Brine for Grilled, Sautéed, or Hot-Smoked Salmon

Rate this recipe

Preparation info

  • Makes About

    3 Quarts

    • Difficulty


Appears in

Simply Salmon

Simply Salmon

By James Peterson

Published 2001

  • About

This recipe makes enough brine to cure two whole salmon fillets. How much brine you need will depend on if you leave the fillets (or steaks) whole or cut them into pieces and on the shape of your container. Look for a non-reactive container that fits the salmon as closely as possible so that you need less brine. If you want to figure out in advance how much brine you need to make, arrange the fish in the container, pour in enough water to cover, and then measure the water.


  • 4 cups salt
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 10 cups water


Combine everything in a non-reactive pot and bring to a simmer. Stir to dissolve the salt and sugar. Let cool at room temperature for an hour and then refrigerate until well chilled.

Brining Salmon for Grilling, Sautéing, or Hot-Smoking

Soak thick salmon steaks or fillets in the cold brine in the refrigerator for 2 hours. Soak thinner fillets or escalopes for only 1 hour or they’ll end up too salty. Drain and pat dry before grilling, sautéing, or hot smoking. Salmon that has been soaked in brine doesn’t need any salt. The flesh will also stay more moist—even if you overcook it a little—and the salmon will be less likely to stick to the grill or sauté pan.

Dry-curing Salmon Fillets for Gravlox and Gold-Smoking

Because gravlox and cold-smoked salmon are never cooked, you have to cure them more than salmon you’re going to grill, sauté, or hot-smoke. Instead of using brine, dry-curing involves coating salmon fillets with varying amounts of coarse salt and sugar for different lengths of time. Gravlox—Scandinavian-style cured salmon—is also cured with dill, but chefs today often replace it with another herb, such as tarragon (see also Cold-Smoked Salmon).