Recipe: Brown-Sugar-Cured Salmon
The salt and sugar cure, laced with sweet spices, both flavors the fish and firms up its flesh, giving it a meaty, silky texture.
This grilled and smoked salmon recipe by the food writer Betty Fussell calls for curing the fish for several hours with salt, brown sugar and spices before smoking it over indirect heat on your grill. While the fatty fish absorbs the smoke beautifully, the fish can also be successfully cooked in a grill pan, or under the broiler. The salt and sugar cure, laced with sweet spices, both flavors the fish and firms up its flesh, giving it a meaty, silky texture. Serve it with a crisp salad for a light supper, or with rice for something more substantial.
4 skin-on, center-cut wild king or other salmon fillets (2½ pounds total)
¼ cup light-brown sugar
2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground mace
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus lemon wedges for serving
1½ cups hickory chips, soaked for 30 minutes and drained
1. Pat fish dry with paper towels. In a small bowl, combine sugar, salt, pepper, spices and zest. Rub mixture all over fish. Place in a dish, cover and let cure in the fridge for at least four hours and preferably eight hours. Rinse fillets and pat dry. Generously oil salmon.
2. Light the grill. Once coals are hot, scatter drained hickory chips over coals. (If you’re using a gas grill, place them in a disposable metal pan on the grill next to the salmon.)
3. Place salmon flesh-side down on grill and cover, closing top vent so not much smoke is released. Smoke salmon, covered, for about five to six minutes, then flip. (If the fish is sticking to the grill grate, then it’s not ready to flip.) Cook for another three to 10 minutes, depending upon how hot your fire is. The fish is done when the interior is medium pink and the exterior crisp and smoky. Serve with lemon wedges.
— Adapted by Melissa Clark, The New York Times, from Betty Fussell