85 comments on “A Great Brine and Smoke – Soy Sauce, Brown Sugar and Seasonings for Salmon, Trout and other Fish

  1. thanks for reposting! This inspired me yesterday. I had purchased a sockeye salmon filet and wanted to do something I hadn’t tried before. So, I used your marinade as an inspiration. I also found another marinade that uses honey, with mostly the same other ingredients. I didn’t have brown sugar, but I do have sorgum (sp?) molasses. I adjusted the quantities for the small amount of salmon I was making, marinated it for 1 hour, and placed it on a hot grill (I wanted to use a cedar plank, but realized I didn’t have any left). I set aside some of the marinade to brush on the fish while cooking as well as after taking it off the grill. OH MY! was it ever YUMMY!!

  2. Reblogged this on What's For Dinner? and commented:
    Adjusting the quantities of the ingredients, I used this as a marinade for wild caught sockeye salmon the other day. I also subbed sorgum (sp?) molasses for the brown sugar. Oh boy did it turn out great!

    • Thanks for the reblog, as always Cathy! We got notes that others used molasses in this recipe with good results. Silvers are in now, with lots of fish be caught near the mouth of Resurrection Bay. We went out for a short time yesterday and got a few. Will go out again this week and really give it a go!

  3. I recently got a small smoker and this was the first recipe that I tried in it. After tasting the results, I couldn’t wait to do it again! I have since used this brine on some chicken breasts that have gone through the smoker and the results were equally as good. I’m sold on this becoming my go to brine recipe. Great job!

  4. Hi, fellow salmon fanciers – thank you for the like.: This is fantastic, I used to hot smoke stuff in my wok and now on the barbecue but this goes on my must-have list for future abodes. Now, I must take a look at the rest of your posts… N.

    • The temperature in a typical hot smoker – such as a Big Chief – will range from about 125 degrees F to about 180 degrees F depending on air temperatures, whether it’s in the sun or in shade, and weather or not you insulate it. This is hot enough to thoroughly cook meat, given enough time, and it’s time, more than heat, that you’ll want to pay attention to. At air temperatures from the 60’s on up, I don’t use insulation. At temperatures below 60, I usually wrap my smoker in insulation and have had good success smoking in temperatures as low as the 20’s. As you might imagine, smoking time can vary quite a bit. For the wetter finished product you’re seeking, about 8 hours in the smoker is a good ballpark figure for salmon fillets (but I’ve gone as short as 6 hours when the smoker’s running hot). For smaller trout fillets, the time can be reduced. When you see lots of fat building up on the fillets, take one out and cut through it to assess it’s doneness. Once the fillets are smoked, they’ll last about two weeks in the fridge. Sealed in vacuum pack bags, they’ll last indefinitely in a good manual defrost freezer. Smoking is time consuming, but it’s not difficult, and when you break out your smoked salmon at the next football game or party, your friends will be impressed.

      • Ok, thanks for the input. I thought salmon had to be cooked to a certain temperature in oder to kill bacteria but sounds like the bacteria is killed at the freezing stage so it is not so much a concern at the smoking stage. Correct? I thought I would have to smoke salmon until a certain temperature was reached in the meat (New to smoking…)

        • Correct. Freezing salmon prior to smoking ensures that any parasites will be killed – which is why sushi chefs freeze fish before serving it. The best way to ensure for bacteria-free fish is to get harvested fish on ice as soon as possible and then into the freezer. Make sure you promptly bleed your catch (by cutting its gills), too, for the best possible taste and appearance, and then clean them as soon as you can. (If you didn’t bleed your catch, it will still be OK, but remember to do it next time – it makes a difference.) Keep the salmon cold when brining it – we place our Pyrex brining dishes in the refrigerator. Once the smoking process is going, the fillets will be fine as long as you keep the smoker hot. When the smoking process is finished, package and refrigerate the fillets. Don’t hesitate to drop a line if you have additional questions.

  5. Thanks for the information. I will be smoking two salmon and half a steelhead tomorrow after noon. Again thanks for the information.

  6. I have been trying different recipes for Northern Pike and was intrigued by the use of the soy sauce in this recipe. I mixed it exactly as posted here and smoked at 190 F for a little over 3 hours. The results were nothing short of fantastic. Thanks for a super tasty and easy recipe!

    • Thanks for the question. The total amount of the fillets doesn’t matter, but the smaller the individual fillets, the less time they need in the brine and in the smoker. As a ballpark place to start, reduce the brining time to one to two hours. Then smoke for two to four hours. Check them occasionally while they’re in the smoker. We like our finished product on the moist side, so adjust smoking time to your preference. Good or bad, let us know how they come out! Jack

  7. So I cut the recipe in half, brined them for four hours, and smoked them for about six hours (three pans worth of chips) and they turned out moist and tasty. I have a older little chief smoker and it seems to take a long time for the chips to start smoking is this an issue? Also when drying after brining how do I know when they are to the right point of glaze?

      • Hi Justin. In this recipe, yes. But I have charcoal-smoked salmon and trout on a Weber Grill. Overall, we prefer the way the product comes out when smoked in a smoker with wood chips. JD

    • I’ve noticed that as well – that some of the older Little Chief and Big Chiefs run cooler than the new models. You can buy insulation for them, and it works well to keep the temperature up. The insulation is useful in cool or breezy weather. You do want the smoker to heat up… there are some posts online about this. As for the brined fish, their should be an observable glaze on them that feels slightly sticky. Hope this helped. And glad your trout came out nicely.

  8. I used this with trout. My grandkids and I were eating it right off the smoker. It was great. Opinions on using this for making elk jerkey?

    • Glad you guys enjoyed the recipe, Lori. I’ve never used this brine for elk or deer… But I don’t see why it would work really well. If you try it, let me know. I’d appreciate the feedback. Thanks! Jack

  9. I smoke wild salmon each spring but have not brined it. I will this year, Here is a glaze to try after you have smoked the salmon just brush this on, it is the best
    1 c. (must be real) maple syrup (I like Grade B Amber)
    1-2 tab. finely minced fresh ginger (to taste)
    3 tab. soy sauce
    1 1/2 tsp. minced fresh garlic
    4 tab. fresh lemon juice (add half, taste and add rest to your taste)
    Combine ingredients in a heavy small pot, slowly simmer and reduce by 1/2. Cool. Can be refrigerated a couple of months just return glaze to room temp. before using..

    • Thanks for the tip. One of the beauties of the brining recipe is that it is adaptable and versatile. Many will prefer their smoked fish without an additional glaze, but for those who want to add an extra twist…

  10. For over 40 years, I’ve sworn that I don’t eat ANY freshwater fish. Ok, so rules are made to be broken. Used this recipe to brine some trout that someone stuck in my freezer several months ago. Brined overnight, smoked using pecan shells at 200 degrees for three hours. SCARY good! I may actually have to change my thinking!

      • Thanks for checking in, Cass!
        Your idea about a post on Mongolian meat dishes is excellent. This is very much a meat (and dairy) culture cuisine wise – and one that hasn’t been sufficiently explored and appreciated by non-Mongolians. Yes, we’ve had horse meat here – as well as mare’s milk products. The dishes we’ve had have been quite good.
        I do remember our meal of boar in Mie-ken. Personally, I loved it. My recollection is that compared with domesticated pork, it was lean and more strongly flavored. Man, what a food and drink paradise Japan was in those days. Still is.
        Always great hearing from you.

  11. Hey Love the site and the information on it! I am just getting into smoking fish, just took my first batch out of the smoker and it is ok but not amazing. So I will have to try your recipe on the next batch. But my question is: I am going out on a remote fishing trip way out in the back country where ice and fridges are not available. Any idea on how to smoke and preserve fish while on the trip and to pack home?

    • Hi Peter, We think you’re going to like this brine and smoking method. Let us know how it comes out. Your question is a good one – one we’ve thought a lot about over the years. We don’t have direct experience in this area, but, our Eskimo friends up north cut salmon and char lengthwise (as you would when making two fillets) and they hang the fish to dry in the sun and wind. Seems to work. You could probably brine and smoke the dried fillets when you get home to add flavor. If you figure something out, let us know. I’m sure other readers would be interested. Tight lines. Jack

  12. From northern Ontario…Thank you for the recipe. Ive try it will Lake Trout and Pike and it was a great seller. Cant fit enough in my Little chief though ..Im thinking of upgrading to a larger smoker. I have vacuum sealed a few filets. What is the shelf like of refrigerated smoked vacuum packed fish? Will freezing changed the taste much or make it soggy.

    And you mentioned canning … so pieces of smoked fish in a mason jar in pressure cooker would do the trick? Do I need I little bit of liquid in the jar though?

    • Hi Pat, I’ll bet those lakers were superb. We generally go through whatever portion of smoked salmon we have in the fridge in about a week. We freeze and vacuum pack a good share of each batch and notice very little change in texture, if any – it’s still terrific. It’s been a couple of years since we canned any fish – but man, was it good! We recommend you check out online instructions. Here’s a link to the basic guidelines we followed: http://www.uaf.edu/files/ces/publications-db/catalog/hec/FNH-00223.pdf
      Happy smoking and tight lines. Jack

  13. This is amazing! My husband and I loved this. We did trout and I snuck a piece of salmon in for me. It was so good. I can’t wait for him to bring home more trout….Thanks for an awesome recipe.

  14. drooling here in british Columbia! Caught 6 rainbows yesterday and will be putting them in the little chief shortly. 35 degrees celcius outside right now so they should be done pretty quickly. Thanks for the recipe!

    • Hi Bill. Originally we set up our site primarily for photography, hence the high-contrast background. But you make an interesting point and we’ll give some thought to creating something more user-friendly for people looking for recipes. Thanks for stopping by and reading. Jack & Barbra

  15. This is how I print them. Highlight the area you wish to print. Hold ctrl and the letter C together to copy the highlighted print. Go to your email and select ‘write’ as if you were sending an email. Set your courser in the message area. Hit ctrl and the letter V to paste the highlighted print. Address the email to yourself.

  16. Tried your brine yesterday, no brown sugar used molasses and found soy sauce with ginger instead what a great brine for salmon 😋

  17. Followed this brine recipe pretty closely however I threw a jalapeno in with mine cause I like spicy foods. Just a disclaimer, this is my first time smoking salmon as my gf just brought me home a smoker the other evening, although I feel I am a pretty good cook so I think this will turn out well:) Just started it at 6 this evening and am going to brine overnight, dry it out for a couple hours in the morning and then start smoking it with Alder chips, although I have half an inkling to try half Alder and half Apple pellets (maybe an experiment for the future). Taste tested the brine and it tasted great, nice and spicy. Will update after my first smoking experience is completed:)

  18. Thanks! Tonight I’m using this brine recipe for the 4th time in 4 weeks. The extended family now has a new favorite smoked salmon, and they’re regularly bringing Safeway salmon over for the full treatment: 8 hours in your brine, 6 hours in my Little Chief front-loader. This week I finally was smart enough to have them bring me some brown sugar and Tupperware along with the fish. Thanks again!!

  19. Hi I am wondering if this brine recipe with soy can be stored in freezer for any amount of time then reused ?. I fish often and would like to be able to reuse on short notice if possible . We have a small fridge so that’s not an option for me .I would imagine salt may have to be added after a bit .thanks in advance for any feed back . Love your site, Thanks everyone for great input.

    • Hi Bill, Although I’ve never frozen it, I don’t see why it wouldn’t be OK to do so. However, I wouldn’t want to reuse it (after you’ve already brined fish in it), as there would be a spoilage/food poisoning risk. Thanks for the question and the comment. Jack

      • I do all required with drying and setting for smoking but after smoking my salmon is dry mot moist and can not taste fish oil at all. I start 1 hr with 110f then rise to 120 for an hour then rise to 180 till temperature inside get to around 140f it takes around 3 hrs to get there , usually salmon is dry inside and we use it to make spread its great but spread was not what I want to get

        • Set your salmon out to come to room temperature just before smoking. Then start with a hotter smoker – about 150 to 160 degrees. Then reduce your total smoking time. My guess is that you are smoking too long and drying out your fish. Let me know if this helps, Edward.

  20. Hi,

    Can this recipe be used for cold smoking, if so how long would you guess to leave in the smoker. I am using salmon filets about 3X3 and an inch thick.

    Thanks, Greg

  21. I want to quick smoke/cook salmon on the grill to eat for dinner (my recipe says 20 min) after soaking in a similar brine for a couple of hours. I have more fish than well eat now. How long can I freeze the extra fillets in brine before I need to quick smoke/cook them?

    • Hi Patty. Not sure I understand your question, but… My advice is to do one of two things: 1) only brine the fish you intend to cook or smoke. Freeze the rest and brine them later. 2) Smoke all the fish. Then freeze the extra. In either case, how long they’ll keep depends on the type of freezer you use and how you wrap them. A manual defrost freezer is far and away better than an auto-defrost for long storage. Vacuum-packed fish will keep in a manual defrost freezer for a year. On the other end, if you only put fish in a Ziplock freezer bag and put them in an auto-defrost freezer, they won’t keep much longer than two or three months. If you wrap them tightly in plastic wrap and then put them in a Ziplock bag, they’ll keep longer. Jack

      • Thank you! All I have is a manual defrost freezerI decided to experiment a little and freeze some in brine and see… When I checked on them, the fillets were frozen solid in the brine slush. They had been in the freezer about 7 or 8 hours. I drained the brine off, put them in individual Ziploc bags, double bagged them, and put them back in the freezer. It’ll be interesting to see how the flavor and texture come out. They really won’t have to store very long. We are inland and haven’t ever had a quantity of fish to deal with.

  22. Im going to try this out tomorrow. I have 15 trout ranging from 10-12 inches, small trout. How long should I leave them in the brine? I’m thinking 8 hours is going to be too long? I am smoking them whole, not filleted. I’ve never smoked small fish, usually salmon fillets. How long would you smoke these, at what temp, to get a sticky, drier (not jerky though) snacking product. My mother, bless her heart, thinks 12 hours lol. I was thinking more like 2-3 hours, depending on the temp they are smoked at.

    • Hi Ryan. I think you could cut the brining time to six hours. Smoking time depends on your smoker’s temperature, but I agree with you, 2-3 hours is where I’d check them. You can always go longer if you need to. Let me know how they come out. Jack

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