Knowing How to Brine Salmon will surely give you a bang for your buck especially for a smoky low-carb dish! A super-easy way to add some flavorful love to your chunky and healthy seafood meal. You’ll be surprised with how quick and simple this recipe turns your regular night into a fancy dinner!
My in-laws just go head over heels with my super easy smoked recipes whenever they visit during the weekends. What caught their attention the most is the flavor-filled salmon recipe that’s just brimming with flavor. They always ask me how my fish is perfectly cooked yet remains perfectly moist.
Since I love my in-laws so much, I shared my secret! “It’s all in the brine”, I said. Of course, I also share my recipe with you because I also want you to impress your in-laws. No hassle, no fuss, and most importantly, no complicated steps!
Just like beef, pork, and poultry, seafood also brines well especially with the right juices, herbs, and spices. The flavor often depends on your preference.
Let’s Make it Easy – the basic recipe for a brine is 1 tablespoon of salt per 1 cup of water.
The main purpose of brining is to infuse our desired flavors in the meat. Aside from that, it also helps the meat retain its moisture as it cooks in an oven, smoker, or fryer. Talk about hitting two birds with one stone; or in this case, catching two fishes in one line!
Best Brining Method
Before I get into the specifics of my salmon brine, I want to show you the different methods of brining. Bear with me because it’s really important especially if you want to get value for your money.
Best for Low and Slow Cooking – This is one of the most popular brining methods for meats and in this case – fish! It involves submerging the meats in a solution made from salt, sugar water, spices, and other ingredients.
Average Brining Time – 8-10 hours depending on the size of the fish and ingredients used.
Do you know what I love about this method? It’s that it evenly brines the whole salmon and keeps a lot of the moisture which is great for smoking!
Dry Brine (My Favorite)
Best for Quick Smoking, Baking, and Frying – I personally use this method for my smoked salmon. It’s super easy and involves directly rubbing dry ingredients to the surface of the meat. Amazingly, it uses its own moisture to flavor it internally.
Average Brining Time – 6-8 hours in a fridge, sealed in a zip lock bag or cling wrap. DO NOT FREEZE!
In this method, the salt draws out the moisture from the meat that is then flavored at the surface. The moisture then re-enters the meat which flavors the whole dish. Although it takes a while to take effect, it tenderizes the meat as the process takes place.
The ingredients for a dry brine for salmon is quite simple, any kitchen would probably have these ingredients. if you don’t have it yet, I’m sure it’s readily available in your local grocery store. Here’s everything you need to create a seriously flavorful brine.
- Salt – the key ingredient for brining that draws out the water from the meat. Kosher salt would do this job perfectly but regular rock salt works fine too.
- Brown Sugar – What I like about this ingredient is that it doesn’t dry out the meat too much. The presence of salt already takes away the moisture of the meat so regular sugar will only heighten the effect. Brown sugar already has moisture so it only adds flavor and takes little to no moisture at all!
- Thyme – using fresh herbs for this recipe is great but dried ones also work fine. I’m actually using dried thyme for this recipe because it has a longer shelf life.
- Onion Powder – this dried seasoning distributes the rich onion flavor evenly throughout the meat. Using it in a brine gives the fish a sweet and aromatic internal flavor
- Pepper – What’s salt without pepper right? Add a kick of heat to your smoked fish brine with this simple ingredient.
- Lemon Zest – Give your dish a refreshing zing with bits of lemon zest! No, not lemon juice, just the zest! I’ll tell you why in a bit.
Variations and Ingredient substitution
You can’t find some ingredient from where you are? No worries! I have the answer to your problem. Here’s a list of substitutes you can use in case you’re having trouble looking for the ingredients above.
- Brown Sugar Substitute – to have the same effects in flavor try white table sugar instead. Just adjust the amount accordingly so that it doesn’t dry out the meat
- Onion Powder Substitute – No onion powder? Try using onion salt. I just have to warn you that this replaces part of the original salt requirement for your recipe. so if you’re using 1 tablespoon of onion salt, remove the same amount of regular salt from the recipe.
- Thyme Substitute – Don’t be afraid to mix and match with herbs relative to this recipe. Dried oregano, basil, or even rosemary can substitute for thyme as they’re in the same herb family.
Easy Seafood Recipes to Look Out For
How to Brine Salmon
- Mix Ingredients – take the salt, brown sugar, thyme, onion powder, pepper, and lemon zest and mix in a small bowl mix together until everything is evenly incorporated.
- Cut – Take your salmon cut and place it skin side down.
- Rub – Rub the mixture on all the exposed meat parts of the salmon
- Wrap – Place the salmon on a dish and cover it with cling wrap to trap any moisture that might escape.
- Marinate – Give it around 6-8 hours for all the flavors and moisture to resettle back to the meat.
- Prep – Rinse off any salt or dry rub mixture to avoid overpowering flavors.
- Finito! Now your salmon is ready for smoking.
How to Brine Salmon
- 1/4 cup salt
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 2 teaspoons celery seeds
- 2 teaspoons white pepper
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- 1-2 teaspoons lemon zest (optional)
- In a small bowl mix together all the ingredients until everything is evenly incorporated.
- Take your salmon cut and place it skin side down.
- Rub the mixture on all the exposed meat parts of the salmon
- Place the salmon on a dish and lover it with cling wrap to trap any moisture that might escape.
- Give it around 6-8 hours for all the flavors and moisture to resettle back to the meat.
- Rinse off any salt or dry rub mixture to avoid overpowering flavors.
- Now your salmon is ready for smoking.
Tips & Notes:
- Never reuse a brine solution – Say you’re hosting a party and your guests are really into smoked salmon. I suggest you prepare a lot of brine because you can’t reuse brines even for other meats. the potentially harmful bacteria that’s been drawn out from the meat or fish gets suspended in the brine.
- Brining for smoked salmon? I’d keep the skin on if I were you. This keeps the whole fish together while smoking and it’s also easier to move around this way.
- If you’re dry brining salmon. I’d pretty much steer away from the lemon juice. Its high level of acidity pre-cooks the meat which can make it a bit hard and sometimes rubbery. This can also dry out the meat. Use lemon zest instead for a zingier burst of flavor.