This Dry Brine Smoked Salmon with a honey glaze is an incredible appetizer or can be used in other dishes like pasta or deviled eggs. One bite into this and you are going to gain friends fast so be prepared!
Combine all of the Dry Brine ingredients together in a bowl and mix well. I broke the bay leaves up so they were more evenly distributed.
Rinse off the salmon fillet and pat it dry. I keep the skin on for the smoking process as it makes it easier to move the salmon from the grill or smoker when it is completed.
Lay the fillet in a glass or ceramic dish with the skin side down.
Liberally coat the salmon with the dry brine. Make sure to cover the edges of the salmon as well. If you miss this step, the edges won't start to cure properly.
Cover the dish with Saran and let sit in the refrigerator for 6-8 hours. The kosher salt will pull moisture from the salmon and the other ingredients will provide a sweetness to the fillet.
Prepare the Salmon for Smoking
After 6-8 hours, remove the salmon from the dry brine mixture and rinse it extremely well. This is critically important. I have made the mistake of not rinsing it thoroughly and the end product was way too salty.
After rinsing, pat it dry and lay the salmon on a cooling rack. Place it back in the refrigerator, uncovered, for two to three hours. This extra time will help the salmon develop a pellicle. A pellicle is protective coating of proteins that become tacky to the touch. It not only protects the meat, but its tacky texture will help the smoke adhere better.
Smoking the Salmon
Finally, it is time to smoke the salmon. Set up your grill for indirect heat at 200-225 degrees. Add a few blocks of hardwood (I used Hickory)
Place the salmon on a non-stick copper mat skin side down and place it above the indirect heat. I cut the copper mat to fit on the grill, but it is washable, and I smoke a lot of salmon, so it was not a problem.
Keep the temperature of the grill down to 200-225. If it starts to get hot, reduce the airflow.
Smoke the salmon until the internal temperature reaches 145-150 degrees in the thickest part. It took me about three hours to reach that.
Basting the Smoked Salmon (optional)
If you want a sweeter salmon, baste it every 30-45 minutes with either pure honey or maple syrup. The honey will liquify very quickly and drip down the sides, so make sure you have a drip pan underneath otherwise you will get an unpleasant smoky flavor.
Wood Choice: If you want the salmon less smoky, use less wood or use a fruit wood like apple for a more mild smoke. If this is your first time, start with a fruit wood! Do NOT have large billowing smoke. A small trickle of smoke is much more effective, especially for long smokes. Too much smoke, and the dish will taste like an ash tray.Basting: You can leave off the honey at the end but it will impact the flavor! Alternatively, use maple syrup or sprinkle some extra brown sugar on the salmon. I have even used straight bourbon for a unique earthy sweetness.Spice it up: Add some red pepper flakes to the brine to provide a capsaicin flavoring. It won't turn the salmon super-spicy, but there will be hints of the peppery flavors.Smoked Salmon Dishes: This is typically used as part of an appetizer served with crackers, but you can also incorporate it into deviled eggs, pasta dishes, salmon dip, stuffed mushrooms, salads and on platters.