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May 25, 2012 01:47 PM

Gravlax Question

Hi All, I'm about to try curing salmon for the first time and was wondering about duration. I've seen everywhere from 24 hours to 5 days, so not sure how long to go. After reading some other posts, it seems like the only effect duration has on the fish is that it just gets saltier/richer. Is that accurate? Also, is there a minimum amount of time before the fish is "safe"? And finally, do other fish work just as well as salmon? Thanks!

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  1. Here's the method I would use:

    Freeze the salmon to a temperature of at least -10*F for about 7 - 10 days. That should destroy any parasites in the flesh. Thaw, remove any bones and open the salmon so it can be covered completely with herb/spice mixture and sprigs of dill. Wrap it up in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 48 hours. Open the wrapper, rinse thoroughly, dry it off and slice.
    Slicing as thin as possible on the bias makes a perfect presentation for this salt /sugar cured salmon.
    I like it on bagels with cream cheese.

    1. Similar fish that cure well are trout, steelehead and char.

      1. I buy sushi quility salmon which is safe to eat as is. I like to cure it for 3-4 days depending on thickness of fillets.

        5 Replies
        1. re: herby

          use a shallow glass pan and drain the juice often.

          i use a recipe from

          1. re: herby

            There is no 'sushi' grade salmon.
            There's wild premium bought from a reputable fishmonger or fisherman. Or farmed (bad) ALL Atlantic salmon are farmed.
            Go for wild Alaskan .. buy a whole fish .. it should be firm and bright. Filet and bone. Freeze if you must (I don't) 48 hours , sprinkle w/vodka, equal parts of salt, sugar, black pepper, a large bunch of dill (or another herb) Sandwich together, wrap in saran and weight evenly with what you have.Turn at least once a day. 2-3 days... tho sometimes I 'll give it 1, depending on the thickness.
            Wipe off excess and blot with a damp towel.

            1. re: fishwives

              Wild Alaskan salmon would be vulnerable to parasites, like any other fish spending time in fresh water. Many Atlantic salmon never contact fresh water parasites and can be used in sushi.

              1. re: jayt90

                Totally untrue. Do your research.
                Farmed salmon are raised in confined ocean/bay "cages" .. they are fed systematically with processed feed that contains antibiotics and other ingredients not
                belonging to a natural diet.
                Farmed salmon have a limited gene pool, as that they never have the opportunity to naturally feed or breed with any salmon outside that contained area. They swim in their feces and they pass on genetic frailities, disease and mutation.
                The greatest threat to the wild stocks is farmed escapement.
                Farmed salmon can never develop the fat content (Omega 3's) that are contained in the wild fish... nor can they achieve the firm musculature of a fish that has fullfilled a natural life cycle.
                As a biologist, chef and commercial fisherman that has spent decades working with commercial vs. farmed species, I feel happy to share this info.
                Freeze your fish in doubt .. 48 hrs... but your statement is myth.

                1. re: fishwives

                  I like fresh, not frozen sashimi at home, and so the Monterrey guide points me to tank farmed coho. I have often bought fresh B.C. sock eye for sashimi, and I'll take the risk rather than freeze it ruinously.

          2. The longer you cure, the firmer the flesh gets.
            There is not necessarily a "minimum" cure time; as herby mentions, you can eat it uncured, sashimi style....its a matter of preference - if you like the flesh soft and "rawish" (light cure), or very firm and "cooked" (long cure).
            I like 3 days, weighted down, and yeah, a lot of moisture is exuded (no matter how well wrapped) so put it on a tray with sides. Flip and drain every day.

            1. Thanks for the input, everyone. Thought I'd post a quick update. I bought a 1lb filet at a local fishmonger and cured it in:

              1c course salt
              2c brown sugar
              bunch of dill
              2tbl black pepper
              rubbed 1-2 tablespoons vodka on fish before applying the cure

              Total time was about 60 hours and the results were good. Nice and firm, but very sweet - almost citrusy. My wife loved it, but i would have preferred a saltier taste. The sweetness actually overshadowed the fish a bit. Mark Bittman suggested 1 part salt to 2.5 parts sugar as one option, which is roughly what I followed, but for next time I think I'll use a 1:1 ratio and switch to cane sugar. Has anyone tried adding liquid smoke to the mix? Thanks again, all.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Big_Ben

                I haven't used liquid smoke, but my nephew swears by grilling the cured salmon over maple charcoal.
                Which reminds me...if you buy a whole, skin-on fillet to cure, you'll want to skin it. Save the skin for the grill - crisped over hot coals, its fantastic.

                1. re: Big_Ben


                  I am a cook from Norway our basic recipe is always the same 50% coarse grain sugar 50% salt flakes (we use maldon) add spices and alcohol as you like. We always leave the skin on. Fishes that are also very tasty to cure are for eksempel halibut & monkfish (sea devil). I would not use liquid smoke flavouring because you will destroy the fresh taste of it.

                  1. re: danielle60

                    I recently made some of the best cured salmon- and felt like I was winging it the entire time...I was suprised by the results!

                    For 2 good sized sides of steelhead- that I also frozen overnight.

                    1 cup sugar
                    3 cups kosher salt
                    zest of 3 oranges 2 limes- mix in s&s blend as soon as you zest
                    1/2 of package of corriander seed, fennel seed and star anise pod package (purchased in the hispanic section) and a large pinch of red chili flakes- toasted in a pan on the stove- the run thru grinder- mix in s & s
                    a good amount of fresh cracked black pepper. the aroma was amazing- and the color of the s&s mixture was almost like brown sugar.

                    I spread a good amount on the skin side and caked the flesh side, dropped 3 pieces of dill on each fish. wrapped tight and put between cookie sheets with 4 liters of water on top.

                    when I pulled it out of fridge @ 24 hours- I was stunned by the golden liquid- dumped it and flipped. another 24 hours-and another 12. then rinsed and crossed my fingers.

                    SUCCESS. I was bummed when I thought about forgetting a liquid- didn't need it

                  2. re: Big_Ben

                    I like using torbinado (sp?) sugar and I don't find my gravlax overly sweet. Try using that instead of the brown sugar next time.