. Run your fingers overtop of the skin side of the salmon fillet and feel for the ends of any pin bones. Pull out any pin bones with a pair of tweezers by pulling the ends of the pin bones. Once all the pin bones have been removed, run your fingers over one more time to double check all pin bones have been removed. Clean the salmon fillet and make sure there is no muck on them
  • In a mixing bowl mix together the Kosher salt (or sea salt), black pepper, brown sugar crushed fennel seeds and garlic.
  • Place the salmon in a glass baking dish flesh side up. Ensure you place the salmon inside the dish so it has plenty of room and no filets are touching. Spread out 1/3 of the cure. Place the salmon fillets on top of the cure making sure that the cure extends around ½ inch from each side of the salmon. Spread the remaining cure on the top side of the salmon, coating each salmon fillet completely with no gaps or holes.
  • Cover the dish completely with plastic wrap and place the salmon in the coolest part of your refrigerator for 24 – 48 hours to cure. For best results place a weight on top of your salmon while in the cure. I recommend something like a pie dish or a baking tray with a couple of cans of food. You are looking for around 1 - 1.5 pounds of weight to help draw out moisture. The key with the cure is the longer, the better.
  • Place the salmon In a large bowl filled with 3 inches of cold water soak the fillets for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes drain well with lots of fresh cold water to remove any salt and muck.
  • Pat the salmon dry on both sides with paper towels then place the salmon skin side down, uncovered on a wire rack on top of a sheet pan to air dry. Place in the refrigerator and let air dry for around 4 hours. The fillets should feel a little sticky at this point. This is when the pellicle forms. Don't worry the salmon fillets will not stick to the wire rack.
  • Prepare your smoker for cold smoking as per your manufacturer's instructions. For this recipe I use a Masterbuilt gas grill. Remember cold smoking temperatures are important so ensure your temperatures never exceed 86 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Place the salmon in your smoker flesh side up. Let the salmon go through the smoking process until it feels leathery, firm and has a nice bronze color. This should take a minimum of 12 hours right up to 20 hours.
  • Before serving wrap the salmon in butcher/ baking paper and rest in the refrigerator for a minimum of 4 hours. Ideally leave overnight.
  • Diagonally cut thin (or thick depending on your preference) slices with a very sharp knife and garnish with lots of fresh dill, lemon slices, black pepper, capers, red onion, crusty bread and a squeeze of lemon juice. If you are feeling fancy a garnish of teaspoon of lemon zest will also