Brining Salmon - Tastes Salty

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by pianov, Jun 11, 2014.

  1. I made my first stab at smoking salmon yesterday on my masonry wood-burning smoker. I know most recipes call for overnight brining followed by drying and then cooking with very low heat. Well, I realized that about two hours before we expected to eat dinner - so I compromised. I brined the salmon for one hour and then smoked it for one hour at about 220 degrees F over a very mature fire (barely any smoke). However, I don't think what I did should affect whether the brining resulted in a salty-tasting salmon. My brining solution was five or six cups of water and one cup each of sea salt and brown sugar. I rinsed the fish afterwards fairly thoroughly (I thought) and then smoked it with mustard and Jeff's rub on it. You could tell that there was a very nice flavor there, but it was overwhelmed by the salty taste.  [​IMG]

    Does brining fish cause it to taste like salt? I've brined turkey before and there was no salty taste. If not, how does one brine fish - especially overnight - and then rinse it so that it isn't overwhelmed by a salty taste?


    Terry Farrell

    Tampa Bay, Florida
  2. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Hi Terry!

    Yes brining fish can cause it to taste salty if you use too much salt, or brine some brines too long.

    Below is a link to my Best Salmon Smoke. I made very hard smoked Salmon for snacking, which may not be what you're looking for, but the brine recipe & time in brine should help you out.


    Smoked Salmon  

  3. bluewhisper

    bluewhisper Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Terry, instead of a brine, try just sprinkling it with salt and rubbing that in, then letting it rest for a bit before smoking. I use a salt with some dried dill mixed into it, and a sprinkle of pepper.

    As for the overly salty salmon, maybe you could salvage that by using it to make a dip or spread with some neutral cream cheese.
  4. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    When you sprinkle the salt on the fish, weigh the fish and add 2% salt to it..... Guessing how much salt is not good....
  5. bluewhisper

    bluewhisper Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I haven't weighed it but I would guess the salt is less than 2% and probably less than 1%, just a light sprinkle. I don't want to overwhelm the flavor of the salmon.
  6. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Salmon needs salt..... 2 % is a minor amount....
  7. bluewhisper

    bluewhisper Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I'm trying to visualize it.

    For example, imagine you're starting with a little over two pounds of salmon, basically a kilogram so 1,000 grams.

    Then 2% of that 1,000 would be 20 grams, right? What I don't know is, how big is a 20-gram amount of salt? A generous handful? (*G* and how big is the hand...)

    I suppose it also depends on what you want as a final product. Often I'll simply oven bake that lightly salted version, usually along with fresh lemon, with the intention that we'll eat large portions, and we seldom have leftovers. Sometimes I'll smoke it very lightly for those same large-portion meals. I keep everything mild.

    But sometimes I'll smoke it harder and longer, to start working toward that coppery-reddish-gold color and a firmer texture, firm enough that the cooled finished product will break apart into firm flakes with a fork or knife. That's a more intense product and it's eaten in smaller portions, like flakes on crackers or mixed into a cream cheese spread. That can be much saltier and smokier.

    That's what I love about salmon, there's such a huge range of acceptable outcomes.
  8. cmayna

    cmayna Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member


    What brine recipe did you use?

    Depending on what size cut of fish you are brining will determine how long the brining time should be.
  9. I got the recipe off the internet - not this site - they all seemed similar. Maybe I put too much salt in it.

    I had two filets totaling about three pounds. How do you calculate how much salt to use and how long to brine it?

    Thanks for your response.

  10. cmayna

    cmayna Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member


    Would still like to see the recipe you used.  Was it a wet or dry brine?   My brine is a basic dry one of Dark Brown sugar and non iodized salt with a ratio of 4/1 (sugar/salt).  Also lots of fresh garlic.  If I do a filet, my brine time is typically 7+ hours. Rinse and dry for 2-3 hours.  Smoke for 3+ hours until I reach a IT of 140*.

    Wet brines that many use is very different.  Hopefully someone will chime in with some comments.

  11. My brining solution was five or six cups of water and one cup each of sea salt and brown sugar. So I guess a wet brine. When you say your method is dry, you mean you just sprinkle the salt and sugar directly onto the filet - like you might a rub? And you putting the garlic in there during the brining process? I presume all this goes in the fridge for the 7+ hours - yes? What temp do your smoke at?

    Thanks so much for your input Craig.

  12. edward36

    edward36 Meat Mopper

    Hey Terry,

    When I'm brining salmon, I use 3 tbsp of salt and 4 tbsp of brown sugar for each 4 cups of water. You used about 6 times more concentrated brine, if my calculations don't fail me (1 cup = 16 tbsp, i.e. 16 tbsp of each salt and sugar on 6 cups of water gives you almost 3 tbsp each per cup... that's... wow, almost like brining a fish in the Dead Sea :).

    Now seriously, I suggest to brine lightly, for about 3-4 hours, no longer. Then - smoke for about 45-50 minutes over "young" fire (I like giving it quite a strong smoke kick). If you want the fish a bit drier - go for longer smoke, but not more than 1.5 hours (again, to my taste).

    You can see my results here:

    Hope it helped.


  13. cmayna

    cmayna Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Since I'm not a wet brine expert I can't say too much but will say that putting the water aside, doing equal amount of sugar and salt tells to way too much salt.  If you do a search or go to the fish forum, you will see quite a few of my posts as to when I've smoked Salmon filets, nuggets and jerky.  The garlic is mixed in with the salt and sugar.  I use tons of dry mix.  You will find pics of my fish being prepared.
  14. mdboatbum

    mdboatbum Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Your brine was just too concentrated. The "usual" strength is one cup salt for a gallon of water. You were nearly 3x that.  Even in that short amount of time, the porous flesh of the fish picked up a lot of salt. What would have made a difference is a 30 minute soak in clean water, changing the water every 10 minutes, or as soon as the water starts to taste salty. Not ideal, but you were in a time crunch. 

    In short, a weaker brine for a longer time followed by a "freshening" soak of 60-90 minutes in clean water to reduce the salt. By the way, it may seem silly to add salt by brining only to remove it by soaking, but it's about more than seasoning. It's about denatuning proteins and bringing them to the surface to form the pellicle, which will increase smoke absorption and keep the fish moist.
  15. edward36

    edward36 Meat Mopper

    +1 to that :)

  16. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I gave you this link earlier.

    It tells the ingredients, and how long to brine depending on the thickness of the pieces:

    Click on this:

    Smoked Salmon  


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