So your most simple and basic wet brine for smoking salmon or trout is water, sugar and salt. You marinate the fillets in brine anywhere between 8 to 24 hrs in fridge in non-reactive glass, plastic or stainless steel (not aluminum) pans before air drying and then smoking. You can be creative with your brine by adding spices and other ingredients to add other flavors to your smoked fish. I typically freeze fillets in a cold freezer for 24 hours before smoking them in order to ensure that they are parasite-free.
Ingredients: For eight pounds of salmon, trout or other fish
- 8 to 10 pounds fillets, skin on, rinsed, patted dry, cut into small pieces. A good size is about 3″ x 6″, but smaller or slightly larger is fine. Small trout can be cleaned and smoked whole.
- 8 cups water
- 2 cups soy sauce (also adds salt to brine)
- 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
- 1/2 cup sea salt or kosher salt (Do not use iodized salt. It will impart an unpleasant flavor.)
- Feel free to add other ingredients at this point if you want to kick the basic brine up.
- Mix ingredients together in a large bowl.
- Pour mixture over fillets, making sure they are covered, or until they float.
- Cover containers and marinate for about 8 hours (or overnight) in the refrigerator.
- Remove fillets from brine, pat dry with paper towels, and arrange on racks to dry for one to two hours – until a glaze forms on the surface of the fish.
- Smoke fish according to your smoker’s directions with alder wood, mesquite, fruit tree or hickory chips. Check occasionally, keeping in mind that air temperature will influence smoking time. Typical smoking times range from 6 to 12 hours.