Smoking-Meat.com is supported by its readers. We may earn an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you if you buy through a link on this page.
Read this article without ads
This smoked salmon 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 for the dry brining/marinating process as it contains 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.
- 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
- 2-3 lb filet of salmon
- ~2 cups Jeff's original rub
- ¾ cup Real Maple syrup
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.
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.
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.
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.
Now we are ready to dry brine the fish with my original 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. Juices 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 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.
Add the salmon pieces by laying them gently on top of the layer of rub.
Add another layer of rub.
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.
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..
The fish is very firm and smells wonderful.
Update 9/20/2023: I used to recommend rinsing off the liquid/rub once it's done its job in the bowl, but nowadays, I like to leave it. It doesn't seem to hurt a thing and you end up with even more flavor.
Instead just place the brined fish on paper towels for a few minutes to drain off the brining juices.
Lay the dry brined fish onto a pan with a rack for the drying process.
In the images below, I am using a Bradley rack however, these are often hard to find, and unless you have a Bradley smoker, you'll have to opt for a different rack.
Some folks dry the fish on the counter, but for safety, 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.
After drying the fish and allowing the pellicle to form, they are ready to smoke.
This is a great task to get done while the fish are in the last hour or so of drying.
Late fall and winter are great times 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.
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 overly 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)
2 hours at 140°F (60°C)
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.
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.
- ¾ cup of Maple Syrup
- 2 TBS of Jeff's original rub
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.
What a great snack this is!
Smoked Salmon Candy
- 2 lb filet of salmon
- 1.5 cups Jeff's original rub
- ¾ cup real maple syrup
- 2 tbsp Jeff's original rub
- Rinse the salmon under cold water, then place the salmon on a cutting board and slice the fish (width-wise) into 1 inch wide pieces.
- Slide a sharp knife at a slight angle between the skin and flesh of each piece to remove the skin.
- Rinse the fish under cold water to remove scales.
- Place a layer of rub on the bottom of a plastic or glass bowl. Place the fish onto the rub then sprinkle another layer of rub onto the top of the fish pieces. If you have more fish, lay another layer of fish on top of the first, then add more rub on top of that layer.
- Place a lid on the container and place in the fridge for 8-12 hours or overnight.
- Lay on paper towels to drain off most of the brining juices.
- Place the salmon on a pan with a rack 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.
- Set up your smoker for cooking at about 120°F (49°C) using indirect heat. If your smoker uses a water pan, it is best to leave it dry.
- Once the smoker is ready, place the salmon pieces directly on smoker grate and smoke cook for 2 hours.
- Mix together ¾ cup of maple syrup with 2 TBS of Jeff's original rub to create a glaze. Brush the glaze on the salmon pieces every hour while they are in the smoker.
- Increase the heat to 140°F (60°C) and continue to cook the salmon pieces for 2 more hours.
- Increase the heat to 160°F (71°C) and continue to cook the salmon until it has reached the desired dryness/texture.
- Enjoy your smoked salmon candy!