Go Back
+ servings
How to make smoked nova salmon
Print Pin
No ratings yet

How to make smoked nova salmon

This type of flavor is really popular in Gaspe, Nova Scotia, and many parts of the Eastern provinces. Since it’s less smoky, it works well on sandwiches and appetizers. 
The fish is cured and smoked therefore it is salty and smoky at the same time. 
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword Brine, Salmon, Smoked
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Brining 8 hours
Total Time 11 hours 40 minutes
Servings 4 people
Calories 122.8kcal
Author Joost Nusselder
Cost $10


  • 1 whole salmon


  • 5 lbs Canning or kosher salt
  • 6 lbs Dark brown sugar

Ingredients (wet brine)

  • 3.5 gal Water
  • 6 cups Coarse (non-iodine) or kosher salt
  • 6 cups Brown sugar 
  • 2 cuos Real maple syrup
  • ¼ cup Black peppercorns (whole)
  • 2 cloves Garlic
  • Fresh dill (chopped) – to taste



  • In case you are filleting a whole salmon, remove the pin bones and leave the skin on. You can use a small pair of needle-nose pliers to remove the bones that might be on the flesh. If you want to buy filleted salmon, buy whole salmons with the skin on, and remove the remaining bones—if there are any. Rinse the fillet and then pat-dry—but not completely dry. At this point, leave the fillets whole, with their skin on.

Brining—this is a two-step process

    Step 1

    • Here, you will need to use dry brine ingredients, which are:
      Canning or kosher salt – 5 lbs.
      Dark brown sugar- 6 lbs.
    • Mix the sugar and salt thoroughly with your hands so that you can break up any chunks in the brown sugar. You will use to dry-brine the fish. Make sure that you use kosher or coarse (non-iodized) salt. In case you have any leftover dry mix, place it in a ziplock bag or sealed container. This will preserve the mixture for future use.
    • Next, take a small container, long enough and with enough width that will allow you to lay your fillets flat, and spread an even ½” layer of the dry brine mixture on the container’s bottom. After spreading the dry brine mix, place your first fillet layer on top of the dry mix, when the skin side is facing down. Now, you can cover the fillets with extra dry mix ½” layer and then place the next layer of fillets on top, now with the skin side facing up. Cover the fillet with ½” layer of the dry mix, and make sure that the dry mix covers the fish completely. You should understand that the size of your container matters as it prevents you from wasting the dry brine mix.
    • Continue layering the fish fillet, and you can place them in the manner that you like, so long as they are somehow flat and straight. This process is essential as it removes any excess moisture in the fish, and makes it firmer.


    • When you are done with the layering, place the fish in your refrigerator for around 7 to 8 hours. Please note that: in case you forget this step and you dry brine the fillets for too long, you will end up ruining them. Make sure that you set a timer so that you don’t forget.
    • After the 7 to 8 hours, you will start seeing a considerable amount of thick liquid at the bottom of the container—this is the moisture from the fillets. You can now take the container out of the fridge, and remove the fillets one at a time. When done, cut the fillets into half, so that they can fit in a smoker, and then rinse them under running water to remove the mixture.
    • At this stage, the fillets should feel firm and hard, and somehow smaller than when you bought them. Discard the thick liquid at the bottom of the container, and don’t use it.

    Step 2

    • This step will also change the texture of the fillet
      Ingredients (wet brine)
      Water – 3.5 gal.
      Coarse (non-iodine) or kosher salt – 6 cups
      Brown sugar – 6 cups
      Real maple syrup – 1-2 cups
      Black peppercorns (whole) – ¼ cup
      Garlic – 2 cloves
      Fresh dill (chopped) – to taste
    • Use a large food bucket to mix together all the ingredients, and make sure that the sugar and salt are completely dissolved. The container should be large enough to hold the brine and fillets. Please note: you need to check the salt concentration (salinity) of the mixture. A fresh raw egg should float on the mixture. If the egg doesn’t add an extra ½ cup salt and then mix well. Recheck to see if the egg will float again. If the egg doesn’t float, repeat the process until it floats. Allow the brine to set for around 5 hours before you use it.
    • Place your dry brined fillets into the bucket with the wet brine. Make sure that all the fillets are completely submerged, and then use a plate to cover the bucket. Allow the fillets to brine for around 7 to 9 hours.
    • Refrigerate
    • It’s optional at this point since the dry brine has “cooked the fillets” already. You can also move around the fillets at some point in the wet brine process—just in case some are too close. When the process is over, you will need to freshen the fillets so that you can remove the excess salt.

    How to freshen your fillet

    • Start by removing your fillets from the wet brine, and then rinse them using freshwater. Dispose of the briner, rinse your bucket or the container you used to wet brine your fish and make sure that all the spices and peppercorns are removed.
    • Put back the fillets in the bucket/container and then fill it with clear water. Allow the water to run into the container (never use a lot of pressure as this can damage the fillet) for around 30 minutes. Make sure that you stir gently with your hands after every 10 minutes.
    • You can taste a small portion of the fillet to check the salt levels. If it’s too salty, rinse for an additional 10 minutes, but don’t exceed that as this will make the fillet waterlogged.

    Drying the fillet before smoking

    • Remove your fillet from the wet brine, and pat dry using a paper towel.
    • If using Bradley racks, turn them upside down, and then lay your fillets on the racks, with the skin side facing down. (you can use Teflon coated racks since they will give you excellent results)
      You should note that placing the racks in an upside-down position will keep the fillets in a suspended position, which will allow the fillets to air-dry bottom and top.
    • Let the fish dry for around one hour. When the fillets become somehow sticky—on the meat side, they are ready for smoking.
    • Cold smoke your fillets only! You can smoke for around 1 – 3 hours, but this depends on your preferences and tastes.


    Calories: 122.8kcal