Cold smoked salmon

Perfectly brined and smoked salmon that just melts on the tongue. That’s how cold smoked salmon should be. Served on toasted bread along with some asparagus and prawns, then it’s simply a heavenly mouthful. If you need the recipe for the best cold smoked salmon, read along here.

cols smoked salmon on wooden board with bread and prawns

Food with smoke

I think it’s really exciting to work with smoking. And it has evolved over the years. I started by hot-smoking in the bbq, then I got a Weber Smokey Mountain which I smoked in a few years before building my own wooden smoke oven.

The last shot that I’ve had in a number of years is my Borniak smoker, it has a heater and smoke generator, and a cold smoking kit, so it’s all gotten a little easier.

It’s a pleasure to take a piece of home-smoked bacon out of the freezer, and I have to say it tastes better than what you can buy. And it’s exactly the same with cold-smoked salmon.

cold smoked side of salmon

Cold smoke, semi-hot smoke and hot smoke

The temperature you smoke at means a lot. When smoking you work with 3 different temperature ranges.

– Cold smoke: 15 – 25 degrees celsius
– Semi-hot smoke: 25 – 45 degrees celsius
– Hot smoke: 45 – 90 degrees celsius

When I cold smoke, as with this salmon, I usually keep the temperature at the low end, i.e. closer to 15 than 25.

Brining of salmon for cold-smoking

Before the salmon is ready for the smoke oven, it must be dry brined. We do this with a mixture of salt and cane sugar. We use 180 grams of salt and 80 grams of cane sugar. The mixture is sprinkled on the top of the salmon in an even layer, also a little bit on the underside.

The salmon is vacuum-packed if possible and rests in the fridge for 10 hours, after which it is rinsed in cold water. After dry brining, the salmon should dry in the refrigerator before it is ready to be smoked.

cold smoked salmon sliced up with bread

Ingredient notes

Salmon – A whole salmon side of about 1400 grams.

Salt – For dry brining before the salmon needs to be smoked.

Sugar – Also used for dry brine.

Beech and red – To be used for the smoke itself in the smoker.

How do you make cold smoked salmon?

It’s a project to make cold smoked salmon. There is a lot of preparation in the form of brining and drying. And then there’s the smoking itself. I smoke in intervals. I do this to give the smoke and salt time to penetrate the salmon well. Here’s a brief roundup of the procedure. You can find the full recipe at the bottom of the page.

The salmon is trimmed first and prepared for dry brine. The mixture of salt and sugar is distributed in an even layer on the salmon, there should also be something on the skin side. Then vacuum pack the salmon, and refrigerate for about 10 hours.

Once the salmon has salted, remove it from the wrapper and rinse thoroughly in plenty of cold water, pat the salmon dry with a paper towel. Now the salmon must refrigerate and dry 24 hours before it is ready for smoking.

When the salmon is “surface dry”, prepare the smoke oven. Here you can use an electric smoke generator (the one that comes with a Borniak) or a cold smoke generator.

Now smoke the salmon at “even” cold smoke for 12 hours. After that, refrigerate for 12 hours before repeating the process of smoke for the last time. When the salmon is smoked the last time, refrigerate for 24 hours or two days before it is ready to serve.

After it has cooled and smoke and salt have settled, the salmon is ready to be cut out and served. When cutting a cold smoked salmon, you start in the tail end and cut towards the tail. Let the knife do the work and cut very thin slices.

Find the full recipe further down the page here.

cold smoked salmon with knife

Frequently asked questions

How do I serve cold smoked salmon as a starter?

If you want to serve your salmon for starters, you don’t need any other accessories than some good bread. Bake, for example, an old-fashioned danish bread and serve it together with a good dressing or a shrimp salad.

Can you eat cold smoked salmon as pregnant?

The Danish Environmental Protection Agency and the Danish Health and Medicines Authority recommend that pregnant women are not eating cold smoked and gravad fish, due to the possibility of bacteria. In addition, it is recommended to cut back on wild salmon from the Baltic Sea. Read more about fish and pregnancy here.

What is cold smoking?

Cold smoking is a smoking method where you first dry brine your fish or meat, and then let it dry before smoking it at what is called cold smoke. Here the temperature is low, between 15 and 25 degrees Celcius. You can smoke cold smoke in a smoker or on a cold bbq.

Other recipes you might like

side of cold smoked salmon with bread and prawn salad

Tips and tricks for cold smoked salmon

  • Make it a weekend when you have lots of time, and freeze it in smaller portions to take up when you feel like eating some.
  • Don’t rust it! Take your time and use the times suggested in this recipe. It is worth the wait!

How to serve cold-smoked salmon

  • Serve it thinly slices on bread with a dressing or prawn salad for a starter og lunch.
  • Serve it for brunch with scrambled eggs.
  • Serve it in bagels with cream cheese.
thin slices of homemade cold smoked salmon

Recipe for homemade Cold smoked salmon

Here comes our recipe for the best cold smoked salmon. It melts on the tongue and is a must on any brunch table, for Christmas lunch or for Easter lunch here in Denmark.

The salmon takes some time to make, but it’s worth all the work. I hope you want to try the recipe and serve your family a fantastic salmon.

cols smoked salmon on wooden board with bread and prawns

Cold smoked salmon

Recipe for salting and cold smoking salmon
Cold-smoked salmon is great for a good starter, as a luxurious main course, or as part of a tapas or brunch table. It is a bit of a project to cold smoke your own salmon because it takes some time, but it is worth all the work when you bite into the beautiful fish.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 hours 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 day
Resting 1 day
Total Time 2 days 10 hours 10 minutes
Course Starter
Cuisine Danish
Servings 6 people
Calories 383 kcal


  • 1 side salmon
  • 180 g salt
  • 80 g cane sugar


  • Start by trimming the salmon side, cut loose skin away and make sure to check if there is any bones.
  • Mix salt and sugar in a bowl.
  • Place the salmon with the skin side down in a dish.
  • Now sprinkle salt and sugar over the salmon so that it lies in an even layer. Also add some of the mixture under the salmon.
  • Then vacuum pack the salmon and put it in the fridge for approx. 10 hours.
    – Alternatively, this can be done in a dish. The mixture of salt and sugar is distributed over the salmon and a little on the skin side. Place the salmon in the fridge and let it sit for approx. 10 hours.
    The time can either be extended or shortened. I think it fits well with 10 hours, then I hit a salt balance that is the way I want it.
  • After 10 hours, take the salmon out of the fridge and rinse thoroughly under the cold tap to remove excess salt.
  • Now wipe the salmon thoroughly with a paper towel.
  • Put it in another dish preferably on a rack so that air can some under the fish.
  • Now the salmon has to dry for 24 hours in the fridge, you can also hang it outside if the temperature is low enough. If you now want a salmon that is a little more firm in the meat, it must dry for a longer time.
  • During the drying process, a thin dry film forms on the salmon consisting of proteins that have been liquid during brining, it is called Pellicle in English. This helps the salmon to absorb the smoke much better when you get there.
  • Now it's smoking time! Place the salmon on a rack or tie it up by the tail. Prepare the smoke oven for cold smoke.
    – Cold smoking is in the range of 15-25 degrees Celcius in the smoke chamber. I usually keep the temperature at the low end.
  • Now the salmon must be smoked for the first time. Prepare the smoke oven with a mixture of beech and redwood. Smoke the salmon over cold smoke for 12 hours.
    – You can choose to hang the salmon in the tail or place it on a rack with the skin side down.
  • Now put the salmon in the fridge and sit for 12 hours before smoking again.
  • After 12 hours in the fridge where the smoke has spread in the salmon, it must now be smoked for the second and last time. Smoke the salmon with cold smoke again with a mixture of beech and redwood.
  • After the salmon has been smoked a second time, it must be refrigerated again and rested for a day or two before it is ready for serving.
  • Serve the salmon cut into very thin slices.


Calories: 383kcal
Keyword cold smoked salmon dry brine, cold smoking salmon, how is smoked salmon made, how to smoke salmon, salmon in smoker, smoking salmon brine
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Note: This recipe is a translation of our danish recipe “Koldrøget laks” which can be found on our danish food blog.

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