How to Brine Salmon

If you’d like to add healthy salmon to your diet, but are worried that cooking the fish will make it dry out, try soaking it in salmon brine first.
Image Credit: Claudia Totir/Moment/GettyImages

If you'd like to add healthy salmon to your diet, but are worried that cooking the fish will make it dry out, try soaking it in salmon brine first. The brining solution keeps the salmon tender and moist, and the salt component enhances the fish's flavor.

Make Easy, Versatile Salmon Brine

Making your own smoked salmon begins with permeating the fish with a concentrated salt solution, or salmon brine, says the University of Alaska Fairbanks. This easy-to-master method provides you with good overall coverage.


Making your own salmon brine is simple, notes the James Beard Foundation. Baking the brine-infused salmon on cedar planks enhances the flavor.

Salmon Brine Ingredients

  • 2 cups of light brown sugar
  • 1 cup of kosher salt
  • ½ cup of water

How to Brine Salmon

  1. Mix up the salmon brine: Combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl. Stir until completely dissolved.
  2. Brine the salmon fillets: Coat both sides of the salmon fillets with the brine solution.
  3. Let the salmon brine dry: Allow the brine solution to air dry, or use a fan for faster results. When the brine solution feels tacky (about two hours), it's dry enough.
  4. Remove the brine solution: Rinse the salmon fillets to remove much of the brine solution. Pat the fillets dry.
  5. Prepare the salmon for baking: Arrange the salmon fillets, skin side down, on thoroughly soaked cedar planks. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  6. Bake the salmon fillets to perfection: Place the cedar planks in the oven, and bake the salmon for 10 to 12 minutes. When the salmon's center is barely translucent, the fish is done.



While the salmon fillets soak in salmon brine, prepare your smoker for use. Choose your wood chips carefully, as they can help to infuse the salmon with a distinctive flavor.

Try These Salmon Flavoring Alternatives

For a different twist, prepare an easy-to-make smoked salmon rub, suggests NOAA Fisheries. Making a smoked salmon rub takes only minutes.

Smoked Salmon Rub Ingredients

  • Salmon fillet strips, each 3-4 inches long by 1-1.5 inches wide
  • Two parts of Morton's Tender Quick Meat Cure
  • One part of packed-down brown sugar
  • Touch of white sugar


How to Make a Smoked Salmon Rub

  1. Blend your dry ingredients: Choose a large bowl with room for dipping and rolling the salmon strips.
  2. Prepare the salmon strips: Coat the strips in the smoked salmon rub. Place the strips on curing racks.
  3. Soak the salmon strips in the dry brine: Let the salmon cure for 18-20 minutes. Don't let the fish sit too long, or it will become excessively salty.
  4. Rinse and return to the rack: Rinse the dry brine off the salmon strips. Place the strips back on the rack to air dry. When a tacky-looking layer appears on each strip's exterior, the drying process is complete.
  5. Smoke the salmon strips: Preheat your smoker, and get the wood smoke going. Add the salmon strips and cook until thoroughly done.


Read more: 15 of the Best Lean Animal Proteins


Focus on food safety, and take measures to avoid cross-contamination, urges the USDA. Don’t allow fish or meat to touch other food; and wash the knife, cutting board and countertops with soapy hot water after cutting raw proteins.

Salmon’s Impressive Health Benefits

Versatile salmon is packed with beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, which are thought to decrease inflammation, states the Mayo Clinic. Harmful inflammation can negatively affect your blood vessels' integrity, and can contribute to strokes and heart disease.

Omega-3 fatty acids may lower your triglycerides, decrease your odds of blood clots and help to reduce your blood pressure. You'll also experience a lower risk of heart failure and strokes. Fatty fish such as salmon are ideal sources of omega-3s. Adults should eat two or more servings (or 8 ounces) of fish weekly.

If you're concerned about potential mercury contamination, Harvard Health Publishing notes that eating salmon doesn't pose significant health risks. Although some salmon eaters have shown slightly higher mercury levels, those people may have also consumed other fish with heightened mercury concentrations.

Read more: How Much Salmon is Healthy to Eat Per Week?