Smoked Salmon tips


Based on a recipe from Jan Birnbaum, Chef at the Campton Place, San Francisco, published in Julia Child: Cooking with Master Chefs.


This recipe is for 18 to 24 oz centre cut salmon fillet.  I usually at least double the brine recipe to ensure the fillet is completely covered. The recipe calls for 1 hour brining, but I’ve overdone the time without damage. If you plan to leave the fish soaking for more than a couple of hours, you might want to reduce the amount of salt by a third.


  1. Brining the Salmon:  Measure the following ingredients into a blender or bowl and blend thoroughly.¼ medium Spanish onion, peeled and roughly chopped

    ½ cup Kosher salt

    1 bay leaf, crushed

    6 cloves garlic, smashed

    ¼ cup white vinegar

    6-8 black peppercorns, crushed

    2 cups cold water

    Pour the brine into a roasting pan large enough to hold the salmon. Lay the salmon in the pan, skin side down, so the fish is submerged, otherwise baste or flip it.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.  Remove the salmon from the liquid and dry thoroughly in paper towels (otherwise it will steam rather than smoke).  Brush lightly with olive oil and place it skin side down on a plate and strew the top with bruised herbs – one bunch (about 20 sprigs) of chervil and one bunch of fresh tarragon.  Thyme and rosemary are also goodMeasure the following ingredients into a blender or bowl and blend thoroughly.Measure the following ingredients into a blender or bowl and blend thoroughly.

Note: For the best, and nicest looking results, the fish should be given time to form a light crust (pellicle) to give it a shiny finish, and also to give the smoke a surface to adhere to. I’ve found it easiest, once the fish is patted dry, to set it uncovered in the fridge for 4+ hour or overnight. The fan in the fridge provides gentle air circulation to form the pellicle. If you’re rushed, this step can be omitted.

  1. The Smoking: Fire up the smoker according to directions (I think the barbecue should be around 250-275° F), get wood chips smoking.  I think hickory or apple chips seem to give the best flavour.  When ready, lay the salmon skin side down on the rack furthest from heat source. (If you have a large quantity of herbs available, lay out a bed of those and put the salmon on top – in summer I usually have a surfeit of tarragon or rosemary, so use those.) Close the cover and smoke to the doneness you prefer.  Timing depends on the heat of the smoker – cooler and longer is better.  Medium rare seems best.  Press with your finger or flake to test.  Set on a bowl of ice cubes to cool if desired.