Dry Brine Smoked Salmon in 5 Easy Steps

Wild Smoked Salmon Fillet

The finished product.

I have tried multiple ways to smoke salmon and the dry brine method is my favorite. It is much simpler, cleaner, and quicker than keeping your fillets in a gooey tub overnight. Not to mention, the taste is far superior.

What you will need: 

  • A smoker, alder chips, and salmon fillets (obviously).
  • Dark brown sugar.
  • Non iodized salt. I like to use coarse canning salt.
  • Garlic cloves.
  • Mixing bowl
  • Tupperware type container for salmon fillets and brine.

1. Prepare the fillets

  • Make sure you are using wild fresh salmon. Best is Sockeye or Chinook, but any wild salmon will do.
  • You can cut them into 2-3″ wide strips or leave them whole if they are not too thick, and leave skin on.
  • Slice diagonal lines into the fillets to allow greater brine penetration.
Dry brine

Dry brine is ready for the garlic.

2. Prepare the brine.

  • The ratio is 4 cups of brown sugar, 1 cup of salt, 10 cloves of garlic.
  • If you need more brine, keep the ratio the same.
  • Mix in mixing bowl.
Fillets in Brine

Fillets in Brine

3. Brine the fillets.

  • Cover the fillets generously with the brine mix.
  • Stack in Tupperware starting with skin side down.
  • Stack flesh to flesh, and skin to skin.
  • Cover and let sit in fridge for approximately 6 hours.
  • The container will turn into a gooey mess


Dry brine turns gooey

Dry brine turns gooey

4. Rinse and Rack

  • Gently rinse coarse granules off fillets under the tap.
  • Spray racks with non stick cooking spray like Pam. This will make removal later much easier.
  • Place on rack.
  • Let dry with good circulation for 6 hours to develop sticky top layer.
Salmon ready for smoking

Salmon ready for smoking

Salmon in the big chief

Salmon in the big chief

5. Smoker time

  • Use smoker outdoors with nothing flammable in close proximity. Don’t use extension cord.
  • Pre- heat smoker for 15 mins.
  • Add alder chips and racks of salmon fillets.
  • You can add chips to determine strength of flavour. Usually more pans of fresh chips at the beginning.
  • Keep in smoker for around 6 hours. You can check earlier if you would like.



Bonus info

  1. The fillets always taste better the next day after cooling and sitting in the fridge.
  2. You can vacuum pack the smoked fillets to preserve them longer in the fridge.
  3. Some people use a blanket or a box over the smoker, but I never had good success with that method.
  4. I got this recipe from salmonuniversity.com

2011 Fraser Sockeye and Chinook Journal

2011 was a great year for fishing. I would have to say it was my favorite fishing year ever. On the majority of days you could expect to get 2 Sockeye salmon and 1 Chinook. This year I really got the feel for landing Chinook salmon on the river.

Chinook salmon

Chinook salmon

Chinook Salmon

A Spring in the sink

Fraser Chinook

Fraser Chinook

Chinook and Sockeye salmon

My Chinook with 2 Sockeye salmon alongside my friends Chinook salmon. This was a common day in 2011.

This little reel had a few draw backs. The major one is that it did not hold a lot of line, the other being it was light duty. The positive was I could cast this Diawa Exceler reel further than anyone in the river and get into the spring holes. I only got so much life out of it before it finally broke immediately after landing a Chinook salmon. I had to replace the line multiple times that year but it was worth it.

Broken reel

My Diawa Exceler reel breaks after reeling in a Spring salmon.