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Smoked salmon question

Here in Australia we eat smoked salmon on our bagels. In NY you have "lox" - are they one and the same? I have also heard of "nova" - is that another type of salmon?? I must clarify this dilemma before I arrive in NY in April! Thanks.

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  1. You want to ask for nova (lox). Downtown: Russ and Daughters. Ess-a-Bagel has good nova too. They don't slice it ahead.

    1. Well...this is how I understand it- Smoked salmon is generally cured and then smoked. Lox is cured and then cold smoked- which means it is not cooked by the smoking and has the texture of raw fish- which is probably exactly what you have in Australia as well (unless it seems cooked and flaky). Lox is just the Yiddish word for this because in NY lox and also bagels are associated with Ashkenazi Jews. Nova lox is refering to the style of Nova Scotia and basically has a more mild brine and taste. We also have Gravlax, which is only brined and not smoked- I think this is Scandanavian- it often tastes like dill.

      1. There is a big difference between nova and lox. Because of the way it's cured, lox (aka belly lox) is much saltier. Most places, like diners and coffee shops, only serve nova. But it's just one type of smoked salmon. Russ & Daughters, mentioned above, sells a wide variety + other smoked fish, like whitefish, sable & kippered salmon. Also, a variety of cream cheeses (for spreading on bagels and bialys), different kinds of olives + an array of other tempting goodies.

        They make sandwiches, but it's a shop, not a restaurant, and there are no tables inside, so it's strictly takeout. However, there is one bench in front and a mall along Allen St. a couple of blocks away with outdoor benches. Since you are coming in April, you might hit a spot of warmer weather, so if you buy a sandwich at Russ, you might be able to eat it al fresco.


        1. Most smoked salmon is cured (can be in brine or dry-cured without liquid) and cold smoked. You can tell if it's been hot smoked if it looks cooked and flakes easily, just like any cooked salmon. Lox, traditionally, was cured in brine (salt and water) and NOT smoked. I believe this has changed and lox today is less salty and also can be smoked. This link describes some of the differences in cured salmon:


          1. In informal speech, especially in traditional Jewish circles, all cured and/or cold-smoked salmon is referred to as lox, but when you get into the details there are huge differences.

            I'm a huge smoked salmon fan (especially Scottish-style), and also adore belly (salty) lox, but find Nova lox too boring for words. All the color and all the price of good smoked salmon, with none of the flavor. But then, I know others who love the stuff. De gustibus nos disputandum.

            1. I think this has been pretty well covered already, but I'm going to throw in my 2 cents worth:

              Smoked Salmon is a catch-all for any salmon preparation that includes curing salmon with hot or cold smoke.

              Lox, Yiddish for "Salmon", is salmon preserved by brining. It is often also cold smoked. It is supple and buttery and does not flake like cooked salmon.

              Nova Lox is lox made with a milder-than-usual brine. It is also often, but not always, belly lox.

              Belly Lox is lox made from the belly of the salmon. It is made from fattier cuts of the salmon, and therefore has both better flavor and texture. It is also more expensive.

              Gravad Lox, or Gravlox are a brined preparation of salmon, pressed with sugar, salt and herbs, and NOT smoked. It's Scandanavian, and not as strongly associated with the Jewish culinary tradition as other forms of lox.

              Dred Lox: While often smelling both smoked and/or preserved, often with unusual herbs, these are not in fact salmon, and are not recommended for consumption. (Sorry, little joke there...)

              1. REAL LOX IS NOT SMOKED AT ALL - JUST BRINED. Lox, made in Europe and done by the immigrants in the same manner in the late 19th century, was never smoked. Nova, a style brought down from Scottish settlers in Nova Scotia starting in the 20th century was the first of the smoked salmons. It used to be pretty clear, even in the 1960's that lox was lox and nova was nova. Not any more.

                But it's one of those things - like railing that BBQ is not grilling - everybody thinks that lox is the same as smoked salmon, and that grilling hot dogs and hamburgers in the back yard is bbq. What're you gonna do? Put fingers in the dam? The terrible part of all this is the very confusion you see here with all the cockamamie replies (it's lightly smoked, it's all lox in Jewish circles - not my circles, hello...) If you call all smoked salmon lox, what word do you now use to describe the traditional European brined only fish? If you call all grilling bbq, what word do you use to describe low & slow cooking over wood embers?

                Russ & Daughters on Houston is definitely the place to go for a traditional understanding of the fish and the terminology. If you ask for lox, they'll ask you if you mean it and if you know what it is - you'll get an almost pasty, salty, pinkish soft, wet salmon. If you ask for any of their smoked salmons, you'll get the more accepted understanding of what brined and smoked salmon should look and taste like - more orange, firmer, oilier.

                It really is useless to tell folks that lox means brined and not smoked when every commerical package out there nowadays labels their smoked salmon, lox. But I keep trying. See Russ & Daughters site for confirmation on this - I'm not the only meshugga alter kocker that insists on calling only brined fish lox.


                7 Replies
                1. re: applehome

                  Hi: Was Googling Lox for current price and bounced into your comment. Totally GREAT on the spot RIGHT! I'm a Lox maven from NY living for decades (and loving it) the the SF Bay area. My local gourmet market has been so cool as to fly me in boxes of the pictured ACME 3oz lox packages. Even better they charge me ONLY $20 lb which is likely cheaper than New Yorkers pay in their stores.

                  One more interesting related tid bit. For the past 4-5 years we've been making our own home made "Lox" using the amazing (invented by I think a PHD and/or physician) LOX BOX. Web site is: www.theloxbox.com 5 minute prep time, two days (I do 3 for saltier flavor) in the frig and ingredients are ONLY kosher salt and brown sugar. What about my Acme Lox??? OK the Lox Box 'Lox' is BETTER than any store bought versions. Fresher and taste great. It is the SECOND best tasting 'Lox' to me, after the first tasting, can't get it out of my taste buds, original LOX such as Acme's (they've been doing it for over 199 years I think). And at $20 lb. it is the best of both Lox worlds!

                  Amazing how many people get this thing wrong. But then, until I read Acme's web site even I did not have it straight. I had thought Lox was cold smoked versus other smoked salmons. Now know it is all in the BRINE!!!!!

                  1. re: worldromer

                    Interesting box, but I do this all the time in a plain pyrex 6x9 dish. Also make gravlax using dill. I use a couple of bricks wrapped in aluminum foil as a weight. When I make smoked salmon, I brine for about an hour, then rinse off, and soak in a marinade (shoyu, mirin, water, garlic, onion, bay, pepper, brown sugar) overnight. Rinse that off and let dry, then put in the smoker for about an hour. I don't get a real cold-smoked salmon, but it's not a dry, hot-smoked (Indian style) salmon either - kind of in between, with much of the flavor of a cold smoked salmon but the texture half-way towards hot smoked (flakes rather than slices). It's good on bagels as well as with crackers and a beer. I still buy the hand-sliced $28/lb stuff when I'm at the deli, and my brothers send me care packages from NYC with not only salmon, but sturgeon and sable, but that's not every day. I can have my home made at $6/lb any time (like the loxbox folks say).

                    What I spend some money on, and can't replicate at home, is the herring - matjes style. The Dutch herring season comes only once a year and it's just over. But the North Sea herring is nearly as good and available year round - although the spring runs are the fattiest and the best (both available at Russ & Daughters). If you're a brined fish maven, you've got to get some!

                    1. re: applehome


                      Hope you can help.

                      Jfood always called "lox" the stuff in the deli next to the white fish and herring that Murray would slice with his long daggered shaped lox-knife. This was divided into 2 subsets, belly and novey. The "belly" was salty and the "novey" was not. Jfood places here for definitional reasons below nothing else.

                      So in making the two, if jfood reads your post correctly the belly and novey are brined in brines of different salinity to infuse the amount of saltiness desired (jfood also understands that the skin is scored on belly versus novey to assist). Then they are cold smoked? or not? Hot smoked? That's where jfood has confusion.

                      Jfood makes gravlax and was thinking maybe trying his hand at some novey if he understood a little more.


                      1. re: jfood

                        I'm assuming by Novey you mean Nova - I've been around NYC deli's, a large NYC Jewish family, and Jewish summer resorts since my youth and I've never heard Novey - just Nova. Nova is cold smoked salmon. It used to be particularly from Nova Scotia, and it used to be that cold smoked salmon from other places (Scotland, Ireland, USA) would be called Nova Style, but that's long gone as well. If it's cold smoked salmon, it's probably called Nova. Which is fine by me. My pet peeve is when they call it lox.

                        When you hear belly, it usually refers to lox - wet cured salmon. It's really just the part of the fish, so there's no reason why you couldn't have belly smoked salmon (or belly Nova - same thing), but traditionally, nobody bothers to separate out the belly portion because the smoked fish is more homogenously tasty. With lox, the added fat of the belly section made more of a noticeable difference on the blander, unsmoked fish. The only exception I've seen is Squaw Candy which is hot smoked and often made from the belly. (See below.)

                        Lox also tastes saltier because nothing else has been done to it. It's true that smoked salmon can be less salty and is often flavored in different ways (like my home made), but in truth, the way commercial smoked salmon is wet cured, it can have every bit as much salt as any lox - the smoke just covers it up more.

                        Commercially, both lox and smoked salmon start out by covering completely in salt and being thrown into a barrel or equivalent, where it stays for a day or more, and draws out all the moisture. The fish may be put into the barrel dry, but they're literally floating in water when pulled out. It is taken out and throughly rinsed. Then, the lox is simply refridgerated as a finished product while the smoked salmon goes into the cold smoke house for a few days. Smoking not only adds flavor through the wood aromatics, but also draws out more moisture, so that it lasts longer. This is why lox is somewhat slimy, while Nova or cold smoked salmon typically appears firm and somewhat oily, but not watery.

                        Plain Lox is generally not brined with sugar and aromatics in the way Gravlax is, but I have had some, comercially, that is flavored or spiced. I guess I'm just a traditionalist with lox. Lox is lox - it's supposed to be salty and slimy and pinkish. While lox is the traditional Eastern European style, I've read that it is also something that was produced in the Pacific Northwest and sent to England for consumption (and sold as lox). Again, it was wet-cured only and not smoked. This was done from the mid-19th century on - a way to sell the wonderful discovery of Pacific Salmon to the world.

                        Cold smoked salmon is salmon that is wet cured and then smoked at 60-90F for 2-3 days. Hot smoked is salmon that is smoked at anything above 90F - most commercial places smoke at 180-190F for anywhere from 2-4 hours, I use much less time at home, usually about 1 hour. This may appear rawish to some, but for me, it's ideal. Various technics for hot smoking include planking and using outdoor fires and grill assemblies. People hot-smoke on their grills at home using smoker boxes with chips. Indian salmon is hot-smoked, sometimes around an open fire. Squaw candy is hot smoked salmon taken to the point that it is really dry - not quite as dry as salmon jerky, but just about all the moisture has been drawn out. Squaw candy is often made from the belly, but not necessarily.

                        I cannot make cold smoked, or Nova Style salmon at home. You can't can do this without a smokehouse that can be held consistently at 60F to 90F while pumping in smoke from an external source. Even with my external offset box to my tower smoker, it's only really possible during the winter. My home made smoked salmon is basically just hot smoked, but taken out early so that it is not completely dry - it still flakes, unlike cold smoked salmon, where the flesh has congealed enough to be sliced across the flakes or grain. I usually smoke at 190F for about an hour - not nearly enough to turn into the slab that is commercial cold smoked salmon. I should say that this is good enough for me and many of my friends and family - they love the stuff on bagels, on crackers with beer, on rice (the Japanese side), wrapped in toasted Nori at the table.

                        If you want to try making real Nova Style, you need a smoker. It is not possible with grills and smoker boxes or a few chips thrown on the coals. It isn't even possible with most dedicated home smokers. Most cheap smokers, even big green eggs and tall single stack towers, are just not going to work. Offset box smokers also have a hard time getting smoke into the chamber without any heat (my problem). You will need to buy something that generates smoke outside of the chamber, and then, you are able to direct the smoke into the chamber by a fan. This will have to be kept going for a couple of days, with some level of consistency. I get closest when the outside temp is 30F or below, then the smoke coming in from the offset box is cool enough as is the uninsulated chamber, that 90F is possible - consistency over a couple of days while allowing for me to sleep? That's another matter.

                        OTOH, home made hot smoked salmon is pretty darned good, made my way or not. It's certainly $6.00/lb vs. $25 or more/lb good. You can buy realtively cheap smokers to do this. Many folks say that they can do this well on a grill (gas or charcoal) using a chip box or some foil. I recommend buying the smoker and using it for lots of other smoked goodies. There are many out there - here's an example:


                        Another popular unit is the Bradley. It's ok - may be the closest thing you can get to 90F (the heat source is so small and yet heats up their small wood chip puck to smoking temps quickly). But the disadvantage is that you have to keep buying their proprietary chip pucks and this costs more than 2x the cost of bagged chips at the local Ace Hardware. More like 3x the cost of hickory chunks at some other sources. But if you don't do a whole lot of smoking, the wood costs aren't a big factor, so it could be ok. And besides, you can then say that you have a piece of gear that is used in the Iron Chef America Kitchen Stadium!


                        1. re: applehome

                          thanks A, and yes novey is nova with a NJ accent.

                  2. re: applehome

                    I was worried about this thread until I read your post!
                    I personally prefer cold smoked over lox but fresh gravalox can be pretty darn delicous.
                    I have two favorites and it would be great if others could mention there favorites with links.



                    1. re: Docsknotinn


                      The Duck Trap smoked trout is outstanding as well. great hors doeuvre on some black bread points with a little horseradish creme on top.

                  3. Lox: cured in a mountain of salt (not brined) under a weight.
                    Smoked: smoked.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                      You're right (curing vs. brining) - but it's kinda moot...

                      From _The Encyclopeida of Fish Cookery_ by A.J. McClane et al, describing the original process for making Lox:

                      "Curing salmon by salting them in a barrel and leaving them covered with the pickle that forms... desalinized by soaking in fresh water..."

                      I've been smoking salmon (and other fish) for over 25 years now - and I always start by just salting for about 30 minutes. It extracts all the fluids, (busts the cell walls) and you get an almost rubbery, more solid piece, without which you couldn't slice thinly across the grain. But then, I rinse well and then marinade the fish overnight in a shoyu/sugar/spices brine. Then I dry to form a pellicle, and smoke.

                    2. Right, for lox, I spread a bit of dill leaf and cover in salt, weigh down overnight and then rinse. I smoke salmon on the stove top: line a deep pot with foil, toss in black tea, brown sugar, and uncooked rice; put salmon on a rack, cover and seal pot with overlapping foil; turn up heat until a bit of smoke appears; lower heat, wait until smoked smell is evident. Great stuff but in small volume.

                      1. The quickest, easiest, neatest way I've seen to make lox is to simply put a piece of fresh salmon side between two salt slabs (you can leave the skin on the bottom side if you like... it helps later when you go to slice it), put the whole thing in a dish in the fridge for 24 hours, remove the top slab, barely trim the top of the fish (save the scraps to make salmon salad or mousse), slice and enjoy. The resulting lox is firm and super silky. A friend of mine tried it this way but also sprinkled a little sugar on the salmon before putting it between the salt slabs and it was OUTSTANDING. The beauty of this method is that the salt slab is so heavy it acts as a weight and when you're done you simply rinse the salt slab off with water, dry it and store it like a dish in your cupboard till next time (you can also use it for curing other fish and even meat or just for presentation). You can get the salt slabs from http://www.poshsalt.com I got the recipe from them in the first place when I got my salt.

                        1. and in UK neither term, lox nor nova, are used. All smoked salmon is called smoked salmon and is sold at different price ranges. The cheaper ones tend to be saltier and darker and the more expensive is greasier, paler in colour and with more lines. I am sure that salmon purveyors have names for them but it is not obvious to the consumer.

                          1. having been in australia - what I ate that was called smoked salmon is Nova Lox in the states - Ess-a-bagel does make a good lox and bagel -

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: weinstein5

                              On a realted note, are baked salmon and kippered salmon the same thing. I ask mainly because in a lot of "out of the metro" delis and bagel stores I been two when I ask if they have any baked salmon, they look at me as if they have never heard the word (even in cases where I can see a chunk of the stuff in the case). Some pieces marked "kippered salmon" that I have tasted seemed the same as baked salmon but others were a lot drier. A few times I've even heard the terms "Native-style" or "Indian style" (presuably becuse baked salmon is closer to the way native peoples in high salmon consuption areas (like the Pacific Northwest) smoe theirs. can someone deconfuse me.

                              1. re: jumpingmonk

                                Kippering is a seperate process that involves brining or salting then smoking. Here we often see Kippered meat getting passed off as jerky.
                                Kippering is another whole can of worms much like the variations on "lox".

                            2. The latest Saveur has a pretty extensive explaination on all the different types / techniques.