Image: Stefan Milne

While grilled salmon is lovely and all, it’s actually somewhat difficult to do right (no, you probably should not wrap it in foil and, yes, you should leave the skin on). Cured salmon, or gravlax, is actually way easier. You just have to wait. And buy good, very fresh fish that won’t get you all parasitic (if you’re worried, buy from a trustworthy fishmonger or a place that sells sashimi grade—avoid the prewrapped grocery store stuff). You can even do it with good frozen fish, which should reduce your chances of getting all parasitic. 

  • 1 piece of salmon, however much you want of any kind you like—king, pink, sockeye, coho
  • a lot of kosher salt
  • sugar
  • black pepper
  • fresh dill, 1 handful
  • juniper berries (optional)
  • whole coriander (optional)
  • lemon zest (optional) 
  1. Use your finger to find the pin bones in the salmon; just run it over the flesh and you’ll feel them sticking up. Pluck them out with tweezers (ideally fish tweezers).
  2. Mix 75 percent salt with 25 percent sugar. (This ratio and the length of cure are where you can play to your taste. Some do half and half. Some do two-thirds to one third—in either direction. Personally, I do not want my fish to taste candied. But you do you.) The total amount varies based on how big your salmon piece is. A whole side will probably demand a cup total. You want enough to completely cover the outside of the salmon with the mixture.
  3. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap in the bottom of the dish. Cover the bottom with a good layer of the salt and sugar mixture, so you can no longer see the wrap. Lay the salmon on top, skin-side down. Put cracked black pepper and dill on top of the salmon flesh (if you want to add the other seasonings, now’s the time). Cover the fish with the rest of the mixture, paying attention to the edges. Wrap with plastic wrap.
  4. If you’re plastic-wrap averse, you can simply lay the fish down on a bed of the salt mixture in the dish and cover it with more mixture. 
  5. Refrigerate for two to 24 hours—depending on whether you want a light or assertive cure. If you used plastic wrap, turn the filet over once about halfway through the cure time. When it’s fully cured, drain and wipe off any remaining brine with a paper towel. Toss the dill.
  6. With a sharp knife, slice away thin sheets of salmon, leaving the skin.
  7. Serve however you like. Bread, cucumbers, some sort of allium (scallions, chives, red onions), and Greek yogurt or crème fraiche are always a good idea. Horseradish is fun. So are pickled huckleberries, hazelnuts, and mint.
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