It’s Time For Some Smoke on that Salmon

We have given you a couple recipes for cooking salmon, and have many more to share, but now it’s time for some smoked salmon brine formulas.  I have a basic brine that is my foundation for every batch of fish that goes on the smoker.

When I was a child I grew up idolizing my Grandpa who grew up dirt poor on a farm in Iowa with 10 brothers. He ate anything he could catch or kill.  Luckily for Gramps, Grandma was a phenomenal cook and could make anything taste good. I learned a lot from both of them. My gramps taught me the fine art of harvesting fish, fowl and game and grandma taught me how to prepare it so it was delectable.

I also had a lot of uncles who would take me fishing on the Cedar and Mississippi Rivers where we would catch carp and catfish and bring them home to Gramps. He would take those huge carp and fillet them with a Sawzawl and then brine them in salt and sugar, occasionally adding a touch of liquid smoke.

The carp were phenomenal smoked.  If you can make Iowa carp taste good with your brine you can make anything taste outstanding. I use his brine recipe with less salt than he liked, and I only occasionally add any liquid smoke.

I will be giving up two recipes to use when smoking fresh-caught Kenai River sockeye or silver salmon.  With king salmon I only smoke the tail and belly, but I don’t fish for Kenai River king salmon or suggest you do. There are many other locations that offer quality king salmon fishing.

The first formula will be what I call my “simple smoke” recipe (grandpa’s modified a touch) and the second is my Lesmeister’s “Bomb Diggidy” recipe, which is legend in the Cooper Landing Alaska region.


Simple Smoke Recipe (Gramps Modified)

1 part salt

3 parts sugar.


I use white or brown sugar, what ever I have on hand.


Lesmeisters “Bomb Diggidy” recipe

1 part salt

3 parts sugar

Yoshidas sauce



I lightly coat both sides of the salmon fillet with my dry rub mixture of salt and sugar.  When I make my Bomb Diggity recipe I add the Yoshidas sauce to the top of the fish in a bowl and mix well. Then add honey. (more is better)

Once my fish is brined with either recipe I then cover with Seran wrap and put in fridge, I like to stir fish every eight hours or so.  I leave fish in the brine for at least 24 hours and sometimes as long as 36 or 48 hours.

With either brine I put the fish on the smoker racks and let the fillets dry to a tacky texture. This is usually over night, or it can be longer, before I fire up the smoker.

Some people like to put the fish fillets in front of fans to dry. I do not like doing this. I let it dry up and get tacky feeling naturally.  When the fish has the right texture, smoke it to your taste.  Some people like it more dry and some more moist.

These are my two go-to formulas when I smoke salmon.  I suggest you start simple and add anything you may want in your brine mixture you think you may like until you create your own masterpiece.


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