Sugar Free Smoked Salmon Recipe

For good reason, smoked Salmon is a staple around our house.  It’s great to snack on, cook with and even eat as a main dish.  We love it, but aren’t necessarily interested in all the sugar that most recipes rely on.

About a year ago I set out to see if smoked Salmon could be done without sugar of any kind.  No honey, maple syrup, sugar, nothing.  It seems simple enough, but the thought of smoked salmon without any sweetness doesn’t even sound right, so I started out very pessimistically to say the least.

I was pleasantly surprised enough with the first batch that I new that we were only a few minor adjustments away from something we could enjoy.  The recipe has turned out to be very simple with only a few ingredients, but it’s turned into something that the family can enjoy very regularly.

Before I get too far down the road, the desired saltiness is something that you might need to adjust.  As I mentioned, the goal in developing this recipe was to create a smoked fish that could be used in any situation and so it’s salted like you would salt a piece of non smoked fish at the table.  The result when using a brine, however, allows for a more consistent saturation of the seasoning throughout the meat which lends itself to a richer taste bud experience.  Make notes on your recipe sheet and keep track of your ratios to fine tune the results as you and your family would like.

This recipe is based on 5 pounds of Salmon or Steelhead.  Start with an appropriate sized dish and add 2 quarts of cold filtered water (no I don’t like chlorine with my fish ;-).  Add 1/2 tablespoon of onion powder and a half tablespoon of garlic powder.  Finally, add 1/3 cup of sea salt or earth salt and agitate well.  Add the fish, agitate some more and place in the fridge.  If space is a problem, I’ve often just cleared out a produce drawer and brined the fish in it.  It’s a great way to save space!  Brine the fish between 8-12 hours.  Remove and rinse the portions well.

Trying to explain everyone’s smoker and thus the duration required for your fish would be a little difficult, but I’ll share with you what works for us.  We typically smoke with a pellet fired grill and are able to do most of our fish in between 4-6 hours.  Summer, winter, humidity, etc. all effect smoking times.  Keep an eye on it and whatever you do, don’t over cook your fish.  An internal temperature of 140 F is all the further you need to take it.  For increased humidity in the smoker, you might add a bowl water.  The convection of a pellet fired grill can really dry things out and I prefer to still have some moisture left in the fish when it’s all said and done.

Of course when you remove your fish, you must enjoy at least a little taste, but to finish it off, several hours in the fridge is a must.  This recipe is certainly simple enough to add a variety of ingredients.  Have fun with it and let me know what you’ve added to the recipe to make it even tastier.

Lance Fisher is a professional fishing guide, outdoor writer and radio show host in the Northwest.  To stay in touch with Lance, feel free to connect with him on on his facebook homepage.