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Smoked Salmon Candy

Smoked Salmon Candy

This smoked salmon candy also called “indian candy” was, at one time, a staple food while traveling away from home where cooking was difficult or near impossible.

The texture ranges from moist and tender to slightly dry and chewy depending on how long you cook it and you will just have to decide exactly how you like it best.

Update: When I first produced this recipe a few years ago, I had reports that it was too salty for some. I have completely reworked this recipe to ensure that the process is straight forward and much easier to follow. I have also modified the recipe to NOT use extra salt. It uses only my original rub (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub for the dry brining/marinating process as it contains very minimal salt.

If you find that it needs more salt for your taste, feel free to amend the ingredients to include kosher salt but I urge you to be careful as it can get overly salty really fast. Also keep good notes on how much you add so you can adjust as necessary.

Important Information
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Brine Time: 12 hours or overnight
  • Cook Time: 6 hours
  • Smoker Temp: 120/140/160°F (49/60/71°C)
  • Meat Finish Temp: 145°F (63°C)
  • Recommended Wood: Apple or Alder

What You'll Need

Slice and Remove the Skin

If you have access to fresh, wild salmon then I highly recommend that you use that. You can also use store-bought but you can't expect the same quality and flavor as fresh, wild-caught salmon. I've had both and you can tell the difference. My point is to use the best thing you can get your hands on within your budget and means.

The first thing I do with salmon is to give it a good rinse with cold water and then pat it dry with a paper towel.

Lay it on the cutting board skin side down.

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You can cut this as wide as you want and to any size that you want. I chose to go with about 1 inch slices.

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Some folks skin the fish before they slice it but I have found that it is easier to remove the skin from smaller pieces.

Use a sharp knife and with the fish slices laying skin side down, glide the blade between the meat and the skin to separate the two.

My method is to get it started on the thick end then when I have enough to get ahold of, I hold it with the thumb of my left hand (I am right handed) while I glide the blade, angled slightly downward, away from me.

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Removing the skin will cause stray scales to end up on the meat of the fish and I like to give it another rinse under cold water to remove anything unwanted.

As you rinse them, pile them on a paper towel to drain.

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Dry Brine the Salmon

Now we are ready to dry brine the fish with my original rub (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub).

What is dry brining?

In it's most basic terms, dry brining is the act of sprinkling salt (kosher salt is best) on meat. Water from the meat is attracted to the salt and is brought to the surface to meet the salt. The water mixes with the salt and is then reabsorbed back into the meat.

Even though my rub is very low in salt, it is enough to do the job on this fish. The salt in the rub pulls the moisture to the surface where it mixes with the rub and then that flavorful slurry is reabsorbed back into the meat. It's like injecting flavor into the meat except a whole lot better!

To start, I pour enough of the original rub (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub) to create a layer on the bottom of the brining bowl. For this 3 pound salmon, I used a bowl that was about 5″ x 8″ and about 5″ deep with a lid.

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Add the salmon pieces by laying them gently on top of the layer of rub.

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Add another layer of rub.

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With every layer, add more rub.

Place a lid on the container and place the fish in the fridge overnight or for 8-12 hours while it brines.

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After about 4 hours, you will notice that liquid slurry in the bottom of the bowl, and you may want to stir the fish around a little to make sure it is well coated.

Here is the fish after 12 hours in the fridge..

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The fish is very firm and smells wonderful.

Rinse the fish under cold water and try to get off as much of the rub as possible. The flavors have already done their job and what is left is not needed. Besides, it's important that the fish is very dry when the smoking begins and we'll add more rub and some maple syrup to the fish toward the end of the process.

Dry the Salmon to Form a Pellicle

Lay the rinsed fish onto a rack for the drying process. I use a second rack over the top so I don't have to worry about anything falling onto the fish in the fridge.

Bradley racks are sometimes hard to find online unless you own a Bradley smoker.. I recommend this pan and rack instead if you're looking for something like this to use.

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Just a tip: Use wire bread ties to connect the two racks together.

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Some folks dry the fish on the counter but I am a safety nut and I prefer to dry it in the fridge.

Why dry the fish?

Salmon have a white protein called albumin and this stuff will ooze out of the fish as it cooks. The albumin also serves to keep the fish more moist while it cooks.

By allowing the fish to dry, it forms a skin called a pellicle which helps to prevent the white albumin from cooking out.

I recommend drying for 2-4 hours if possible. The fish will become tacky and get a translucent look as it dries.

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After drying the fish and allowing the pellicle to form they are ready to smoke.

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Getting the Smoker Ready

This is a great task to get done while the fish are in the last hour or so of drying.

Winter is a great time to smoke fish since it is normally smoked at lower temperatures anyway and if your smoker has a hard time maintaining normal smoking temperatures of 225°F (107°C), well then, you are in luck because you only need about 120-160°F to get the job done on this smoked salmon candy.

Start the smoker out at about 120°F (49°C) and once it is holding steady, the fish are ready to smoke.

Smoking the Salmon Candy

Place the salmon candy into the smoker. If you are using racks then just lay it on the grate or you can lay the fish directly on the smoker grate. You might consider brushing a little olive oil onto the bottom of the fish pieces just before placing them on the grate to prevent any sticking.

I recommend using apple or alder wood and keep the smoke going the entire time.

Depending on how thick your pieces are cut and how dry you want the smoked salmon candy to be will determine the length of time that it spends in the smoker so you will have to do a little bit of testing after 3-4 hours of time.

Write down how long it took and you'll know next time what to expect.

My fish was about 1 inch thick and I like it pretty dry but not so dry that it becomes chewy. I maintained the following temperatures in my smoker and it took 6 hours to become smoked salmon candy perfection:

2 hours at 120°F (49°C)

then..

2 hours at 140°F (60°C)

then..

2 hours at 160°F (71°C)

If your smoker will not cook lower than 160°F (71°C) then just set it on the lowest setting possible knowing that it will get done sooner than mine did.. probably at least an hour or two sooner.

The Glazing

This important step is what helps to make the smoked salmon candy sweet and gives it that nice sweet and spicy layer on the outside.

Mix the 2 ingredients together well and brush onto the salmon every hour starting at the 1 hour mark. Depending on how much salmon you make and how generous you are with it, you may need to make another batch.

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Finishing the Smoked Salmon Candy

What a great snack this is!

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Printable Recipe

Smoked Salmon Candy
Print Recipe
3.62 from 13 votes

Smoked Salmon Candy

Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time6 hrs
Servings: 6

Ingredients

  • 2-3 lb filet of salmon
  • 2 cups Jeff's original rub
  • 3/4 cup Real Maple syrup

Instructions

  • Rinse salmon with cold water
  • On a cutting board, slice across the fish into 1 inch wide pieces
  • Remove skin using a sharp knife
  • Rinse fish under cold water to remove scales
  • Place a layer of rub into a plastic or glass bowl.
  • Place the fish onto the rub.
  • Sprinkle a layer of rub onto the top of the fish pieces.
  • If you need to double-stack the fish, place another layer of rub then more fish.
  • Finish this layer with a layer of rub on top.
  • Place a lid on the container and place in the fridge for 8-12 hours or overnight.
  • Rinse the rub from the fish using cold water and lay on paper towel to drain.
  • Place the salmon on a Bradley rack or similar with at least ½ inch between pieces.
  • Place rack in fridge for 3-4 hours to allow the fish to dry and form a pellicle.
  • Setup smoker for cooking at about 120°F (49°C)
  • Place salmon pieces directly on smoker grate for 2 hours.
  • Increase heat to 140°F (60°C)
  • Continue to cook salmon for 2 hours
  • Increase heat to 160°F (71°C)
  • Continue to cook salmon until it has reached the desired dryness/texture
  • Mix together ¾ cup of maple syrup with 2 TBS of Jeff's rub to create a glaze.
  • Brush the glaze on the salmon pieces every hour while they are in the smoker

Order Jeff’s Rubs and Barbecue Sauce TODAY!

✅ My rubs and sauce will be the best thing you’ve ever tasted and it’s a great way to support what we do!

Note: You can also order the formulas for my rubs and sauce and make these yourself at home. Grab those HERE and download immediately.

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38 Comments

  1. so i tired this recipe for the first time. The rub never turned into a liquid slurry, it did get wet looking so you could tell it was pulling moisture from the salmon. I can’t help but wonder what went wrong, not enough salt, something wrong with the salmon, is it still safe to continue on?

    Any thoughts would be appreciated.

  2. 4 stars
    I am going to make this recipe once our weather warms up. I love smoking salmon and finishing with just a glaze of maple syrup. I also use a Carolina Spice rub recipe where I can adjust the salt to my liking. Sorry, but I was raised to go easy on the salt. I do love all your recipes and instructional material. This recipe intrigues me, so I will definitely try it.

    1. Laurie, sounds great!

      You and I are on the same page.. salt is WAY overused in most barbecue rubs today. I created my own rubs so I could drastically reduce the salt without losing any flavor.

  3. 4 stars
    One thing I’d recommend is removing the skin before cutting into slices. So much easier to fillet a big piece than tiny pieces.

    1. This is mostly personal preference but I look for the outside to be dry and the inside to be just a slight bit chewy. Sort of like thick jerky but not as tough as beef.

  4. 5 stars
    I have purchased Jeff dry rubs and I use them all the time, I can’t find anything better! It has the best taste an my family just loves it! So don’t be afraid not to try it! It’s the best!

  5. 5 stars
    Since the updated dry brining version, Jeff’s recipe is great! This is the fourth batch that I have made for my family by their request and it never lasts more than a day between the five of us. Have a batch in the MES (Works great for ultra-low temps) with a DIY smoke tube right now!

  6. Jeff, I am looking for a smoker that it’s very dependable it works great in cold climates. What smoker would you recommend to do a good job when it’s cold outside. Thank you Eric

    1. Get yourself a welding blanket, wrap your smoker. Unbelievable heat holder and fire retardant. I habe been using one now for 2-3years.

  7. Do you have any tips for the amount of charcoal to start with & maintaining this low temp in a Weber smokey mountain smoker?

  8. 5 stars
    Everybody I’ve made this for has thought it was amazing. I did cut down a little on the salt used for brining and that made a big difference. Other than that it is an awesome recipe.

    1. The (2) recipes that I sell on the website and in the newsletter are not included in the book. We have opted to keep them separate since so many people have purchased them prior to the book being published.

      Please let me know if you have further questions about the book or the recipes.

      Have a great day!

  9. 1 star
    Jeff
    As someone else said very very salty. I have to agree. I followed your recipe and steps to a T. The salmon came out very very salty. Will brush my maple syrop sauce once the peices have cooled but am thinking it might to garbage. Good thing I only made 5lbs up. $12.00 per pound still a tad pricey but live and learn. Next batch I will cut the salt in half.

    CHEERS

    Lorne

  10. Tried this recipe again this weekend using the alternate method and actually cut that salt amount in half. Came out perfect. For those on a low salt diet, this was the way to go. Made half the batch in candy and the other half just regular smoked salmon. Will do this one again, thanks for sharing all your recipes.

  11. Came out too salty for our taste. My “light layer of kosher salt” was probably too much salt, although it looked exact to the pictures. Texture of the fish and the smoke was perfect. The “candy” coating was great. I’ll try the “alternate method” next time and only add the specific amount of salt to the rub to be able to measure/monitor the salt amount added. Used an electric smoker which had no temperature control, so lifted the lid/opened the door to keep temps lower during the first part of the process. Thanks for the recipe. Everything is a new experiment. Thanks for the website, appreciate all the recipes. And, your rub is great!

    1. No.. curing is a totally different thing using curing agents such as pink salts, tenderquick, etc.. To dry brine you simply coat the outside of meat with regular kosher salt and the liquids are drawn to the surface. They salts and liquids combine and are then drawn back into the meat. It is using the juices in the meat to brine rather than soaking the meat in salt water as you would in wet brining.

      I am not an expert at dry brining but I have been experimenting with it and I really like the results I am getting.

  12. Just made the candy salmon and it came out great! Very yummy!!! Had to tweak things a bit being this was an “experiment” (haven’t smoked fish before). I did use grocery store salmon (little over 1lb) since that’s all we have in South FL. I have a Masterbuilt Pro gas/charcoal smoker, and just use the gas w/ wood chips. Being that it maintains roughly 180 degrees on low, it was finished in about 3 hours (to my liking). Fish was not dried out or chewy. As you would say in the fishing world, “this one’s a keeper!”

  13. Hey Jeff,
    Love your recipes and this smoked salmon will be my next project once the weather gets above 0 degrees here in Minnesota. Thank you also for your email newsletters. As an early adopter (and purchaser) of your recipes, you could do me a favor by eliminating your sales pitches for the same recipes as you promise to do for current purchasers. Whadda you think?
    Smoke on!

  14. I would’ve included a picture but it was all gone before I could get my camera out…need I say more?
    I have some red alder smoked sea salt, grounded it up and sprinkled it on one side of the glazed salmon for the last 2 hours, flavor was fantastic.
    I did not glaze every hour – will try that next time.

  15. Can I smoke the salmon at a higher temp? At these low temps we have a hard time keeping our big smoker going.

  16. Jeff
    Hey – I did an auto save of your new recipe format to my cookbook – it worked! Well, except it did not capture the picture, but everything else was captured well. I am glad that you are adding this feature, it makes it really convenient to add recipes. I am using Paprika for the Mac and iPad. It has an Autosave feature that can be added to Safari or Chrome and it will capture the recipe and sync up with the recipe application. Also, the salmon candy looks great, need to find some fresh salmon now

  17. On the off chance (highly unlikely) there are any leftovers, do these need to be refrigerated. One one hand they have the word candy in there which makes me think not. On the other hand, it is fish which tends to lean towards refrigeration.