Comparison of Salmon curing methods

Discussion in 'Fish' started by wade, Nov 4, 2014.

  1. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Sorry - am a bit distracted at the moment. Father went into hospital with a heart problem. I am hoping to collate the results and post very soon when I get back home. It may take a couple of days though.

    In the meantime here are the final comparative weight losses...
    BatchCure typeInitial
    weight g
    frozen g
    cure g
     Cure %
    Final %
    1Dave Omak700  751  -7.29  723-3.29
    2101 Wet brine881  891  -1.14  8810.00
    3101 Dry brine861843727  15.56  72515.80
    42:1 2 hours838  786  6.21  7718.00
    52:1 2 hours870853802  7.82  78010.34
    64:1 2 hours843  790  6.29  7728.42
    74:1 2 hours905882828  8.51  80111.49
    82:1 4 hours924  828  10.39  80512.88
    94:1 4 hours896  802  10.49  77413.62

    Even after such a relatively short period of time the dry brines resulted in significant water loss which would have a good preservative effect on the salmon.

    The 101 dry brine had actually reached a moisture reduction that is usually associated with fully cured traditional smoked salmon

    The two wet brines resulted in either no moisture loss during the curing process or even a slight gain.

    From the chart you can also see just how much moisture is lost during the smoking process in quite a short period of time as a result of the air flow across the fish in the smoker.

    Apologies once again for the delay in posting the taste results.
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2014
  2. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Take care of your father.... Prayers are with him....
  3. h2so4ca

    h2so4ca Meat Mopper

    I'm sorry to read about your father. Take care of him and your self. Those are the important things. 
  4. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    The results are in... Sorry for the delay

    We had a grand taste-in where all of the salmon cure types were cooked in an identical way 180 C (350 F) for 14 minutes. These were then laid out and the tasting panel were asked to rate all batches for the following:
    • Texture - from 1-10, where 1 is worse and 10 is best
    • Saltiness - from 1-10 where 1 is less salty and 10 is more salty. Ideal saltiness was to be rated as 5
    • Flavour - From 1-10 where 1 had the least flavour and 10 had the most.
    • Other comments if applicable
    I did also add in a 10th sample which was from the freezer which was Sugar:Salt 1:1 dry brine for 2 hours. Unfortunately I dont have cure weight loss data for this sample. 

    Each taster was encouraged to taste the batches in a random order and also to taste as much as they needed in order to rate then. When complete the score sheets were then collected and the ratings for each section averaged and rounded to the nearest whole number. The results are as follows...


    All of the textures were deemed to be good and there was little to choose between them. There was a marked physical difference between the textures of the wet brined fillets compared with the dried brine, however both of these textures were deemed to be good. There was some spread of data however the differences in average scores between 6 and 7 were often as a result of rounding.


    Salt tolerance is a very individual thing and there was quite a bit of spread in the data. What we are testing here though is the relative perception of the saltiness and not the actual salt content. This will have been affected both by the moisture content of the salmon and also its relative sweetness


    The flavour of each was determined by the balance of texture, salt and sweetness. Each sample also had a good smoke flavour.

    Both of the wet brines came out well (average or above) however the lower sugar dry brines seemed to have a better balanced flavour than the higher sugar dry brines. Howeverthis may be influenced by food culture, as the US pallet tends to have a greater preference for sweeter foods than the UK pallet.


    Most just ticked the comment box however there were some comments left beside certain batches.

    1 - Dave Omak wet brine - "Good flavour and nice texture"

    3 - Smoking 101 Dry brine - "Much too sweet!", "Almost sickly", "I think the cats will get most of this one"

    4 - 2:1 Dry brine - 2 hours (fresh) - "A little sweet"

    6 - 4:1 Dry brine - 2 hours (fresh) - "A little sweet"

    8 - 2:1 Dry brine - 4 hours (fresh) - "Too sweet"

    10 - 1:1 Dry brine - 2 hours - "Best overall balanced flavour"

    I must concur with the comment on batch 3. It was unpleasantly sweet.


    Frankly I was surprised how well all (bar one) of the curing methods fared and how generally similar they all were. Most of the cures though resulted in fish that was deemed to be too sweet - although still edible. Most of these recipes were from American posts and so the sweeter preferences may be cultural.

    The Smoking 101 dry brine salmon was unpleasantly sweet even after the specified 14 hours. It was suggested that you could leave the salmon in the brine for days (or even weeks) but I think this would have only made it taste even sweeter.

    If you like a slightly wetter textured fish then Dave Omaks cure fared well in all of the categories and I enjoyed eating it. The prolonged smoking that Dave then uses to hot smoke the finished product would likely reduce the moisture content further and result in a firmer end texture.

    In general the lower the Sugar:Salt ratio the better the end balance of flavour reported. The 1:1 ratio cured for 2 hours was given the best flavour rating - however this had been cured a month or so ago and had been subsequently frozen. It is possible that the freezing process may have had an additional effect on the flavours. This was my favourite too.

    There was a major difference in the texture of the fish immediately following the cure. The wet brines resulted in a significantly softer texture than the dry brines however these did firm up a little through moisture loss during smoking - however they never reached the firmer textures of the dry cured fish.

    Freezing the fish prior to curing resulted in a consistent additional ~2% greater moisture loss than the fresh cured fillet. If you are looking to produce a traditionally cold smoked salmon then freezing prior to curing would assist the process.

    I hope some of you found this comparison interesting and informative. I certainly have.

    natej and driedstick like this.
  5. driedstick

    driedstick Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Wade thanks for the info, guy just dropped by 2 steelhead to me to smoke he just caught, but the outfitter froze it for him. I wish they could have been fresh, and they just cleaned them no fillets - I will have to give the 4-1 a shot I think on one of them . 

    Thanks again great post!!![​IMG]

  6. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Thanks DS
  7. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Thanks for the thoughts guys. I really appreciate them. Dad has now had a defibrillator fitted and is out of hospital - grouching about not being able to play golf for 6 weeks! LOL
  8. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Wade..... Good luck figuring out how to composite the methods, to achieve the perfect fish.... Will you let us in on the method you devise....

  9. dcarch

    dcarch Smoking Fanatic

    I am sorry if I have not ready this thread carefully.

    Is the purpose to taste salt penetration only?

    If you, may I suggest one additional test?

    Get a volt/ohm meter and test for electrical conductance (in ohms)

    Salt conducts electricity. I wonder if that is another way to confirm taste test.

  10. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Hi dcarch

    I was originally looking to see if there was a scientific way of measuring the salt content but in the end I concluded that this would add little value. Salt tolerance is such a personal thing that is also relative to other factors. What I find ideal saltiness my wife finds unpleasant and over seasoned. I therefore thought it would provide a better indication if people simply rated the batches relative to their personal ideal.

    You are right though it would be a good exercise in future to determine precise salt content, however I would probably do that by having fewer samples and then have them analysed at a local food lab.
  11. brayhaven

    brayhaven Fire Starter

    Conductance doesn't necessarily give the saltiness from a taste perspective. Other flavors can offset the salt taste. The way you did it is best IMO. The low salt of Dave's wet brine could be from the apparently lower concentration of salt (1:20 by weight). Haven't done the weight ratio of the volume recipes to see what that ratio would be but I doubt any are that dilute. I did a dry brine 4:1 sugar salt yesterday 2 hr and then soaked in water 30 min. Good taste and not salty. I'll try Dave's wet next. But I'm getting there. Appreciate all your work here!
  12. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Greg, morning.... It's a very simple recipe..... 2% salt and sugar by weight..... that is the weight of the fish and water... equilibrium brining... ALWAYS comes out the same.... even I can't screw it up... Some folks like the salt at 2.5% but I can taste it at that concentration..

  13. brayhaven

    brayhaven Fire Starter

    Hi Dave. Yes that's a much lower salt ratio. The other wet one (101) had 8:1 water/salt (volume) which is even higher by weight due to salt being denser than water. I tried the other wet brines and they were too salty. Am brining a few hunks of prev frozen salmon now to try tomorrow with the lower salt concentration. Looking for a simple consistent method. I think you can vary the sugar type & amount to your taste without a problem. Thanks for your help here.
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2014
  14. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    An observation on Dave's salmon after the cure that I didn't really include in the main summary. When it came out of the cure it really worried me as it looked quite bloated and pale. After sitting overnight in the fridge though it started to look much firmer and started to develop a nice pink colour. I left a couple of the uncooked fillets in the fridge for several days after the tasting session and they really developed a magnificent colour. I know that being pale initially isn't an issue as the way Dave smokes them they develop a lovely colour from the smoker, however it probably shows the developing effect of the nitrite over time.
  15. smokewood

    smokewood Smoking Fanatic Group Lead

    That's a fantastic bit of research Wade, I appreciate you taking the time (and expense) in carrying out a very thorough analysis.
  16. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Thanks Smokewood
  17. brayhaven

    brayhaven Fire Starter

    Question for wade & Dave. What type nitrite additive did you use ? Cure#2? Why not nitrate? Does it affect flavor?
    Thanks. Greg
  18. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Hi Brahaven

    Because Dave was so precise in his recipe I used pure food grade Sodium Nitrite with the salmon in order to reproduce it as closely as possible.

    The use of mixed Nitrate and Nitrite are more common in the US than they are in Europe. Here we more often use Nitrite alone as the preservative as it is this that inhibits the growth of the Clostridium Botulinum. The addition of Nitrate is used in some areas as Nitrate over a period of time is converted to Nitrite.

    Although we can buy Cure#2 over here it is more common to buy the branded cures from the sausage manufacture/supply companies. They are very similar (if not identical) to Cure#2 however by doing this we can guarantee that it conforms to EU regulations - and it also tends to work out less expensive.
  19. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Bray, morning.... Cure #2 is intended for meat that will not be cooked...

    I suggested nitrite, and provided the weight in grams in Wade's recipe, because I did not know if they had a substitute for cure #1 in GB, and if they did, I did not know the percentage of nitrite it would have in it....
    From what I gather, while reading folks questions and answers, the majority of the world does not expect it citizens to cure their own meats, therefore, there are no commercially available "home packaged" curing products for retail sales.... And, considering how poisonous nitrite is, I suspect it is only available to those who have some sort of business license..
    I normally use cure #1... 6.25% nitrite in salt.... or 0.75% nitrite in a mix I get from my meat guy for curing bacon...
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2014
  20. brayhaven

    brayhaven Fire Starter

    "The addition of Nitrate is used in some areas as Nitrate over a period of time is converted to Nitrite"

    Hmm was thinking it was the other way around.. :eek:)


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