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In Scandinavia, there is a simple (yet amazing) way of preparing salmon that produces an amazing appetizer with clean flavors and a remarkable texture. This traditional dish is similar (but not quite the same) to lox (cured salmon that has been cold smoked) and is sometimes referred to as Gravad lox. Gravlax in its minimalist form uses only four ingredients: salmon, salt, sugar, and dill weed. I prepare gravlax with a bit of black pepper added to the mix.

Gravlax (pronounced "grov-lox") is from the Swedish name for this dish. Norwegians call it gravlaks and the Danish refer to it as Gravad laks. It literally means "buried salmon" and the name refers to the traditional method of preparation for this food: fresh salmon was heavy salted and buried in dry sand to ferment and cure.

Parasites, such as roundworms, can naturally reside in salmon regardless of if it was frozen or fresh. For safety, use salmon that has been commercially frozen or freeze the salmon yourself to at least -10°F (-23°C) for at least 7 days. Alternatively, you can freeze the salmon after you have cured the fish, but make sure you reach those minimum conditions. My freezer's not set up to go that low, so I buy my salmon frozen when preparing this dish. (The freezing kills the parasites.) Before you begin, thaw the salmon completely.

For every pound (450 g) of salmon, prepare 2 tablespoons (about 30 g) kosher salt, 2 tablespoons (25 g) sugar, 2 teaspoons ground black pepper (4.2 g), and a handful of dill. For gravlax, use filet cuts (fish portioned with cuts parallel to the backbone), not steak cuts (fish portioned with cuts going through the backbone). In the example shown, I used a 1-1/2 pound salmon filet (completely thawed), so I set aside 3 tablespoons each of kosher salt and sugar as well as 3 teaspoons of pepper. There are a lot of gravlax recipes out there that uses all sorts of other ingredients to provide additional flavors. I prefer the clean taste of the salmon and encourage everyone to try this recipe first before adding more ingredients.

Examine the salmon for bones by visual inspection and by touch. If you find any bones, remove them with needle nose pliers. Draping the salmon over an inverted bowl or holding the filet up with one hand so it drapes (like a towel over the arm of a maitre d'hotel) will help force the tips of the bones up, making them easy to grasp and remove. Place the salmon on a large piece of plastic wrap (about three to four times the length of the filet) with the skin side down.

Put the salt, sugar, and black pepper into a bowl and mix until evenly distributed. Spoon the mixture onto the exposed salmon flesh, making sure to cover as much of the exposed areas as possible.

Place the dill on top of the salmon. If the dill is too long to fit on top of the filet, then snap off the stems or fold the dill over. It's best not to chop up the dill. We'll be removing the dill later, so having large pieces makes it easier to work with. How much dill should you layer on? They say, the more dill the better. I don't know how many sprigs I put on the salmon, but, as you can see in the photo, the dill is piled quite high.

Wrap the salmon, salt, dill sandwich up, tightly, in the plastic wrap. Take a second sheet of plastic wrap and wrap again. Place the package in a baking dish or container. You won't be baking this -- the container is there to catch the juices that will inevitable flow from the package during the curing. We'll be placing this in the refrigerator.

Refrigerate the salmon for at least two days. Continued refrigeration in the package will intensify flavors. Usually, I can't wait longer than three days. At this point, remove the container from the refrigerator, open the package, remove the dill, and rinse in water. In short, just wash the gravlax. If any pieces of salt or pepper are stuck to the flesh, just wipe it gently off. Dry with a paper towel.

I should probably mention, at this point, that many recipes call for the use of bricks or heavy weights to be placed on the salmon package. Some recipes also call for turning the package over every twelve hours to redistribute the juices. Both of these steps seem to be unnecessary. It may be blasphemy to say so, but you can achieve perfectly cured gravlax without the weight and without the turning.

Use a sharp knife to cut the gravlax. (Filet knives, boning knives, and Japanese sashimi knives work well for this role.) Position the gravlax so you will be cutting from the tail end (the small end) first. The gravlax should be sliced thinly on the bias (at an angle). Each slice should be detached from the skin.

The gravlax can be served by itself, on top of toasted bread, crackers, or any other way you would serve a smoked salmon appetizer. A squeeze of lemon juice or a slice of lemon (especially Meyer lemon) can also be a welcome touch.

Gravlax (recipe can be scaled)
1 lb. (450 g) frozen salmon filetthaw completely & remove bonescover salmoncover salmondouble wrap in plastic wraprefrigerate at least 48 hoursrinse and dryslice on bias
2 Tbs. (~30 g) kosher saltmix
2 Tbs. (25 g) granulated sugar
2 tsp. (4.2 g) ground black pepper
20 sprigs fresh dill weed

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Written by Michael Chu
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173 comments on Gravlax:(Post a comment)

On September 02, 2005 at 07:33 PM, Elizabeth (guest) said...
You say to refrigerate the salmon skin side up, but the photo shows it skin side down. Which is preferred?

On September 02, 2005 at 11:18 PM, jillian (guest) said...
Subject: Food Blogger Challenge for Disaster Aid!
I challenge other food bloggers to give aid to those who worked in the food industry and made New Orleans so flavorful:

New Orleans Hospitality Workers Disaster Relief Fund A fund has been established to benefit employees of the hospitality industry of the Greater New Orleans area who have experienced hardships because of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. Contributions may be sent to:

New Orleans Hospitality Workers Disaster Relief Fund
Greater Houston Community Foundation
4550 Post Oak Place, Suite 100
Houston, TX 77027
Call 713-333-2200 for additional information

On September 03, 2005 at 01:28 AM, Michael Chu said...
Elizabeth wrote:
You say to refrigerate the salmon skin side up, but the photo shows it skin side down. Which is preferred?

Hmmm... I don't know why I said skin side up or down. I don't think it matters to the final product. I've removed it from the article to reduce confusion.

This is a good example of how multitasking can degrade the quality of your work. :)

On September 03, 2005 at 04:04 PM, Sithean (guest) said...
Subject: Gravlax
Oh, well done! I can't wait to try this. Thank you.

On September 03, 2005 at 04:18 PM, tony41153 (guest) said...
Subject: Sounds Good
I'm gonna give it a try. Sounds like a great way to start a party.

On September 03, 2005 at 07:13 PM, LAN3 (guest) said...
Subject: Adding Alcohol
I've heard of recipes that call for the addition of liquor (cognac, vodka, aquavit) to the mix, and even one that, in place of pepper, used crushed juniper berries and added gin, for a slightly different taste. So I'm a little surprised to see this "dry" recipe. Any comments on adding alcohol?

On September 04, 2005 at 10:22 AM, Jacob W (guest) said...
Subject: Local flavor
I'm going to throw in my expertise here as a Swede and accomplished "gravare". :) (not to mention engineer)

First, the salmon should actually lay on both sides, as Gravad Lax is stored two fillets at a time with the fleshy sides facing, and should be turned a couple of times while refridgerated.

I can honestly say that I have never encountered a Gravad lax with alcohol as a part of the actual recipe/seasoning. Aquavit however, is nothing less than a requirement to be served with the salmon if you want true scandinavian style gravad lax.

Further, hovmästarsauce is the addition of choice for this "basic" recipe. Mix 1 Tbs sugar, 1 Tbs white wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Add 1dl (6.66 Tbs) of vegetable oil in drop by drop while whipping forcefully. The sauce is to be thick and glossy. If the oil is added too fast then the suce might cut. Finally add 3 Tbs of short dill weed.

Jacob W

On September 04, 2005 at 11:29 PM, Michael Chu said...
Subject: Re: Local flavor
Jacob W wrote:
First, the salmon should actually lay on both sides, as Gravad Lax is stored two fillets at a time with the fleshy sides facing, and should be turned a couple of times while refridgerated.

To prepare the gravlax in the traditional method, cut the filet in half (top to bottom, not head to tail). Cover both pieces with the salt mixture and sandwich the dill in between them (flesh sides facing flesh sides as Jacob says). The gravlax should be flipped over every twelves hours. The problem is, I've prepared gravlax both ways and I can't tell the difference. So, I don't bother with the two piece sandwich anymore and usually don't even bother flipping. Sometimes I flip after a day and half because I like to touch and I can't keep my hands off my food.

Jacob W wrote:
I can honestly say that I have never encountered a Gravad lax with alcohol as a part of the actual recipe/seasoning.

I also have not tried any gravlax prepared with alcohol. I wonder how that tastes.

On September 05, 2005 at 04:12 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Michael Chu wrote:
The problem is, I've prepared gravlax both ways and I can't tell the difference. So, I don't bother with the two piece sandwich anymore and usually don't even bother flipping. Sometimes I flip after a day and half because I like to touch and I can't keep my hands off my food.

Ohhhh careful, you thread on dangerous ground. Gravnings-purists would have your head for that sentiment. ;)

Jacob W

On September 06, 2005 at 12:11 PM, Skip (guest) said...
Subject: Choosing salmon
Help, I love salmon but have absolutely no idea how to choose it.

What do I look for? How is the label marked so that I know it has been frozen to the right temperature? What else does a label say that is meaningful?

What about fresh salmon, how do I pick a good steak? How do I kill the microorganisms?

I've seen different packages at the market but don't know how to choose or even interpret the labels. I tried some smoked salmon once and it turned out tough and dry.

I once had some fantastic thinly sliced smoked salmon at a ski resort. I haven't been able to find anything like it since then, but it sounds like it may have been something akin to lox.

One other thing, if buying frozen, how do I thaw it? In the refrigerator for 3 days? In warm water in the sink a couple hours? Which way is best/safest?

Thanks, the recipe looks great,

On September 06, 2005 at 02:47 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Subject: Gravlax
This is a very good and detailed description of how to make Gravlax. It really is that easy and it has always come out good for me. A few times I have got gravlax, in restaurants, that have been too salty. My guess is that it had been left too long in the salt mix. I have a few other comments:

1. The main difference between this recipe and others I have seen, is that it shows only part of a full filet. It's good to know that a relatively small amount can be prepared in this way. However, if an entire filet is used, the recommended procedure is to cut it into a head and a tail part of equal length. These pieces are then put together in such a way that the thin part of one piece meets the thick part of the other, forming a combined piece of approximately uniform thickness. Before they are put together all sides are covered with the salt mixture and a generous amount of dill is put in between the pieces. This variation may explain the confusion about the skin side of the salmon. When two pieces are put together the skin-sides will be on the outside, whether the filet still have skin or not.
2. I'm sceptical to the proposed etymology of the word "gravlax". I have never heard of preparing salmon by burying it, even in the past. The Swedish word "grav" can also mean a water-filled depression, such as a moat or an especially deep area of the sea.
3. I don't know why the recipe specifies kosher salt, since that's rarely used in Scandinavia. Maybe the point is that it must be real salt, not low-sodium or other substitutes.
4. I second the opinion that the basic recipe can't be improved on, except with a little bit of pepper.
5. I agree that the more dill the better. I put dill over and under too.
6. In my experience no amount of plastic wrap can contain the juices completely, it's messy. The best would probably be to use a zip-lock bag, but I have never had a big enough bag handy.
7. I agree that weights don't seem to accomplish anything. My guess is that weights might have helped keeping the salmon immersed in the juices, before the days of plastic.
8. Maybe a single piece doesn't have to be turned, but I feel better about turning a two layer piece. It's easy enough, except for the mess.

On September 08, 2005 at 05:19 PM, Peoii said...
If only I lived in a place where getting the salmon was easier! Oh well, time for another crusade in search of great ingrediants. :)

On September 09, 2005 at 05:35 PM, baustin (guest) said...
Subject: gravlax
I prepared salmon gravlax from a recipe by Emeril Lagasse, but forgot I had in the the fridge. It's been in the brine at least 3 weeks. I peeled back with wrap and there was a nice, fresh scent of dill. Does anyone know whether this would be safe to eat?

Do I take a chance and a taste, or toss the whole thing out to the raccoons and possums who patrol for scraps?

On September 12, 2005 at 04:40 AM, (guest) said...
Subject: cooking

On September 12, 2005 at 04:20 PM, holymakeral (guest) said...
Subject: farmed vs wild salmon
May I add that there are numerous good reasons to prefer wild to farmed salmon in this recipe as well as any other use of salmon?

A quick google will tell the stories.

On September 13, 2005 at 03:43 AM, Henrik (guest) said...
Subject: gravlax in various styles
The proportions between salt and sugar are a little individual. I have tasted versions where they used 4 parts of sugar to one par salt and it was quite tasty. Personally I prefere 2,5 parts of sugar to one part salt. Equal amounts of sugar and salt is a little too salty for me.

I normally use fennel and dill seeds for spicing the fish but you can use quite a lot of things. The yellow on the lemon is also nice along with the lemonjuice. You can use oranges as well but its not a personal favourite.

Gin and rose pepper is quite nice but one have to be caful with the alcohol as the fish generally catches a lot of taste from alcohol. A smoother alcohol as dry sherry might be an option.

When preparing the fish I normally prefere a palastic bag as you can close that tightly. The fish gives away some fluids and you want to keep that with the fish. Using a whole fish you take the two filets put the sugar/spice mix and rub it into the filets gently. Put the leftover mix and the dill/fennel etc and put it in between the parts. Put the other file on top of the first one head to tail and put it in the bag.

If you want to speed up the process you can actually use thin slices of salmon, put on a plate and carefully pour over some salt/sugar mix. It will marinate in 5-10 minutes.

On September 13, 2005 at 07:49 AM, e (guest) said...
Looks really good! I'm swedish but I've never done this stuff myself, I usually just buy it. Should give it a try myself!

About the name: it is not called gravlax in Sweden, the actual name is GRAVAD LAX (meaning burried salmon like you said, but don't know what the name relates to, my guess is that people laid the salmon in pits in the ground or underground cellars during the curing to keep it cool). The name "gravlax" that americans seem to use probably comes from the norwegian name you mentioned

On September 15, 2005 at 08:39 AM, hesh83@YAHOO.COM (guest) said...
Subject: COOKING
:shock: :angry:

On September 19, 2005 at 04:36 AM, james9 (guest) said...
Subject: gavadlax
i love this dish, although i like to cure the salmon for 4-6 hours as its got a much fresher consistency and absorbs enough flavors from the curing to work. Its nearer to sashimi than a cure then. j

On September 28, 2005 at 03:20 PM, Mr Wozencroft (guest) said...
Subject: MMMMMMmmmmmm
Tried your recipe last week. Now have part of my freezer stocked up with a side of scottish salmon racked up for a seven day freeze before I try it again. It was amazing. Firm,tasty and morish.
Can you do the same with Tuna? Or Cod, Haddock for example?
Also, in the freezer, I have the Head to tail covered a generous amount of flesh; does anyone have any ideas what I can do with it?
Cure it and make a pate for example? Seems such a shame to waste it...

On November 04, 2005 at 03:25 PM, jenny (guest) said...
Subject: keeping?
should you continue to refridgerate it after it is done? Or can it be left out?

On November 04, 2005 at 04:20 PM, Michael Chu said...
Subject: Re: keeping?
jenny wrote:
should you continue to refridgerate it after it is done? Or can it be left out?

I'd definitely keep it refrigerated.

On November 04, 2005 at 04:24 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Subject: Re: keeping?
jenny wrote:
should you continue to refridgerate it after it is done? Or can it be left out?

Keep it in the fridge, its still a fresh product

Can you do the same with Tuna? Or Cod, Haddock for example? .

I'm pretty sure you want to use a fatty fish

On November 04, 2005 at 04:33 PM, an anonymous reader said...
We make gravad lax about twice a year. New Years and at some point for a birthday.

I forgot to add we like to make a sauce with ours.

Unless I'm baking I never measure but here's a start. You want this sauce to end up savory, the sugar is just to take the bite out of the mustard and the lemon. Add the oil last the as an emusifier. I dont use much oil.

deli mustard
lemon juice

On November 10, 2005 at 04:52 PM, Bob (guest) said...
Subject: Gravad lox
I find that weighting the salmon while it is curing yields a final product with a very dense and satiny consistency, which I find preferable. I assume that this occurs because the weighting forces more liquid out of the fish. Actually, I no longer "weight" the fish, per se. Rather, I do it this way:

1. I lay two salmon filets out, skin side down and flesh side up, and rub a substantial amount of a salt/sugar/white pepper mixture onto the flesh side of each. I have made it with both kosher salt and coarse-grained sea salt, and find that the latter gives a more vibrant taste to the end product. I use equal parts of salt and sugar, and approximately 10% of the total salt/sugar mix of finely-ground white pepper. For a whole salmon of about 4 pounds before fileting -- i.e., two filets, each weighing about 1-1/2 pounds after fileting -- I would use about 5 tablespoons each of salt and sugar, and about one tablespoon of pepper. This is, of course, approximate, and accurate measurement is not crucial.

2. I place the following into a flat glass (or otherwise nonreactive) baking dish: a layer of dill; one of the salmon filets, skin side against the dill, flesh side up, with the filet facing an arbitrary north; another layer of dill; the other salmon filet, flesh side against the dill, skin side up, with the filet facing an arbitrary south; another layer of dill. Over the top of this "sandwich" I sprinkle the remaining salt/sugar/white pepper mix. For a whole salmon -- i.e., two filets -- a 13" x 9" baking dish is the right size.

3. I take another nonreactive baking dish of the same size and place it on top of the "sandwich," with the flat side (bottom) of the baking dish down.

4. I wrap the whole thing with 4 short bungee cords, two on the arbitrary north-south axis and the others on the arbitrary east-west axis, to press the upper baking dish down onto the "sandwich." I then refrigerate it.

5. After 12 - 24 hours I unwrap the bungee cords, drain off the liquid, turn the "sandwich" over, replace the upper baking dish, re-wrap with the bungee cords, and refrigerate. I repeat this every 12 - 24 hours for two to three days.

6. When it is finished I remove the "sandwich", drain off whatever liquid remains, separate the filets, throw away everything that is not salmon, rinse the filets thoroughly, dry them, and lightly scrape the flesh surface of each filet with a sharp knife (otherwise I find it too salty).

7. I serve it sliced thin (a long-bladed non-serrated knife seems to work best), on small pieces of thin-sliced rye or pumpernickel bread, with a sauce made of 1 tablespoon sweet mustard, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 tablespoon white vinegar, 4 - 5 oz. oil (I mix good-quality olive oil and neutral salad oil, such as Canola, equally) whisked in a drop or so at a time so that sauce emulsifies, and a whole lot of finely-chopped dill at the end.

8. Vodka or aquavit that has been stored in the freezer, served in shot glasses, goes well.[/i]

On February 02, 2006 at 04:36 PM, PinkFerret (guest) said...
Subject: Sashimi Salmon
Would sushi/sashimi quality salmon work well for this without having to be frozen first?

On February 03, 2006 at 02:29 AM, Michael Chu said...
Subject: Re: Sashimi Salmon
PinkFerret wrote:
Would sushi/sashimi quality salmon work well for this without having to be frozen first?

I was under the impression that sushi grade salmon was all prefrozen to destroy parasites.

On February 15, 2006 at 10:10 PM, (guest) said...
Subject: gravlax methods: to wrap/wieght or not
I've done graavlax/gravad lax for years, with lots of variations. My favorite ingredient list includes a 2:1 sugar to salt proportion (any non-iodized salt), both black and white cracked peppercorns, crushed juniper berries and tons of dill. I've also had excellent, though a bit off-beat and non-purist results adding a sprinkle of about 1tsp lemon juice which has been mixed with a few drops of pure (natural) vanilla extract. (1 tsp per lb salmon).

A wonderful method of putting up the salmon was taught me by a Swedish chef (my apologies to my Danish friends). After making the traditional filet sandwich, cut sufficient cheesecloth to wrap the sandwich 6 to 8 times. Cover the surface of your non-reactive dish with one end of the cheesecloth, throw some dill, sugar/salt mixture and pepper/juniper berry on it, then lay on the sandwich. Throw some of the same ingredient mix on the top of the sandwich. Then, wrap the sandwich in the cheesecloth while flipping it and pulling slightly on the cheesecloth with each turn.

This accomplishes all you need do. Each time you wrap and pull, the total pressure on the salmon is additively increased by the strength of each pull (same as when a piano tuner repairs a broken hammer shank by applying glue and then wrapping with thread). This holds the dill/berry/pepper mix firmly against the fish (don't pull too hard, just gently). It also maintains moisture all around the fish and reduces the required frequency of turning while curing. Best of all, it has always seemed to me to produce a much nicer, fresher tasting product by allowing the fish to breathe while curing (as opposed to wrapping in plastic -- think about it, they didn't have plastic wrap when this dish was first developed by our Scandi pals). Breathing is a good thing, moisture is a good thing, it's all good.

I believe you'll find the resulting product freshly flavored just the way you want it (depending upon your own ingredient mix) and with a moist, medium-firm (just firm enough to slice), melt-in-your-mouth texture.

On February 24, 2006 at 02:14 PM, flora (guest) said...
Subject: Gravlax is salty
I followed this recipe EXACTLY and the gravlax was TOO salty. I have made gravlax about 4 times during my cooking life and it's always too salty. I decided to try this recipe because it uses much less salt than any of the others I've tried. Do you think 2 days is just too long?

Foiled again.

On March 13, 2006 at 09:59 PM, Dutch (guest) (guest) said...
Subject: gravlax,gravadlax, whatever
I have been making Gravlax for years and find that a 60% sugar and 40% salt mix works best for me. I also find that many recipes end up tasting too strong of dill. A friend gave me a variation using a light sprinkling of Lapsong soochong (smoked) tea,insted of dill, before applying the salt sugar mix then a sprinkle of Aguavit or vodka. I use the wieghted version of prep as I too prefer the texture and this recipe is my favorite now. I have served it in my restaurant and to people at a wedding all, to rave reviews. Over the years I have seen many variations and tried quite a few. One with Tequia and cilantro(fresh coriander) in place of the vodka and dill was memorable.
If yours is too salty for your taste you should not reduce the salt too much as it is vital to the "cure" and is needed to extract the liquids. Try wiping it clean of the seasoning or even rinsing then patting it dry with a clean cloth then a good honey-mustard sauce should not foil your efforts again.
Hope this helps.

On April 16, 2006 at 01:25 AM, an anonymous reader said...
Three decades ago, I had a Jewish girlfriend. One of our joys was going to the deli on Sundays (before the Christians got out of church) and gobbling latkes and Nova Scotia lox.
Thirty years later, I'm Asatru, and hankering to make gravlax; my lust for cured salmon hasn't diminished one whit.

On May 14, 2006 at 12:11 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Subject: great site!
:D My son came home from college, who is a science major and showed me this site--well done! And, the Mother's Day brunch was awesome! Thank you!!

On May 17, 2006 at 02:41 AM, Deken (guest) said...
Subject: Gravlax
I've made Graxlax several times but have a question about the salmon itself. Living here in the northwest we have access to varied species, and the debate rages as to which makes the best gravlax.
Some say King (chinook) is best, others vote for Silver Salmon, many say they prefer Sockeye. There is also Chum.
Any comments from those with experience??????

On May 17, 2006 at 10:29 PM, GaryProtein said...
I like making gravlax from either Atlantic or Pacific salmon. For me, the key is that it is wild, not farmed. There IS a difference.

On May 21, 2006 at 06:55 PM, an anonymous reader said...
As an Alaskan who has made Gravlax several times (including the quick method where one pre-slices the salmon before doing the mix) I like to use silver salmon (aka Coho) as it is more delicate than other varieties of salmon, but does still have a firm flesh, unlike pink salmon. Sockeye is also good but is a bit firmer flesh, but I prefer to use it for other fresh salmon dishes. King salmon (aka Chinook) is much too oily and has a very firm flesh which makes it more appropriate for fresher salmon dishes like sushi, or a quick grilling. I've never used chum salmon for anything, and to clue you in on why, it's nickname here in AK is dog.

I've also used vanilla extract and/or lemon juice instead of an alcohol. I've also used dried dill and it's not such a awful compromise in taste. This summer I'm looking forward to trying lime juice.

Also, for those that are squeamish about "raw" salmon, or if it's too salty, I'd suggest soaking their serving pieces in fresh lemon juice for a bit of time to "cook" it for them.

On May 24, 2006 at 02:43 PM, Raymond in Bangkok (guest) said...
Subject: Thailand recipe
HI folks

I'm always looking for new ways to prepare fish, and nothing is more tasty than a gravelax dish with rye bread and sliced red onion (cappers are a treat, too). I am a teacher in Bangkok and from Canada where I learned about making gravelax using local rainbow trout, steelhead, and landlocked salmon. All the recipes I have read here are fantastic. What I would like to comment on the complaints of saltiness and curing time. The saltiness comes from (as you would probably know), the salt that you apply onto the actual flesh. If your gravelax is coming out too salty, it is because you are putting too much cure agent onto the fish. You only need to sprinkle the salt - sugar mixture lightly onto the fish. What many don't realize is when you are sprinkling the cure mixture onto the fish, the salt and sugar quickly desolves causing you to think that you are not putting enough on. Your fillet does not need to be painted white with the cure mixture. Be confident with your first application and try that. Once you have treated the fillet with the specified amount of cure mixture, wrap it up and prepare it for cooling.

I still believe that weight is an important factor with the curing process. I have tried bricks, stones, cutting boards, and even old phone books. Let me tell you all, nothing is better than a water balloon. After you have prepared your gravelax for the cooler, get a medium sized garage bag and fill it over half way with water. Tie it off and place it directly onto your fillets. It is best to use a roasting pan so that the sides of the pan will contain the bloated bag. The weight of the water is evenly placed all around the fish, compared to a brick that only rests on the high side of the fillet. The water bag will evenly diplace weight around the fillet giving it an ideal curing pattern. Try it, you will be surprised with the difference.

I hope this tip finds you in good health. God bless


On June 02, 2006 at 12:06 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Subject: gravad lax
About the debate on where this delish dish has gotten it's name from. The latin name for dill, the herb which you cover the salmon with while curing, is "Anethum graveolens". Could perhaps that name reveal something about why it's called gravad lax or gravlax? ;-) Lox, by the way, would come from the scandinavian languages' word for salmon, which is lax, for anyone who's interested.


On June 27, 2006 at 06:05 AM, an anonymous reader said...
On May 17, 2006 at 7:29 PM, GaryProtein said...
I like making gravlax from either Atlantic or Pacific salmon. For me, the key is that it is wild, not farmed. There IS a difference.

All Atlantic salmon are farmed. Atlantic salmon is an extinct species in the wild, so the only ones which remain are farmed ones. They are an ideal farming species because they are the most agressive and are pushed to grow faster than they should.

Aside from the taste, there are very good ecological and health reasons to purchase wild salmon rather than farmed.

On July 15, 2006 at 08:41 PM, pixel (guest) said...
Subject: Gravad Lax
Using fresh dill increases the chance of infection from bacteria from the earth in which the dill was grown. I use dried dill for the process, fresh dill for the mustard/sugar/oil sauce. I use 1/3 salt, 2/3 sugar, 1/6 pepper for the pickling process. I'll use a salt from the Danish island Laesoe next time. Has a fantastic flavor. It's 10 times as expensive.

A variation: Use fennel seeds and Noilly Prat as an addition to the basic recepe. 2 times the amount of pepper. 2 tablespoons of Noilly Prat.

Next time I do this dish I'll try the cheese cloth method. I heard somewhere that packing the fish in plastic can be a problem, no oxygen gets to the fish and some bacteria are anaerobic.

Freezing fatty fish: pack them in water, the frozen fish will last longer(3-9 months) in the freezer as opposed to packing in air(1-2 months).

On July 15, 2006 at 08:46 PM, Pixel (guest) said...
Subject: addition
In the paragraph on "variation" I wrote "2 times the amount of pepper" but forgot to add "fennel as of pepper".

On July 16, 2006 at 01:32 PM, Pixel (guest) said...
Subject: freezing fish
A misunderstanding might arise in my previous posts.
Freezing fish in water applies only to fresh fish, not prepared fish. I've frozen Gravad lsalmon and smoked salmon packed in plastic film and plastic bags. Max. 2 months before the fish gets an aftertaste from the skin.

On July 28, 2006 at 12:45 PM, Raymond in Bangkok (guest) said...
Subject: Cheese Cloth
Cheese cloth sounds like an excellent idea and one that I will try next time. I have often considered something that would allow the cure to breathe and plastic or tin wrap don't allow this. Commenting on using fresh dill, which I feel is better than dried, a simple wash before applying onto the fillet works well. What you want to do first is air dry the dill after washing. This will make sure that moisture is removed. Farmed or wild salmon? Raised in Canada, I have never seen wild salmon on the market. The only wild salmon I used were the salmon I caught. In Bangkok I purchase the farmed salmon from Norway. It's great for my needs and tastes very similar to the wild salmon that I caught back home (referred to as land locked salmon, a strain from the Penobscot River in Maine). Just remember that farmed salmon are fed with pellets mixed with antibiotics. Wild fish such as steelhead, rainbow trout, and salmon will always make the best gravlex.

On August 07, 2006 at 01:54 PM, Raymond in Bangkok (guest) said...
Subject: Avoid Cheese Cloth
Regarding to the post on using cheese cloth instead of plastic wrap, I have tried it and can not recommend it now. I thought at first it would be a good idea to have the gravlax ~breathe~ during the cure time, but what really happens is that the crucial cured liquid is obsorbed into the cheese cloth. I have done some research on ancient gravlax recipes and most encourage using the liquid as part of the curing process. The gravlax that I produced using cheese cloth with a 48 hour plus 12 hour cure time came out rather raw tasting and more saltier than previous done with more traditional recipes.

Regarding a previous post about freezing smoked or cured salmon. If you feel about a bitter after taste, remove the skin before making gravlax or pre-slice it and wrap it (layer it) on waxed paper before covering it in plastic or tin wrap for freezer storage. It works great.

On August 11, 2006 at 08:33 PM, nanaverm (guest) said...
Subject: Gravlax
I wonder how it would be with fresh fennel used instead of fresh dill. Or if freeze-dried dill weed could be used, since it will be washed off later. Any ideas?

On August 13, 2006 at 12:53 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Subject: More about wild vs fresh
if you want wild salmon, your best bet is to order it direct from Alaska. I read an article not long ago where a reporter in New York bought supposedly "wild" salmon from a number of reputable fish dealers, yet when they were tested for dye (farmed fish are actually dyed orange - yech!) nearly all of them were positive for the dye.
You can google up small companies in Alaska who ship fresh, frozen salmon direct to your door.

Farmed salmon are raised in pens and the waste falls directly to the bottom beneath them where it forms a layer that attracts many bacteria and other parasites. These farmed salmon have a far higher bacteria count than wild salmon - not good for something like gravlax. Not good at all...

Oh, if your store is selling "wild" salmon, one quick way to tell if they are really farmed is to just look at a number of them. If they are uniform in size and color, then they are farmed. Or perhaps you might see them in in only two sizes - male and female.
Wild fish vary considerably in length and girth. The flesh will have different tones from pale orange to dark red.

Oh, one other way to tell the difference occurs to me. All farmed Pacific salmon are Coho (sometimes called Silvers).
So if you see King (chinook) or Sockeye (Red) salmon, you can be assured it's wild fish. You wouldn't want to buy the chum (dog) salmon or Pinks for something like gravlax.

Of course, all commercially sold Atlantic salmon are farmed.

Keith, in Alaska

On September 11, 2006 at 06:08 AM, Fae Aberdeen (guest) said...
Subject: Salmon
i have tried many types of Salmon, but non-farmed Scottish has to be best ;-}
maybe i am biased....
but if you want to be authentic surely it has to be from the region the recipie comes from.
great site by the way.

On October 07, 2006 at 04:23 PM, lyly (guest) said...
Subject: Gravlax
Your recipe seems great, the explanation very detailed and the comments very interesting; I read them all. As soon as I can get some good frozen salmon I'll try your recipe. When it is cured how long can we keep it in the refrigerator? Thanking you in advance

On October 27, 2006 at 11:40 PM, an anonymous reader said...
I've just found out about this recipe and I'm very interested in trying it. I do have a few questions.

How to know if the salmon bought in the supermarket was frozen long enough or at all?

Can you use regular iodized table salt?

Like the post above, How long does it stay good in the refridgerator after?

Thank you all

On October 28, 2006 at 01:56 AM, Michael Chu said...
Anonymous wrote:
How to know if the salmon bought in the supermarket was frozen long enough or at all?

Ask your fishmonger at the supermarket. They will know the source of the fish and whether it has been deep frozen.

Anonymous wrote:
Can you use regular iodized table salt?


Anonymous wrote:
Like the post above, How long does it stay good in the refridgerator after?

A tricky question to answer properly. I'll be conservative and say two weeks plus some common sense (If it starts to smell different, then it's probably not worth it to risk continuing to eat it).

On November 05, 2006 at 04:21 PM, Lintballoon said...
Subject: Sardines
I come from a long line of salt-aholics and anchovie lovers, and was inspired by the appearance of fresh sardines at my local fish market (the Quarterdeck in Maynard MA, highly recommended). I found a Greek recipe for sardines, in which you cover them (the sardines) in Kosher salt for around six hours, then strip the skin off and peel away the center spine and bones. A lot of water expressed from the fish. Rinse off the excess salt before serving.
It was easy and delish. Big, juicy and anchovie-like, smooth textured treats!
I served them with shots of Ouzo and a sauce made from roasted red pepper paste, tomato paste, olive oil, lemon, oregano and garlic, on toasted "artisan" bread. The liquorishy sweet taste of the Ouzo compliments the intensely salty taste of the fillets.
The recipe I used did not call for refridgerating or gutting the fish during the salting, but I did both since I am still a squeamish American.

On November 29, 2006 at 12:08 PM, Raymond in Bangkok (guest) said...
Subject: Frozen Fish
Telling if a salmon has been properly frozen and ready for consumption can be a difficult task. As a long time fly angler freezing trout and salmon, I would like to pass on a couple of tips. There are three things you should check for when purchasing frozen salmon; vacuum sealing, secondary freezing, and freezer burn.

Most salmon fillets come in a sealed, vacuum packed bag. You should first check if the package is air tight. Vacuum packing protects the product from air and the elements. The fillet should be tightly wrapped if vacuumed packed. If the fillet freely moves inside the package, the vacuum seal has been compromised. A clear sign that the package seal has been broken is evidence of ice crystals inside the package. Next, look for secondary freezing. Second freezing occurs during the shipping process. During international shipping, cargo boxes are opened and inspected. The fillets that are on the top of the crates are exposed to outdoor heat. Though the time exposed to outdoor heat maybe minimum, it is enough to de-thaw the outside of fillets exposed to it. Though the fillets maybe in sealed packages, you should look for evidence of discolored skin on the outer edges. Freezer burn is an act of over freezing or improper freezing. If the fillet has a shine of green-gold it is subject to freezer burn. Freezer burn fillets are edible if the damaged flesh is removed.

When buying in a frozen section of a grocery store, always look for a fillet that is pink-orange in color with no sign of discoloring on the edges. Asking a assistant about the origins of the salmon is futile. Always look for clues and clear signs that that fillet is edible and decent to make gravlax.

On December 06, 2006 at 01:02 PM, guest engineer/cook (guest) said...
Subject: grav lax
If you are trying to add a smoked flavor to your lax or mor Lox like, I have prepared a similar cure and added a basting of liquid smoke. the results were a happy medium between grav lax and lox. vary the amount you baste in to your taste, I used 4 tbls for a 4 pound fillet and the flavor was mild and pleasing. great site!!!!

On December 17, 2006 at 12:16 PM, IndyRob said...
Subject: Experiment in Progress
Inspired by this thread, I've decided to try an experiment. I'm not sure if it will work (or if it's even safe) but I'll provide an update in a few days.

I got a FoodSaver vacuum sealer for my birthday and have been using it quite a bit for a variety of things. Reading through this thread, I realized that it might offer some advantages. Of course, there has also been discussion about cheesecloth and letting gravlax breathe - so a process sans O2 might not be such a hot idea. Plus, would the lack of air inhibit the aromatic properties of the dill? I just don't know. I did find one reference to doing this on the web, so I decided to give it a try....

I stayed basically true to the original recipe given here. 8oz salmon, 15g salt, 15g sugar, 2g pepper. I recalled seeing Daniel Boulud making gravlax on television and took a tip from him to make the salt layer a little thinner where the fillet tapers off.

The packaged dill was labled at 3/4oz and seemed to be about the right amount. I used some plastic wrap just to help me to keep everything together until it was in the vacuum bag.

Edit (Michael - 2008/09/07): DEAD IMAGE

Then I put the FoodSaver to it....

Edit (Michael - 2008/09/07): DEAD IMAGE

Under vaccum it appears that there is excellent contact to the salt and dill. I'll also have zero problems with juices running around since everything is sealed. I'll probably turn it a few times just because I can.

I haven't marinated anything under vacuum yet, but the vaccum is supposed to speed up the marinating process. I'm wondering if this might apply to curing as well. I'm not going to make that assumption though, so I'll leave it for 2-3 days. Then I'll open it up and be very cautious in evaluating the results.

On December 20, 2006 at 07:21 PM, IndyRob said...
Subject: A Qualified Success
I debagged my experiment today and I believe it to be a general success. I should note that I have never experienced proper gravlax so my impressions are based on my experience with smoked salmon.

I have a few more pics, but I don't think they'll add much to the discussion. I can post them if anyone cares, but I don't see the need to bother.

On or about day two, some juices started to appear in the bag. And that's pretty much where it stayed. I doubt that there was more than a teaspoon worth of juices even after another day.

Upon debagging (after three days), there were no off odors. The smell of dill was still readily apparent. The flesh had firmed up significantly. I removed the dill, washed the fish and made a test slice. It looked right. Everything seemed right. So I sliced off another thin piece and took a taste....

Very salty. I'll now generally agree with others that less salt might be good. HOWEVER, when I put a slice on a little disk of white bread quickly grilled in olive oil and topped with a little dab of sour cream, everything balanced out quite nicely indeed. So, in the end, I think the salt debate has to be related to what you're planning to do with the finished product.

As to the dill, I'm undecided. The flavor is there, but it's quite subtle. I think it works for me because a lot of dill influence wouldn't necessarily be a good thing. For me, dill is good only in small doses. Still, I'm left with the feeling that it should have had more of an effect. If there's any negative effect of the vacuum sealing technique, I think it would be here. No air, no aromatic effect.

Phase two of the experiment is to cryovac half the yield and freeze it. I've done that, and will report back on the results.

On December 21, 2006 at 10:13 AM, an anonymous reader said...
I am a fishmonger and have access to salmon of all varieties and origins. Wild/farmed, fresh/frozen, fatty/lean - Atlantic, king, sockeye, coho (and even chum).

My favorite salmon for cooking is Yukon River king salmon (seasonal) or Bruce Gore's frozen king salmon (available year-round).

To make gravlax, I choose an organically-raised Atlantic salmon from the Shetland Islands. This product has a wonderful texture, high oil content and I can use it without freezing because the fish has never been exposed to parasites during its life-cycle as with a wild fish that began its life in fresh river water.

As with any type of farming, there are various methods - some better than others. Aquaculture is not going away and like it or not, it is necessary to satisfy the demand for fish worldwide. There is so much variation with "wild" salmon - the species are very different plus the quality can vary significantly depending on where and when it was caught, what it ate and how it was handled during processing. It can be some of the best fish ever... and some of the worst.

I read quite a few non-factual or misleading statements in the earlier posts. Rather than single them out, I encourage everyone to develop a relationship with their local fishmonger and do yourself a favor by learning the facts and gathering information from all sides of the story.

On December 21, 2006 at 10:23 PM, GaryProtein said...
At local fish dealers (Citarella, Whole Foods and Fairway), I have noticed that the muscular grain pattern in the farmed salmon appears to be coarser-farther apart-than on the wild salmon. I don't know if they are lying when they say the wild fish is really wild, but either way, the fish in the "farmed" display always has a wider grain pattern in the meat than the "wild" salmon. Is is due to farmed fish growing faster??

Is this an artifact, or is this something we should be looking for to differentiate wild and farmed salmon?

On December 22, 2006 at 09:05 AM, an anonymous reader said...
I have noticed that the muscular grain pattern in the farmed salmon appears to be coarser-farther apart-than on the wild salmon.

Is this an artifact, or is this something we should be looking for to differentiate wild and farmed salmon?

Farmed salmon is *almost* always Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar) and wild-caught salmon is *almost* always Pacific salmon, of the genus Oncorhynchus, which include king/Chinook, Sockeye/red and Coho/silver.

These are VERY different fish. The coarseness you see in the farmed salmon is due to its natural texture plus its fat content (like the marbling of beef) which can be dramatically higher than any of the wild fish other than a king salmon that is ready to spawn. This fat contains high amounts of healthy Omega-3 oils and is what makes the fish rich and buttery.

I have never had the opportunity to see the flesh of a wild Atlantic salmon, as they are no longer commercially harvested. I would imagine the texture would be similar, but it is likely to be leaner than the aquacultured fish. When you compare wild-caught king salmon to aquacultured king salmon, the only obvious difference is the shape of the fish. The flesh is remarkably similar.

In comparison, as wild salmon is currently out-of-season, any fish in the market this time of the year has been frozen. A majority of it is Sockeye, which has about 1/3 the oil content of Atlantic salmon. The freezing process softens the flesh considerably plus it is relatively lean, so it would be difficult to notice much of a "grain pattern" in this more delicately-textured fish.

On December 26, 2006 at 08:27 AM, an anonymous reader said...
Subject: Freezing and Graving different fish
The thing about making sure that the fish has been frozen can be thrown out the window. You're salting the fish and the salt kills the parasites. That's the whole point of the dish: To make it edible past the cathing day regardless of its origin in the sea or the lakes. The salt kills the parasites and their eggs. At least that's how we've been taught out here in Finland. And nobody in my family has ever had any parasite infections even though we've eaten gravlax forever (talk about my granparents for that matter). Just make sure the fish is fresh.

The other thing was the question of can you "grav" other fish. The answer is yes. Very popular gravning here (in addition to salmon) is whitefish. It's just delicious.

As for the recipe's, my grandmother said that she always puts the salt first, then the sugar as the salt doesn't get absorbed as well if the sugar is mixed or put before.

About the saltiness, it sounds like you've let your fish be in the fridge too long. 2 days is a bit long. Next time try 36 hours. If it's still too salty, try 24 hours. Remember that if you use fresh fish from the ocean , the length of the gravning is a matter of taste just like the spices (juniper berries, cognac, akvavit, crushed red peppercorns). Sea-caught fresh salmon can be eaten raw if you like (sashimi, sushi anyone?).

Regs, Jarkko

On December 27, 2006 at 11:14 PM, Fishmonger (guest) said...
Interesting comments, Jarkko. I will have to try whitefish gravlax sometime. Another type of cured fish I enjoy is Shime-Saba, or Japanese cured mackerel. I suppose it is really just another method of "gravving".
The thing about making sure that the fish has been frozen can be thrown out the window. You're salting the fish and the salt kills the parasites

I'm not sure I'm ready to risk using fresh wild salmon or other anadromous fish for my gravlax, though. One of my fellow fishmongers ended up in the emergency room when he began passing a tapeworm he presumably got from eating raw fresh wild salmon. He thought he was losing his intestines. Not an experience I am eager to have!

Here is some interesting information from the Alaska office of Epidemiology on salmon tapeworms.
Although the salting process *may* kill tapeworms, there are other helminthic parasites in wild salmon that are only destroyed by cooking or freezing.

On the other hand, I did have a customer once who told me about a parisitic infection she got in the Caribbean, but said the ceviche was so wonderful she would eat it again but next time would take the antiparasitic drugs first ;)

On January 18, 2007 at 12:34 PM, Raymond in Bangkok (guest) said...
Subject: Beating the salt
I have been struggling with the salt - sugar balance for a long time, but I think I might have found a good solution. What I am doing now is mixing 1/2 cup salt with 1/2 cup sugar and putting it into a zip-lock bag. For my needs, I use skinless fillets and cut them into about 8 ounce pieces. I put the fillet into the bag and shake it for a few seconds. After, I will let it stand for about 5 minutes to allow the salt and sugar to start the curing process. Lastly, I will remove the fillet and shake off the extra mixture and place it onto a bed of dill wrapped by plastic wrap or cheese cloth. What I have discovered is that the fillet acquires sufficient curing agent and it is neither salty or sweet. I have been making gravlax for nearly 20 years and this is the best result I have tasted yet.

On January 28, 2007 at 05:18 AM, CamMan said...
Subject: Gravlax Temp
The Alaska Epidemiology article referenced in the comments states that
-10C (14F) for 72 hours will do the trick, not -10F (-23C) for at least 7 days as stated in the gravlax recipe. Why the difference?

If this works for raw salmon, wouldn't it work for any meat, even chicken?

Thanks, CamMan

On January 29, 2007 at 09:02 AM, Fishmonger (guest) said...
Freezing will kill parasites, but not bacteria - which is the concern with meat and poultry.

If you are freezing fish in a home freezer, it's going to take longer than it would in a colder, more efficient commercial freezer. Both the FDA and EU have guidelines for freezing fish and of course they don't agree with each other. It's interesting that the Alaska office of Epidemiology doesn't go with the FDA guidelines.


On February 04, 2007 at 11:17 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Subject: Re: More about wild vs fresh
Anonymous wrote:
I read an article not long ago where a reporter in New York bought supposedly "wild" salmon from a number of reputable fish dealers, yet when they were tested for dye (farmed fish are actually dyed orange - yech!) nearly all of them were positive for the dye.

Farmed salmon are given the carotenoids canthaxanthin and astaxanthin along with their feed. Wild salmon naturally get these same pigments from their diet (e.g. shellfish). So I would assume all salmon, wild or not, would test positive for this "dye".

On May 30, 2007 at 09:05 AM, Jean (guest) said...
Subject: gravlax
I made gravlax by similar recipe but there was no info on how long it will safely keep after curing. Is it similar to deli meat as far as how long it will keep in the fridge?

On May 30, 2007 at 01:58 PM, Michael Chu said...
Once the gravlax has been opened and washed of the salt, I'd try to consume it within 3-4 days. Store in the fridge.

On July 06, 2007 at 12:14 AM, Joe (guest) said...
Subject: A note on salt
There is a reason that the original recipe calls for kosher salt -- kosher salt is coarse. While you can use any kind of salt to make gravlax, you need to consider the coarseness of the salt when deciding how much to use. Kosher salt and sea salt are both coarse. Because of this coarseness, less of the salt will be absorbed by the salmon.

If you use regular table or iodized salt, it is much finer than kosher salt. This means that the salmon will absorb much more of the salt and you will end up with a saltier finished product. The general rule in cooking is that when you substitute a fine salt for a coarse salt, you should use half the amount of fine salt that you would use of coarse salt.

If you are finding that your gravlax is too salty for your taste, look at the salt that you are using. Try using a coarse salt or reducing the amount of fine salt that you use.

Hope this helps you make your gravlax better.

On July 12, 2007 at 12:15 PM, Trang (guest) said...
Subject: I think I ruined mine...HELP!

I had salted my salmon filets before I found your site...It had only been a day so then I went and somewhat followed your recipe. I took out the salmon last night (it was time). it is now OVERLY salty...almost to the point of making the salmon hard and not silky. Can I soak it in water for a few days to remove the salt? What else can I do or do I have to toss it and go back to the drawing board?


P.S. I used kosher salt

On July 12, 2007 at 02:13 PM, Michael Chu said...
Subject: Re: I think I ruined mine...HELP!
Trang wrote:
Can I soak it in water for a few days to remove the salt? What else can I do or do I have to toss it and go back to the drawing board?

My expectation is that soaking in water for a long time will not reduce the saltiness enough and will result in undesirable textures. If it's not TOO bad, you can slice the gravlax really thin and serve with mild tasting foods - a piece of bread, some cream cheese, cucumbers, anything to cut down on the saltiness.

On August 13, 2007 at 05:36 PM, Heischman said...
Subject: Gravlax for the Dietetic
Was wondering if honey could be used instead of sugar?

On October 02, 2007 at 10:34 PM, Ralph (guest) said...
Subject: Swedish verb "grava, gravad"
Being a Swedish engineer, I am totally impressed by this site and the reader's valuable tips and comments, some of which I will certainly explore in my own cooking. Just one point: although the Swedish substantive "grav" is equivalent to "grave" in English, the verb "grava" means "treat with salt" and not buriedR- there you go!

On October 11, 2007 at 07:15 PM, DC Colorado (guest) said...
Subject: adding smoke after curing
I am curious as to whether it is possible to add smoke to salmon after curing. I do not have a smoker but rather just a normal BBQ grill. With just a small pile of coals and wood chips and by distancing the salmon from heat can I add the smokiness of lox without over cooking or ruining texture? Of course I would freeze after. Any help.

On October 16, 2007 at 07:51 PM, stevewolf31 said...
Subject: Dill options
So who's tried just using dried dill when you can't get bushels of it where you live(without spending an arm and a leg)--does that work?

On October 17, 2007 at 12:35 AM, stevewolf31 said...
Subject: What to do
The process you have subjected the swalmon to is a preservative--I'd cautiously taste as you can expect a bad smell if fish is bad--

On October 17, 2007 at 11:12 AM, an anonymous reader said...
Subject: smoking
Regarding the idea of smoking the cured fish: I love it! I'm sure the purists on the post would not agree, but oh well. Maybe you'd need to call it smoked cured salmon so as not to offend.

To address the concern about texture, I'd think you would want to do what is called a "cold smoke" method where you keep the temp down to 100 deg. F or lower, as opposed to the 200-225 range you'd normally shoot for.

To use your charcoal grill and regulate temp, use a quick read meat thermometer. Push it through a cork and put the cork in one of the holes in the lid to secure it. You can leave it there and monitor what's happening without opening the lid and having big fluctuations in temp and smoke. It won't take much fire at all. I wouldn't think the process would take very long either.

On October 21, 2007 at 08:11 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Subject: Observations
I tried a variant of this - started it thursday night and unwrapped it saturday night. Wonderful! Because I've never had lox made with wild salmon (that I know of), I started by using a cheap brand of frozen farmed salmon, so I would be able to compare the result to what I've actually had. This was frozen salmon that I have found acceptable in cooking only when other strong flavors are present. Flavor-wise it compared favorably with decent commercial lox. The texture was acceptable but not great. Of course, if I had used quality wild salmon the results would have been better. I'm not recommending that people use poor quality salmon in this recipe, just establishing a baseline.

The store didn't have fresh dill at all, so I was forced to resort to dried herbs. I can report that they do work to flavor the fish, but it is difficult to wash them off afterwards. A bit of the top of the salmon where it touched the dried herbs had poor texture as a result. This might be avoided by placing a layer of cheesecloth/butter muslin between the salmon and the herbs (after the salt and sugar are added).

I weighted the salmon down unevenly. After a day, when I turned the salmon, I noticed a significant difference in firmness between the weighted and unweighted sides. I suspect that most people will like the weighted version, but others (those who prefer the texture of sushi salmon to that of lox salmon) may like the unweighted version better. I preferred the weighted version in this case.

The center of the fillet was less salty than the top, even after washing.

I may have tested too many things at once in this initial go, but I believe I can make the following notes:

* If quality salmon cannot be acquired, low-quality frozen salmon still makes gravlax comparable to store-bought (though not much better).

* Dry herbs can be used, but may cause the top layer of meat to acquire an undesirable texture.

* Weighting the salmon does make a difference, but whether it's better is a matter of personal preference.

* The top of the fillet is best served in a setting that will offset the saltiness, but the center can more easily be eaten straight.

I wonder if anyone has tried multiple methods of adding smoke flavor (liquid smoke, cold smoking, lapsang souchong in the herb mix) and can comment in the differences?

On November 01, 2007 at 01:03 PM, Laura Neulat (guest) said...
Subject: Gravlax recipe
Your pictures show a completely covered with the sugar/sal/pepper mixcture salmon filet . Looks much more than 2 Tbsp ...

On November 02, 2007 at 01:24 AM, Tom (guest) said...
Subject: Re: Gravlax recipe
Laura Neulat wrote:
Your pictures show a completely covered with the sugar/sal/pepper mixcture salmon filet . Looks much more than 2 Tbsp ...

The article says he used 3 Tbsp. salt and 3 Tbsp. sugar since the cut was 1.5 pounds... It says use 2 Tbsp. of each for each 1lb. of filet

On November 08, 2007 at 04:52 AM, Olga (guest) said...
Has anyone tried using other herbs such as coriander instead of dill?
Thanks Olga :)

On November 27, 2007 at 04:30 PM, egbone (guest) said...
Subject: other herbs
I use dill for the curing stage, but after the gravlax is done I wipe off the herbs and rub 1 tablespoon of Aquavit into each fillet (1.25 lbs each), then pat a freshly ground mix of 1/2 teaspoon white pepper, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 2 teaspoons coriander seed, 2 teaspoons fennel seed, and 2 teaspoons caraway seed into the fish. You could vary this concoction many ways.

Does anyone know what the white film is that sometimes erupts on the surface of gravlax? I don't think it's a spoiler. Some kind of impurity maybe? Because I just wash it off and the gravlax is perfectly fine, and there is no off odor.

On December 07, 2007 at 01:25 PM, VideoBeagle (guest) said...
Subject: Other herbs
I made a 1 lb batch using a tablespoon of ground basil instead of the dill. Like the ground dill, it was a bit difficult to wash off, but the taste is real good!

On December 15, 2007 at 01:29 PM, Raymond in Thailand (guest) said...
Subject: Fresh Spices
When using fresh spices like dill or basil, steeping them for 30 seconds in hot water will bring out the full flavours desired. I never chop up leaves before curing. Using fresh herbs are easy to apply and remove. As well, it is easier to clean the fillets after the curing. You don't want to scrub off the cure from the fillet. That would only cause problems.

On December 20, 2007 at 06:36 PM, Charles Krakoff (guest) said...
Subject: Wild or farmed
I lived in Sweden for a year when I was about 12, and we adopted some culinary practices that we have kept ever since (4 decades on). Gravlax is perhaps the best (we do NOT do lutefisk!). Until 10 or 15 years ago, I don't recall ever thinking about whether salmon was fished or farmed. I suppose 40 years ago there still was wild Atlantic salmon. No longer, of course.

I do like wild salmon for many things, but as someone here has pointed out, wild salmon comes from entirely different species (found in the Pacific). The wonderful thing about Atlantic salmon, especially for gravlax, is the high fat content, which makes a satiny, rich taste and mouth-feel you probably can't get with Pacific salmon. Plus, Atlantic salmon doesn't have as many of the pin bones you find in Coho or Sockeye, which can make it difficult to produce those paper-thin slices you want. Slicing the salmon is very pleasing. I think in another life I might have worked the smoked fish counter at Zabar's in New York.

As for ingredients, salmon, sugar, salt and dill are all you need. A little bit of pepper is okay too. That's it! No gin, no allspice, no lemon, whatever. It's like a martini. Gin and a little vermouth, that's all. These "chocotinis" and such may taste good to some, but they ain't martinis. Same with gravlax. It must be coarse salt, not the stuff you put in a salt shaker. Otherwise it will be too salty.

I believe in the weighting and turning. The weighting is indispensable. It compacts the flesh, making it denser and just better. The turning may not be essential, but why not do it? It's nice to check on it and handle it from time to time. It's a while since I have made it, though I used to do every year. This year I have done it in one layer, not the traditional sandwich, and we will see if it makes a difference. Akvavit is the best accompaniment, possibly with a beer chaser, though some say Champagne is good too. I like it on Finn Crisp or Wasa bread, but it is also good on dark German pumpernickel. My mother always used to make the mustard sauce, but I think the fish tastes so good unadorned, I don't bother with it anymore. Maybe a very thin slice of lemon. No capers or any of that, if you want green vegetables, get them somewhere else.

On December 23, 2007 at 02:03 AM, Zebedee (guest) said...
Subject: Trout fillets?
Wow! You really started something here! I bought some trout fillets yesterday with the intention of trying the Gravad lax method on them... What d'ya think? I also looked everywhere for fresh dill but in deepest darkest Devon (UK) two days before Christmas, it's like hen's teeth! So I'm gonna use some dried Dill instead. Wish me luck.

Happy Chrimbo to all!

On January 02, 2008 at 09:38 AM, vladimir skok (guest) said...
Subject: gravlax
I would suggest rubbing the fish with a bit of aquavit (as they do in Sweden) or flavoured vodka (e.g. lemon, buffalo grass) before adding the curing mixture. A chilled small glass of the aquavit or vodka is a wonderful counterpoint when eating the final product, along with a thoughtful toast!

Also, more is better and preparing a gravlax 'sandwich' with the dill in the middle, pieces flipped for better fit, just makes economical sense. Finally, I have always used a weight (flexible ankle exercise weighs wrapped in plastic for sanity purposes) which advances the curing process to just 2 days and speeds the extraction of liquid. Suggest removing the liquid as it goes since getting rid of it is in in part what the process is all about. A bit of cracked pepper, especially white, adds an additional but traditional angle to the salf-sugar mixture.

I have worked in Sweden a number of times, and my approach is based on in situ tasting including a Saint Lucia (pre-Christmas) smorgasbord.

On January 14, 2008 at 04:13 PM, Rich (guest) said...
Subject: Awesome recipe
I tried this recipe to bring to a party, it was a hit with a crowd that knows its salmon. I put the fillet in a medium ziplock bag which worked very well and prevented any mess. I used sea salt rather than kosher salt, which has a nicer flavor, imo. Made it again, tossing in a pinch of some other herbs (basil, cilantro, oregano) to vary the flavor a bit, and ground the sea salt first to even the flavor impact with the pepper. Brought it to another party, this time to a group of folks who've never had it. They tore into it like wild dogs! We even gave the salmon skin to the dogs after everyone had peeled off every last molecule of the salmon flesh. I've been told I must bring this to all future events. :)

On January 31, 2008 at 03:23 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Subject: Gravlax recipe
I have never done anything like this before, but I love
gravlax, so I tried it. It is wonderful! Thank you for the

On March 21, 2008 at 02:42 PM, RB Graham (guest) said...
Subject: Gravlax
Having read all the comments on the site, concerning the preparation of Gravlax, I now feel that I know more about the subject than is healthy and/or legal for any one individual to know. I have lost critical hours of restful sleep, pondering the imponderable: to weight, or not to weight, Kosher or sea, wild or farmed, vodka or akvavit. And yet, I still have a question or two.

1. Many have complained about the degree of saltiness in their preparations, and the perceived wisdom appears to be - less salt, or less cure time. It occurs to me that the stroger concentration of salt will be located at the point of entry, namely the skinned side of the filet. However, if we skin the entire filet and apply the rub evenly to both sides, aren't we likely to get a more even distribution throughout the filet, whereby we can control the degree of saltinedd by cure time alone?

2. In reviewing all of the comments, there appears to be no mention of the role sugar plays in the curing rub. Does sugar contribute to the cure-rate? Since, to my knowledge, there is no such thing as kosher sugar or seasugar, is there an agreed-to preference of brown over white, or vis versa?

3. For those who prefer a smokey flavor, more typically redolent of lox, would a light brushing of liquid smoke to both sides of the filet, prior to the administration of the rub, do the trick?

Wonderful site, and very interesting reading. I am in your debt.[/b]

On March 21, 2008 at 03:10 PM, Dilbert said...
some interesting questions there!

I have not personally done fish; here's a tidbit about the role of salt & sugar


Chemical action of curing

Salt inhibits the growth of spoilage-causing microorganisms by drawing water out of microbial cells through osmosis. As the unwanted bacterial population decreases, other beneficial bacteria, primarily of the Lactobacillus genus, come to the fore and generate an acidic environment (around 4.5 pH). The sugar included in the cure is used as food by the lactobacilli; generally dextrose is preferred over sucrose, or table sugar, because it seems to be more thoroughly consumed by the bacteria. This process is in fact a form of fermentation, and, in addition to reducing further the ability of the spoilage bacteria to grow, accounts for the tangy flavor of some cured products. Concentrations of salt up to 20% are required to kill most species of unwanted bacteria. Smoking adds chemicals to the surface of an item which affect the ability of bacteria to grow, inhibit oxidation (and thus rancidity), and improve flavor.

on the smokiness, liquid smoke is concentrated, the curing will further concentrate the volume/flavor, so I would proceed with some caution there.

On April 25, 2008 at 02:49 PM, John (guest) said...
Subject: Gravlak
First, a comment on smoking. Cold smoking should be less than 90 degrees F. Warm smoking should never get above 160-180 degrees F or you will cook the fish, not smoke it.

Second, the recipe posted here works well, but can be simplified. I skin the fish (Coho works great) and put the sugar/salt mixture on both sides. Sandwich the fish between dill and weight down with another dish. Turn at 24 hours, draining any liquid that collects, and it is usually done in 48 hours. If you want to add smoke flavor, use Hickory smoke flavored salt (1:4 of the amount of salt or sugar you use for curing).

On August 07, 2008 at 01:30 PM, Melanie (guest) said...
Subject: Question about Gravlax

I had a beautiful slab of salmon and decided to make some gravlax for my Swedish fiancee. I put everything together Sunday night and due to our crazy schedules, we haven't had a chance to dig into this yet (Thursday). We were just invited to a cookout on Sunday and I thought we could bring this for everyone to enjoy, but am worried about the final product being too salty after sitting there for a week. Should we rinse it now and just leave it tightly wrapped in the refrigerator until Sunday? Any help would be greatly appreciated!


On August 07, 2008 at 03:41 PM, Dilbert said...
Melanie -

unwrap it and wipe off any excess salt, etc., but do not "rinse" it -

On August 08, 2008 at 03:11 PM, Melanie (guest) said...
Subject: Gravlax
Dilbert, thanks for the advice. I actually wiped it off and then cut off a piece to try. I am worried that I did it wrong, as it does not taste like what I had in Sweden. I mean, I did leave it in there for a week. It's a little sticky and very dill-y tasting. Is that bad?

On August 08, 2008 at 03:12 PM, Melanie (guest) said...
Subject: PS
Also, the top of the fish is a little darker than what Michael shows in his picture, though the inside is still a nice bright pink (I did use coarse ground pepper in the mixture). Is that bad too?

On August 08, 2008 at 03:24 PM, Dilbert said...
.....darker . . nadda problem.

....didn't taste like - well, in USA, every backyard chef has his own burger recipe and in Sweden there are at least four gravlax recipes per household.

the fish: wild or farmed? species? big big differences there.

then there's the "secret" ingredients . . .

I used to travel to Goteborg 2-3 times a year and colleagues often gave me a nice 'homemade' chunk to take with . . .
regrets, you can't get it past USDA inspectors so I would always try to schedule things where I visited other European colleagues post Sweden so we could enjoy the bounty.

everyone does it different!

On August 19, 2008 at 06:14 PM, svensk (guest) said...
Subject: Gravlax
I have been making gravlax for years. While the true recipe calls for leaving the skin on i use a skinless filet. I found increasing the sugar content to about 60% makes for a less salty result. I use freshly crushed salt and also add a tablespoon of freshly-ground black and white pepper. I use a fresh bunch of dill and after trimming some of the stem start chopping it up, stems included, with scissors until i have well over a cup and a half of chopped dill. I mix the sugar, salt, pepper and chopped dill into a paste with a mortar and pedstle and liberally apply the paste to all surfaces. I fold the filet over with some extra chopped dill between the layers. I place the coated and folded salmon into a glass baking dish and cover with plastic wrap, weight it with a brick an place in a refrigerator. I turn it about every 12 hours so the exterior is now the interior and liberally spoon any fluids produced over the entire filet. I get remarkably satiny results and a very evenly cured gravlax after 3 days. I've prepared the mustard sauce (with a bit more fresh dill in it) but my wife who normally won't touch salmon, loves my gravlax with or without it. I slice it thin on a bias and serve with ice-cold akvavit that was kept in the freezer. Usually with knackabrod.

On August 20, 2008 at 12:49 PM, jen (guest) said...
Subject: gravlax
I have made gravlax many times, last time it was really fishy, I'm quite sure it was the skin that gave it this unfortunate taste.
Has anybody ever tried it without skin? I realize it's easier to slice with the skin, but I think maybe I'm on to something? Anybody got anything?

On August 21, 2008 at 10:59 AM, svensk (guest) said...
Subject: skinless gravlax
Jen - see above for skinless gravlax. I have no problem slicing skinless gravlax - just need a sharp knife.

On October 01, 2008 at 01:41 AM, violentcubist (guest) said...
Subject: Vacuum sealer method for gravlax accounting for humidity
I think using a Vacuum sealer (ie. tre ste spade, the italian brand, or a commercial grade of the foodsaver brand could be useful) is a great idea for gravlax production. the fillet can be of any size, salted, sugared, peppered, and coated with a minced dill mixture, possibly containing cognac or another distilled delicacy. The vacuum sealed gravlax can be cured in a fridge for 3-4 days. If the gravlax is desired to be drier, the day 1 gravlax may be sealed in the specialized nylonized vacuum seal bag with paper towels close to the sealed end. As the filet loses water to the paper towel, it will lose water. The sealed end of the vacuum bag can be cut open, the paper towel removed, and a new one place in, the bag being resealed until curing is finished. The number of times this process is repeated will dry the gravlax chunk out increasingly.

On October 07, 2008 at 01:15 PM, cvhahine (guest) said...
Subject: Pastrami Nova
Does any one have a recipe for Pastrami Nova or Peppered Nova, I cant find one and would like to try making it.

Thank you


On October 12, 2008 at 01:34 PM, Raymond in Bangkok (guest) said...
Subject: About recipes and curing
Hi folks.

I've been making gravlax for over twenty years using salmon and trout near my home in Ontario, Canada. After reading some of the previous questions and comments, I would like to add some minor suggestions.

Salmon or trout can be gravlaxed skinned or unskinned. Obviously skinned fillets are better for slicing, but unskinned fillets can be sliced using a sharp knife and a bit of hand pressure behind the knife.

I have made gravlax using farmed Atlantic salmon, chum (dog), pink, chinook, coho, rainbow trout, and steelhead. I've even made gravlax from freshly caught land locked Atlantics I managed to catch while in Canada. Of all, oily salmon works the best (Atlantics). Pacific salmon tend to gravlax saltier than Atlantic salmon. I believe it is because they are not an oily fleshed salmon. When preparing mixures for Pacific salmon, it's a good idea to reduce the salt content a bit.

Sugar is important. White sugar is pure sugar, while brown sugar is mixed with molasses. If you use brown sugar, the molasses will over power the flavor of the final product. I suggest using a mix of white and brown if you wish to use brown sugar.

Salt is more important than sugar. Table salt will work, but it's not recommended. If you can get naturally evaporated sea salt, you can grind it down and use that. Otherwise, stay away from salt that has iodine.

The finished product really needs to be washed after curing. The fillet has been resting in a pool of salt, sugar, and extracted fish fluid for 48 hours. I place my fillets in an ice bath for 5 minutes after finishing the cure time. This not only washes the fillet, but it will remove the salty taste if you had out too much salt in the cure.

I hope this helps some that have questions about making gravlax. There are hundreds of recipes out there with just as many opinions about how to make gravlax. The best way is trial and error. That's how most learn.

Good luck and enjoy your next slice of gravlax

On November 02, 2008 at 09:53 AM, Stellamay (guest) said...
Subject: Just like what you get in Denmark!
I made this according to your recipe on a Monday night and left it till Saturday when I washed and prepared it for lunch. It was amazing! My boyfriend who is Danish told me it tasted just like the graved laks that he gets back home. In Denmark they serve it on top of rugbroed (rye bread) with a mustard dill sauce on the side. The closest bread I could find to that in NYC is German pumpernickel (the one in a vacuum sealed package). I found a recipe for the sauce on: which turned out very well. The only thing missing with the meal was an ice cold glass of akvavit. My boyfriend's mother has asked me to make graved laks for her the next time I visit them in Denmark which I will gladly do! Thanks again for the great recipe.

On December 21, 2008 at 05:03 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Subject: Gravlax
I have been using a recipe from Nigela Lawson which sounds just like Gravlax but uses 8 tbs of Gin and fennel as well as dill. It was the Gin that attracted me to the recipe in the first place. I have made it several times and it is fantastic.

I have never heard of gravlax (not sure of spelling seems to be take your pick) before I came across this recipe so I have nothing to compare it with. For a large salmon cut in half and all those little bones plucked out lay the first side skin down on some cling film or foil and pour about 2 tbs of gin over it then combine 50 grms sea salt 2 tbs peppercorns 75 grms sugar and 1 tbs of juniper berries in a pestle and mortar and grind up then spread the mixture all over the fish. A large handful of fennel fronds is layed on top then pour almost all the gin over it lay the other side on top and pour the rest of the gin over. Then wrap the film or foil over to keep all the liquid in and put it in a large pan I used my grill pan with a board and a brick on top. 4 Days later wipe clean and enjoy.
I forgot to buy dill so I`don't know what I am missing.

All the best
Dunedin NZ

On December 21, 2008 at 11:48 PM, ARTHUR (guest) said...
Subject: Cooking Gravlax
Before you recoil in horror, in this case I am only suggesting this in regard to the skin. I have shaved off the skin, leaving about a 16th of an inch of the flesh. Then I cut it up into smallish strips, about 1" x 2" and lay it on a foil sheet and put it under the broiler, skin side upward.

The result is a nicely browned and crisped skin, with cooked salmon underneath. Delicious, and it uses a part of the salmon that people otherwise might just toss out or ignore. When it is cooked, and laid on the same plate for smorgabord it looks quite inviting and I get a lot of compliments for it, some from raw fish fans, some from the adventurous, some from people who are nervous about raw fish and appreciate something a bit Japanese in feeling as an alternative.

My family has always stacked it and pressed it, 50% 50% salt and sugar, tons of dill laid out on bottom, between filets and on top, under the board held in place by rubber bands.

Almost as much fun as Jannsen's Temptation, as long as you use enough of the right kind of anchovies for that dish and bite the bullet and use cream instead of skim milk or something namby-pamby like that. Christmas is but once a year.

On March 22, 2009 at 08:57 PM, dave r (guest) said...
Subject: gravlax stumble?
I am a fairly competent cook, and this gravlax recipe is as easy as they come! I followed the recipe to a "T" and used a magnificent sushi grade salmon from Whole Foods here in Long Beach, CA. Today is the end of the second day of refrigerated curing, and the salmon is completely lacking in both flavor and the traditional appearance of gravlax. I have no idea what could have gone awry, but I have put it in the fridge for another day and will check tomorrow.

On March 26, 2009 at 10:44 AM, Eva (guest) said...
Subject: Another Gravlax option
Gravlax is a favorite in my house. I have played around with the amount of dill and usually go for a bit less, finding the finished product too dilly. The recipes I have encountered do add a couple tablespoons of alchohol.

Just as a note for those that do not like the idea of eating "raw" fish. I have taken a portion of the gravlas and poached it for a few seconds after it has been cured. The taste stays delicate and delicious but the texture is totally different. Though this really diminishes the whole gravlax experience, having both kinds available, it becomes a dish that appeals to all of my guests.

On March 28, 2009 at 09:02 PM, IronChef Nolo Contendre (guest) said...
Subject: graavlax, lox, cured fish, etc.
Regarding salt - for the salt to do the curing, it has to dissolve in the moisture of the fish. The size of the salt crystals is not a prime consideration, and Kosher salt is not used because it is coarse-grained. Kosher salt is used because it is pure salt, sodium chloride. Table salt contains iodine and "anti-caking" ingredients, both of which contribute an off-taste.

Compare the taste of kosher salt to ordinary table salt. Kosher salt is brighter and cleaner tasting. Taste some sodium iodide. Blechhh!

If a person didn't want to use Kosher salt, they could probably use pickling salt or sea salt - just read the label to make sure the salt does not contain iodine.

We need iodine in our diet, but you may be getting enough from your daily multivitamin or your casual use of table salt on other foods.

Regarding Pastrami-style lox -- Pastrami is beef brisket that is brined (cured, just like our lox) and then seasoned with a generous coating of various herbs and spices (such as garlic, coriander, black pepper, paprika, cloves, allspice, mustard seed, and others). There is no "right way," so experiment! Use the spices you like, and tweak it until you really like the result you get.

"Traditional" graavlax or lox didn't use juniper berries or cilantro, but that doesn't mean you can't try it. Likewise with using a light rubdown with gin or akvavit or tequila or flavored vodka. Maybe a *light* coating of sriracha chile paste would be worthy adventure. My own method would be to use a little of the new flavoring. Flavors are best when they are subtle rather than an axe-handle smash to the face.

Regarding honey -- Why not? (see above.) Honey could be used with sugar or in place of sugar. One great thing about honey is that it is anti-microbial. The taste of a honey lox might be unorthodox, but that doesn't mean it would be bad. Keep in mind that there are also many different kinds of honey with their own characteristic flavors.

Regarding "to smoke or not to smoke"? -- graavlax isn't smoked. Nova Scotia lox is cold-smoked after it is cured. I really like the idea of trying the lapsang suchong tea - it is a tea that is smoked with pine. I get this image of Chinese Tea-Smoked Duck meets graavlax. (I know that for the duck, regular tea leaves are burned for the smoke.)

Regarding other fish to cure -- sardines have been mentioned. Herring and mackerel should also work, as would black cod (Sable). I don't know if tuna would work, but nothing says we can't try it. I would strongly suggest not doing this with Fugu (pufferfish) though.

Bear in mind that cured and pickled foods like graavlax, lutefisk and hakarl, were primarily SURVIVAL FOODS that helped some human tribes make it through a winter when fresher, tastier foods were not available. Our ancestors learned how to fortify the friendly lactobacilli in their gut by making these foods, along with sauerkraut, kim chee, takuan radish and many other fragrant "delicacies." Enjoy them all.

Lastly, there is a GREAT dish called lomi-lomi salmon that is like a lox-ceviche-tomato-onion salad. Oh God, is it good!

On April 19, 2009 at 08:26 PM, chemist (guest) said...
Subject: testing for artificially colored salmon
Regarding the comments about the compounds that cause the pink color in salmon-- it is true that they are the same compounds whether natural or artificial. However, the astaxanthin molecule can occur in three different variations (stereoisomers). These variations occur in a very specific ratio in the artificial dye, but vary in nature depending on the source. So if the molecule is tested and the ratio turns out to be the same as the artificially made dye, then it is reasonable to suspect farmed salmon. (This natural ratio vs. artificial ratio method is the similar to the way athletes are tested for artificial testosterone, by the way.)

On May 04, 2009 at 06:50 PM, freshalaskanMeHg (guest) said...
Subject: re: Ironchef's post about iodine
the fish you're putting kosher salt on has its own iodine, like all seafood, so if you get enough salmon, you're probably OK on iodine, too.

On May 08, 2009 at 03:20 PM, SL (guest) said...
Subject: Gravlax
Can I use frozen salmon without the skin? Does it make any difference? Please advise.

On May 30, 2009 at 05:23 PM, Dr C (guest) said...
Great article on gravalox.

I find that "docking"(piercing) the flesh side fish with a fork improves penetration

A suggestion that approaches " cold smoking ".... spray on or paint on a light coat of liquid hickory smoke prior to patting on the dry ingrdients. This infuses a light smokey flavor that blends with the classic nova lox.

Another minor hint is to put a pan of salt in your Weber when smoking BBQ and you end up with "smoked salt" that can be used in this recipie or any other where a light smokey flavor would enhance indoor grilling

On July 16, 2009 at 06:06 PM, Sophia (guest) said...
Subject: Gravlax
The way I've been making lox for years is:

Two pieces of salmon, first piece goes skin down and the second on top of it, skin up. I place very thin slices of lime in between the fillets, along with the dill/parsley/cilantro choice and salt/sugar/white pepper mixture.
I do pour about one shot of flavorless vodka on each fillet, before putting the fillets together. It simply helps with curing. You don't taste any alcohol whatsoever once lox is done.

I put the herbs on the bottom, in the middle and on top. I do place weights on top and I do turn it once or twice, spill the liquid, while at it.

Mine is ready to eat in 36 hours. I think the vodka speeds it up.

P.S. I've also made it successfully with Splenda, with no one noticing any difference!

Hope it helps,


On July 23, 2009 at 11:09 PM, sandra (guest) said...
Subject: gravlax
I am making the recipe as your have carefully outlined. My question is this. When I went tot he fish shop they had "steel head trout" which looks identical to salmon. Might I have substituted this and gotten away with it , especially amongst those who have not had the real gravlax before?

On July 24, 2009 at 12:07 AM, Dilbert said...
sandra -

steel head trout - as best I've been able to research - is genetically the same fish as a fresh water trout - but has adapted to a fresh water / sea water life cycle. the other major difference noted is steel head do not die after spawning as salmon. they do return to their headwaters to spawn, but after spawning, return to the sea.

salmon and trout are genetically "kissing cousins" - but you are spot on - the coloration of steel head is very close to the the color of salmon. but one must keep in mind "wild" salmon vs. "farmed" salmon. farmed salmon is usually fed a diet with color agents. those agents are most often "natural" substances - it's essentially like eating a lot of carrots will turn you orange (extreme, but true....)

I've never seen "farmed" steel head on offer - don't know if such a thing as "farmed" steel head even exists. steel head is really a fish eating treat.

I suspect, but have no first hand experience, you could easily interchange the two - salmon & steel head trout - and only the well seasoned palate could distinguish.

On July 24, 2009 at 02:54 AM, SirShazar said...
I've also bought bright red steelhead trout in stores around spring time. On the packaging it said it was farmed (somewhere in South America, can't remember where). It was of surprisingly high quality, no odor, no slime, very moist, and when cooked it reminded me of sockeye salmon.

I also made both gravlax and sashimi with it, both turned out pretty well.

On July 25, 2009 at 08:40 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Subject: gravlax
First let me thank those who responded to my post about steel head trout.

I have one question about the gravlax that I made this week following the excellent instruction posted at this site.

I was concerned about something however. The fillet I used was about 30mm at its thickest point. I was a little worried that the "curing" process might not penetrate deeply enough from the fleshy side or effectively enough through the skin side. That is, I wondered if the 'meat' nearest to the skin would still be raw salmon or have been adequately converted into gravlax.

is there a litmus test to know if the process has worked sufficiently? Is there a thickness to which the salmon should be limited.

Thank you for allowing this novice to post the question.
[By the way, it was served at a party a few hours ago and everyone loved it!]

On July 26, 2009 at 08:37 AM, Dilbert said...
>>limiting thickness

hmmm, emperically I'd guess "no" - unless you making one of the "instant" recipes.

traditionally it's done with the entire side of a salmon - they get pretty big!

On August 25, 2009 at 10:41 PM, mic.jor (guest) said...
Subject: gravlax with fennel
I love this dish and have achieved much success with skin-on sandwich of salmon enclosed with a mixing of salt 2/3 with 1/3 sugar with a generous portion of fine pieces of fennel which grows wild where I live in Berkeley and then more fennel on each side where the skin is. Then I sprinkle more salt outside the fennel before I wrap it so that it is completely surrounded with plenty of salt and fennel to seal the cure. This prevents undue saltiness because the salt-sugar mixed with the fennel is next to the flesh.

Then wrapping with plastic wrap works fine and then into a glass baking oblong. I then take another glass baking oblong of the same dimension and place it upside down on top of everything and weight it with a brick (or once with an antique flat iron) once the weight is in the upper oblong, mash it uniformly to facilitate slicing later on. Refrigerate it. Turn it when ever you think of it and in 2 days it is done. The salty brine mixture facilitates the cure by drawing water out of the fish and the sugar takes the bite of the salt. The only pure salt is outside the skin and intermingled with the fennel while remaining away from the flesh. It gets pretty wetly briny and most of the bacteria have burst their placentas due to the salt induced osmosis and greatly compromised. If you want you can keep it in for another day that is OK too.

Slicing is important and must be as thin as humanly possible and at no more than a 15-20 degree angle so that you can achieve a piece that is razor thin and about 5 inches measured along the backbone. Be deft while separating the slice from the skin because the meat near the skin is more fragile.

A good piece of rough grain bread with a cardiac inducing smor of unsalted fresh butter will produce a delightful sensation you can feel in your ears. The second bite is sheer glutinous excess. It is really not necessary to obsess over keeping it, for it will be gone in short order.

On September 28, 2009 at 01:55 PM, Roadkill (guest) said...
Subject: Gravlax
I have tried recipes that contain alcohol and was not impressed with the final product. The recipe I used called for vodka, since I like vodka I thought I would try it in the recipe. It does not work well, I prefer not to use the vodka or any alcohol in the recipe but vodka is great on the the side. :P

On December 06, 2009 at 08:23 AM, Charlie (guest) said...
Subject: Gravlax
I have been making gravlax for years using the basic principles given here. Some tips:

1. Wash your hands thoroughly, then briefly wash the filet in cool water and pat dry. Next, I wash the filet with brandy or any neutral spirits (skip the dark highly flavored whiskeys) prior to curing. I do this by putting the filet in a large baking pan and pouring the alcohol over it, again, patting it dry before adding the salt and sugar cure.

2. Always use skin on filets to avoid the saltiness..curing both sides is too much!

3. The thin tail end will always be salty. I start serving from the thick end, and usually end up having the salty thin end left over. I use that sauteed for an omelette or scrambled eggs later.

4. I have tried many methods of wrap. The vacuum food saver bag is by far the easiest and most uniform method with consistent results

5. Farm raised slamon is by far oilier than fact I prefer the taste ..the wild salmon tends to get dry during purist here.

6. For winter celebrations I use the straight cure- 48 hours, in summer for barbeques I use only half the cure time, add a liberal dusting of fresh ground black pepper after washing, and then do a flash smoke on a soaked cedar plank on my grill or in my smoker, using hickory dust. I do not allow the fish to "cook". It is wonderful and is always requested when I ask what I can bring to a party.

On December 06, 2009 at 06:25 PM, an anonymous reader said...
I'm on my second batch of Gravlax from this recipe. I might want to reduce the salt a bit, but I'm still getting my sea legs, so to speak.

I have a vacuum sealer, so what I did this time was to take two fillets and sandwich the dill in between, then slide the whole thing into a bag and sealed it up. I'll report back in a few days. :-)

On December 24, 2009 at 03:57 PM, chillywit (guest) said...
Great recipe, thank you! My observation is that slicing the fish thinly makes a HUGE difference in the saltiness sensation. It tastes perfectly seasoned if it's sliced paper thin like in the photo. Thick slices (e.g., sushi thickness) makes it taste almost too salty.

On December 25, 2009 at 02:56 AM, Lasse Rasinen (guest) said...
Subject: Weights and curing
I should probably mention, at this point, that many recipes call for the use of bricks or heavy weights to be placed on the salmon package. Some recipes also call for turning the package over every twelve hours to redistribute the juices. Both of these steps seem to be unnecessary. It may be blasphemy to say so, but you can achieve perfectly cured gravlax without the weight and without the turning.

This will depend on the thickness of the fish. I did two batches this year. The recipe was similar to yours, except I'm a traditionalist and had two fillets against each other, used weights and turned the fish every day (for three days)

I had about 1 kg of fish in both cases, and based on the pictures, they were a lot thicker than yours, maybe 3-4 cm.

The first batch was pressed down really hard, with strings that were tightened after each turn. By the third day, the thickness of the fish had been reduced by about 25%.

The second batch had "only" 1.2 kg of weights on top of it. It didn't compress noticeably.

The first batch had cured throughout and had proper firm-jelly texture. In the second batch, the bottom 1 cm of the fillets hadn't cured completely and were a bit chewy.

Also, the first batch had produced a lot more brine during the process.

So, with thicker cuts, weights (or strings) are very important.

On January 04, 2010 at 12:26 PM, antonio said...
Subject: More on gravlax
I do it often with 6 kg salmon (2 pieces of 2 kg each after cleaning)
I use 1 kg of sea salt (fine grit) and 500 g white "normal" sugar, mixed with 40 g fresh tarragon, 40 g fresh coriander and 40 g fresh peppermint all minced, 10 g coriander powder, zest of 1 lemon and zest of one lime, 1 tsp of black pepper (if I can´t find fresh tarragon I use dill instead), and small amount of smoked salt (10g for 2 Kg salmon)
Just lay the salmon skin down on a tray to collect the water and oil , spead the smoked salt over the flesh and then add the mixture above on the top of the fish. Put some aluminium foil over it and a couple of cans to press the filet. You don´t need any plastic because there is no smell at all with this mixture. Put it on the refrigerator for 2 days and it's done. Take it off, wash with running water, dry with paper and cut thin, discarding the first slice because it's too salty. For a bigger piece of fish it can take 3 days. Serve with 2 sauces: a mixture of Dijon and whole mustard (ŕ l'ancienne) and creme fraiche with dill, lime zest, chopped challot or spring oignon and parsley.
With the other alf (if you are giving a party) replace smoked salt for 40 g of curry powder and eliminate tarragon. Now you have 2 totally different marinated fishes.
Bon appetit

On April 20, 2010 at 12:37 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Subject: Honey instead of sugar
If using honey instead of sugar, will it interfere with the curing process? I think the bacteria needs the sugar as food to ferment and am wondering if honey can be food for the bacteria as well. A bit of chemistry here.

On April 27, 2010 at 10:13 AM, (guest) said...
Subject: Japanese Cured Mountain(Brook) Trout
I'm looking for a recipe for a cured trout that I ate in the mountains in Japan about ten years ago. Sweet and a little salty, lifted with umami, eaten with pickled ferns and mushrooms, after a warm bowl of local udon. I live in Northern Vermont and want to use local trout and native spring greens to interpret that dish. Any know how to make japanese cured brook trout.

On July 06, 2010 at 10:47 PM, Patricia (guest) said...
Subject: Meat cured like Gravad lax
Has anyone tried doing venison the same way? I use vodka with the salmon recipe and it is great. Any storage problems envisaged with the meat?

On July 12, 2010 at 06:00 PM, TamyD (guest) said...
Got a Russian version from a friend and have taken a whole salmon, scaled, cleaned and sliced open right down the middle and packed two cups of salt and one of sugar mixed together inside. Closing it like a sandwich I finished the rest of the mixture by coating the outside. The fish was then put in a plastic bag and shaken, taken out and any bits of salt and sugar put back inside the salmon. Wrap tight in cling film and leave in the fridge for three days. Wash thoroughly, slice carefully and... eat! As I have just put mine in the fridge, am not sure how it will turn out.

On August 17, 2010 at 01:42 PM, vildo (guest) said...
Subject: gravlax for selling
Hi. i have become a big fan of gravlax and i think it might sell well in my country (argentina, we have good chilean salmon)as a ready to eat gourmet appetizer. Vacuum packed and all. But i wonder how the home-made method differs from the more industrial way. I´ve been in england, and they have a 100g packs of gravlax- maybe they use more substances like (nitrite?). i´m worry but shelf time, couse with out vacuum, my gravlax last 7 days (tops). It´s too short time. i must sell really quick to be viable-


On September 20, 2010 at 08:37 PM, doomio (guest) said...
Subject: great post and comments
I went on an Alaskan cruise this summer and there was a cooking demonstration and the Swedish chef did gravlox. I jotted down the ingredients then and today finally got around to making it. After doing so, I thought I'd search the internet to see how the recipe compared to what the internet said and stumbled upon this site. Apparently, the cruise ship's chef has a nontraditional take on it and I thought I'd share it here since nobody has posted anything quite like it. He didn't give ratios or amounts to these so I just made it based on what I remembered it looked like a few months ago.

He did a whole salmon, and left the skin on both sides and sandwiched them with the meat in the middle. This is what was inbetween the fillets: He did say equal parts salt and sugar generously on each side. He had fresh cracked black pepper, probably a few T of good vodka, a bunch of lemon and orange zest (I used 4 large lemons, 3 blood oranges and 2 navels), a couple T of fennel seeds and a handful of star anise, diced celery, and a good amount of dill and parsley. He said you can change up the herbs or seeds/spices to your taste, but I did it as he did.

He didn't say anything about freezing before or after making it, but as advised above I'll put it in the freezer for 3-4 days after to be sure, after which I'll report back!

On September 21, 2010 at 08:41 AM, Dilbert said...
>>freezing salmon

salmon can carry parasites that affect humans - freezing is one method to reduce the risk of transmission but do note the required time/temp:
-4F / -20C for seven days or -31F / -35C for 15 hours.

few home freezers can provide the -31F temps, so you'll like want to use the seven days.


and for households with pets, raw fish/salmon can be dangerous to fatal for pets:

On November 27, 2010 at 03:09 PM, guest (guest) said...
Subject: gravlax
I finally tried my hand @ this. My first experoence eith "lox" was @ aFour Seasons tasting event and I fail in love. I do however like the taste of cold smoked better. Mine turned out just like the. Picture..perfect! However I hated the dill and it was very oily and sticky..why? Anyway I am going to keep trying until I find a flavor I like. I love this receipe because it gave you measurements for any size peice of fish.a lot of the comments were redundant but interesting. I do believe we need to get back to learning "basics" and how to do things @ home. Thanks for a great site. Cynthia in Texas

On November 27, 2010 at 04:54 PM, Dilbert said...
>>However I hated the dill and it was very oily and sticky..why?

the dill is a traditional / conventional flavoring - you can swap it out with something else or leave it out altogether.

on the oily/sticky - did you rinse the lox prior to service?

On December 05, 2010 at 09:20 AM, brenda (guest) said...
Subject: gravlax storing
I will be making for the first time for christmas. What is the longest time allowable for curing and the best way to store leftovers. Will it last a week after curing? TIA

On December 05, 2010 at 09:45 AM, BDENNISON said...

On December 08, 2010 at 04:22 AM, mrmimulus (guest) said...
Subject: gravlax
Thanks for the recipes and the thread. I've done this a dozen times or so, every one comes out different - type and thickness of fish, unmeasured seasoning mix variations, etc. I use not too much brown sugar, salt, and pepper, with first a light sprinkle of lemon juice and liquid smoke and caraway if I have them. I have the skin taken off, and broil it and the center bones for dinner the first night if they have any meat left on them.

The herbs sound interesting. But there's no right way -- accept that your home-made non-industrial batch will be what it will be. Find out how much salt works for you; if too salty, use less. I turn my fillets daily, spooning the juice over them to keep them moist. Tasting little slices from the thin end and the sides, which look too brown anyhow, rinsed with water, gives me an idea of the saltiness, and how long I should rinse the fillet before patting it dry between paper towels on newsprint. Oh, when starting, after taking out the pin bones I rinse the fillets and pat them dry before rubbing in the curing mix. The constant touching is important: making gravlax I feel I am participating in some ancient and important ritual, rather than merely cooking a recipe out of a book.

Regards to all!


On July 16, 2011 at 09:33 PM, yvonne (guest) said...
Subject: gravlax
can you make the gravlax with skinned salmon?

On July 16, 2011 at 09:35 PM, yvonne (guest) said...
Subject: gravlax
can you make the gravlax with SKINLESS salmon?

On July 17, 2011 at 07:50 AM, Dilbert said...
yes - it works with skinned salmon as well.

On July 26, 2011 at 11:28 AM, vildo (guest) said...
Subject: gravlax shelf time
Hi. Any one know why commercial gravlax has a 2-4 weeks of shelf time, while mine, home made, also vacuum packed, smells fishy in only one week?. would it be that hey use nitrate curing salt even with out saying it?.


On July 26, 2011 at 05:09 PM, Dilbert said...
>>would it be that they use nitrate curing salt even with out saying it?.

as least in USA, those kinds of "label failures" would be inviting a lot of trouble.

odds are the commercial folks have spent a lot of time and effort to pin down all the variables to "perfect" their process - moisture level of fish, etc.
they probably also have much better control over the process than the average home kitchen.

and that ignores stuff like "irradiated" for preservation . . .

On July 27, 2011 at 08:31 PM, Pleasantly Surprised (guest) said...
Subject: Delicious! This recipe is awesome!
Hello fellow engineers and non-engineers,
I honestly thought I was going to botch-up the recipe. So I was extra careful in following all the steps. I filleted the salmon myself because it was cheaper that way.
And what can I say? The results are fabulous!! Can't tell the difference between store bought and the one I made.
This time I used a 1:1 ratio of salt and sugar - and it was a bit salty. Next time I'll use the recommended 1:2 ratio of salt and sugar. The overkill with dill is important for the authentic flavour.
The end result is amazing. Husband and I are going to try and finish it in 3-4 days, but I suspect it'll stay well in the fridge for a great deal longer. Possibly 10 days or so.
The entire curing process was done in the fridge... we Canadians like to err on the side of caution. I'll be leaving it in the fridge for the rest of it's life that will be made short by me and my husband.

On July 31, 2011 at 05:29 PM, Bobby Molden (guest) said...
Subject: Gravlax / Dill
My first and only experience in making Gravelax resulted in giving it away to someone that raged ravenous about how good it tasted. To my wife and i, we just could not get past the taste of the dill. It just took over and was overpowering. Perhaps our tastes are a little too fine tuned to the taste of lox which it does resemble. Well, i won't give up yet and purchased a side of salmon about two weeks ago and have been freezing it ever since. I will soon try again and needless to say, the Dill is out. I have read about some of the substitues like fennel, corriander and such but think i will try it minus the above. Less salt, more sugar and contemplating a thin verneer of liquid hickory smoke rubbed on prior to adding the rest of the recipie. Thanks for the site. The info and experiences shared by everyone has been invaluable. Oh" after trying it this way i shall return and give the results. Also, i used a brick last time but may try the water balloon this this time as i do believe that pressure on the flesh of the fish resulted in a firmer cut, making it easier to slice thinly the last time around. Well, thats my two cents and i'm out!

On August 18, 2011 at 04:41 PM, B0bby (guest) said...
Subject: Gravlax, finished.
Ok today is the 4 th day of the cure for which i made some definate changes to what i said i would do this time around. First i cut the salt in the mixture. 1-2. one part Grinding sea salt , two parts white sugar then for good measure a slight sprinkle of old Bay seafood seasoning just to keep everthing honest. All this of course after i spread a thin coat of liquid hicory smoke onto and into the fillet. I then decided to do away with the bricks, weights of any kind as i wanted to go neat and drop the mess. No dill alowed here! I wrapped the fillet tightly in several layers of cheese cloth and inserted it into a plastic Vacuum sealed bag. The reason for this was to try to achieve the Cold smoked Lox type flavor that i and the wife love so much. Well i opened the bag today, unwrapped the cheesecloth and the fillet was cured through and through, both in color and feel. After rinsing some of the mixure away, Straight to the cutting board went i with a brand new special Fillet knife for the occasion. After a couple see through thin slices i went for the taste. Ummmnn sooo good! My tongue ran around inside my mouth so much with flavor, I feared it might jump out between my lips and slap my brains out. I kid you not. Everything turned out perfect with that great lox type flavor and texture. We are so pleased. I made up a party platter with gravlax and sauces on the one side and some prosciutto on the other with bruschetta in the middle and i'm a black guy. figure that one out. I just love delicious eats where ever you find them.

On August 18, 2011 at 04:47 PM, Dilbert said...
heehee, doncha' luv it when a plan comes together?

don't feel bad about the dill - (....long story omitted) I can't stand sage, it's not I've never had it - I had so flippin' much of it I never want to see/smell/taste the stuff again!

now,,, dill I like (g)

On October 11, 2011 at 08:13 PM, val (guest) said...
Subject: long cure
Am I the only person who has left gravlax curing in the fridg for 3, 4, 5 weeks? I have never cured it for less than a week. Tastes and smells great ever after 5 weeks. I use a 1:1 ratio salt:sugar, not very coarse salt, and fresh dill. Never tastes too salty. Anyone care to comment?

On October 12, 2011 at 12:55 AM, yocona said...
Subject: Re: long cure
val wrote:
Am I the only person who has left gravlax curing in the fridg for 3, 4, 5 weeks? I have never cured it for less than a week. Tastes and smells great ever after 5 weeks. I use a 1:1 ratio salt:sugar, not very coarse salt, and fresh dill. Never tastes too salty. Anyone care to comment?

Val, how does the texture of the salmon change as the weeks progress?

On October 12, 2011 at 08:50 AM, Dilbert said...
I am only expert in eating the stuff, not so much in making the stuff....

my understanding is the one-weekish thing is out of sanitary concerns with homespun stuff - i.e. going fuzzy in the fridge.....

obviously "commercially prepped" stuff can be 'sterilized' - irradiation, etc.

does make one wonder how humans survived all this time . . .

On October 17, 2011 at 04:27 PM, Grendel (guest) said...
Subject: authentic recipe
I have used this recipe for about six years exactly as described with great success. I stumbled upon this recipe in an attempt to re-create a dish my mom made for us. This is the closest i have found after numerous experiments. Thank you to the author/s

On December 15, 2011 at 11:41 AM, pectin232 said...
If I do not use Shushi grade salmon... I am confused with the part on freezing the fish for 7 days at -10 degrees. Do I freeze the entire fish 'DURING' preparing the Gravlax with the Kosher Salt+ SOME SUGAR inside already with the dill or DO I prepare the plain salmon first by killing the organism by freezing it? I am not sure if I am saying this right.... please let me know. Do I kill AND prepare the Gravlax at the same time or do it one at a time??

On December 15, 2011 at 03:04 PM, Dilbert said...
fish, regardless of "grade" - can harbor parasites - that is the reason for the recommended freezing times for eating raw fish.

for some basic info.

so far as making gravlax, freeze for the prescribed time, thaw & then prepare.

there is a theory that the salt will kill parasites but I've not found any research to back that up.

On December 15, 2011 at 03:26 PM, an anonymous reader said...
So any fish from a regular grocery store [costco, sam's club] can be used then? As I hate to pay big money for those so called 'sushi' grade paying 4-5x more and still have to do this 'freezing process' ? when I can possibly use a regular grade Salmon, do this freezing and kill the parasites and still be good? It will be good if I can use a very high quality regular grade salmon instead of 'sushi' grade.

On December 15, 2011 at 05:30 PM, Dilbert said...
if you follow those links, you'll see that the "definition" of "sushi grade" is pretty much up to the fish monger - there is no "legal" definitions that apply to the labeling that I know of.

that said, "sushi" grade should be the best quality - fat content, condition of the flesh, color, etc.

is sushi grade required for gravlax and its cousins? personally I think not, but that's a subjective opinion. some of the best I've had was homemade by Swedes - caught local - and not "graded" at all other than "how big you want?"

"fresh" and in excellent condition - whether never frozen or frozen at sea - is the key thing. if you watch the fillets in the fish counter, after 2-3 days you'll notice the flesh starts to fall apart - small "tears" typically in the thickest portion. not good stuff at that point. fresh or freshly thawed, the fish flesh should be firm and intact.

if your market typically carries fillets - ask them if you can buy them still frozen. I frequent buy fish frozen and thaw at home - no questions about how long it's been sitting around "on ice" - then again, when I ask the nice lady who has been at the counter for ten+ years "so how's the xxx?" I'll get an enthusiastic good, or a shrug or a wrinkled nose. tells me all I need to know . . .

On December 24, 2011 at 07:36 PM, markoboy (guest) said...
what if my freezer can reach only 0 degrees Fahrenheit> I know there might still be parasites. I am curious... on this. 100s or even thousands of years... if people were to eat Gravlax without any form of refrigeration how do they survive? I would like to make it myself but to buy a special freezer to make it is insanely expensive. any suggestions? I am just going to do it.. freeze it still for 7 days [without reaching that level only] and cure it.

On December 24, 2011 at 09:22 PM, Michael Chu said...
markoboy wrote:
what if my freezer can reach only 0 degrees Fahrenheit> I know there might still be parasites. I am curious... on this. 100s or even thousands of years... if people were to eat Gravlax without any form of refrigeration how do they survive? I would like to make it myself but to buy a special freezer to make it is insanely expensive. any suggestions? I am just going to do it.. freeze it still for 7 days [without reaching that level only] and cure it.

This is where the issue become a bit more complex. The standard of -4°F for 7 days is recommended by the US FDA, which is why we generally provide that as our one line recommendation. This standard errs on the side of caution. Studies have shown that many anisakid larvae (the main form of parasite we're concerned with) die at 0°F after just 24 hours. Another complication to all of this is exactly what you were leading up to: why aren't more people sick? Well, it turns out that seafood-borne parasitic worms (nematodes / anisakids) don't live all that well in mammalian guts. We just aren't all that compatible. The larvae usually die within a day to a week and never get the chance to mature. For most people, they won't even feel any discomfort. For others (where the worms stay alive a little longer), it's a prolonged stomach ache or sharp lasting pain that goes away within the week. It is rarely fatal unless the individual has a severe allergic reaction to the parasite.

So, armed with this information, it's a little bit of risk analysis. Following the US FDA recommendation of -4°F for 7 days (or -31°F for 15 hours), you'll be extremely safe. Freezing in your 0°F freezer will help, but might not be as safe as -4°F (and is certainly better than not freezing at all). If you still don't feel comfortable, just ask your fishmonger for salmon that has been frozen. The fish that is frozen on the fishing vessels and kept frozen to the market are almost certainly flash frozen and kept at -4°F or below to preserve quality and texture. Don't be afraid to ask your fishmonger what temperature his freezer is set to for your peace of mind.

On December 25, 2011 at 09:47 PM, AllieGeekPi said...
Subject: Best ever gravlax!
I made it this week using fresh atlantic salmon (didnt freeze it). I used the exact ratios of salt and sugar and pepper as those posted by Michael Chu in the original recipe. And lots of fresh dill. I weighted the salmon with a bag of water as explained in the comments. Wow, I'm thrilled with the results. I'll be making this again and again. I'll never buy prepared lox again. Many thanks to the author. :)

On January 07, 2012 at 01:31 AM, an anonymous reader said...
Subject: Results of gravlax done
I took it out today after putting it in for 3 days. The gravlax was a little too salty. I used probably too much salt [Korean big package sea salt]. It tasted ok but not perfect. The flesh was a little too firm. I wrapped up the 2 pieces of fish using some plastic wrap and putting it on a rectangular bowl. The water that comes out ever 12 hrs was disposed of. I had dill in between the 2 peices of salmon and pepper corns in between. Taste wise was ok but not soft as I thought it would. I used the entire fish. The middle part of the fish was good and not too salty but the lower tail end was way too salty. Lucky I did not put it in fo 7 days as that would have made it too salty. I believe too much salt was usedl. Just wondering why was the meat firm then from the middle to the tail end was like soft leather.

On January 14, 2012 at 01:13 AM, ilona (guest) said...
Subject: gradlax with red snapper
i've been making gravadlax for three years, but never with salmon. i use red snapper because in pakistan atlantic salmon is not easily available and i'd rather use what's fresh. a foodie friend of mine introduced me to the idea of making gravadlax as she knew i love pickled herring, smoked salmon, sashimi and ceviche. at one time she was a friend of the swedish ambassador's wife, who told her that all the years she lived here she made gravadlax using red snapper.

every time i've made it using this fish, it's been much so that several friends now make their own...

On January 14, 2012 at 03:22 PM, Dilbert said...
Red Snapper range from Massachusetts down to Florida and west through the Gulf of Mexico to the Yucatan and the Caribbean.

so exactly how is red snapper available more fresher than Atlantic salmon in Pakistan?

On February 29, 2012 at 09:23 PM, Bobby (guest) said...
Subject: Gravlax
[b:2572051376][i:2572051376]Stardate: 2-27=2012
This is my new venture into the world of Gravlax. I drasticly cut down the salt while increasing sugar dramaticly. Brown sugar is the way to go folks. No dill, I did add a slight bit of liqued smoke combined with a touch of Jamacian Jerk and just a bit of Old bay seasoning. After enclosing into a Vacumed sealed plasic bag something seemed amiss and then it hit me. I forgot to wrap the entire concoction tightly in Cheesecloth. The means in which i keep all the spices and flavors ground into the flesh. Instead it was sitting there in all its see through glory looking every bit store bought. Well there it is and there it will be. That was two days ago and looking into the clear window, I see liquid collecting and slowing moving over the fillet when moved. Got a day or two left and i'll try to report back with the results. Looking for a more Lox like product. It has worked for me before but thought i'd try a few changes this time. [/i:2572051376][/b:2572051376]

On March 04, 2012 at 05:41 PM, Bobby (guest) said...
Subject: Gravlax
Ok, I blew this one. To much jerk seasoning and guess what? You won't believe this but, Not enough salt and the strangest thing is, My wife and mother in law loves the stuff. Well they can have it all. It's not to my liking so i thawed another plank from the freezer. Guess i'll make it up either tonight or tomorrow. This one will be more like the second one minus the jerk seasoning. Gotta get this salt thing down pat though. Never ever thought i'd be too low on salt. Ok, i'll move up to one Flat tablespoon and thats it.

On March 04, 2012 at 09:22 PM, Bobby (guest) said...
Subject: Gravlax
[b:fe95dc65a0][i:fe95dc65a0]I'm not sure if I'm speaking to Michael Chu or Markboy but in reference to:
What if my freezer can reach only 0 degrees Fahrenheit: I know there might still be parasites. I am curious... on this. 100's or even thousands of years... if people were to eat Gravlax without any form of refrigeration how do they survive? I would like to make it myself but to buy a special freezer to make it is insanely expensive. any suggestions? I am just going to do it. freeze it still for 7 days [without reaching that level only] and cure it.

What I do is this: I purchase Wild caught frozen Sockeye Salmon. Why? Because I was told after asking that it came into the store that way, Frozen solid. It is sold frozen solid. This was a supermarket so the next question was if this fish spent anytime in their deep freezer and just how deep was it? They were 20 under 0 degrees. I then asked them how long had they had the fish. They showed me the date received. After that I came to a conclusion that at some time and at one time for sure this fish had been under conditions fatal to parasites and so now, that's where I buy my planks. I and my family have never had a tummy ache or any other sickness in regards to this Food. Now, In reference to your statement that: I am just going to do it. freeze it still for 7 days [without reaching that level only] and cure it.
Well, let us know how that works out for you and good luck.[/i:fe95dc65a0][/b:fe95dc65a0]

On March 05, 2012 at 07:56 AM, Dilbert said...
a lot of people, including Michael, browse through.

if the fish has already been frozen, I would not recommend freezing it again.

I've forgotten the exact specifics, but I think 0'F is workable - it's x days at minus something or y days at something warmer than that -

On March 05, 2012 at 02:49 PM, Michael Chu said...
Subject: Re: Gravlax
Bobby wrote:
I'm not sure if I'm speaking to Michael Chu or Markboy but in reference to:
What if my freezer can reach only 0 degrees Fahrenheit: I know there might still be parasites. I am curious... on this. 100's or even thousands of years... if people were to eat Gravlax without any form of refrigeration how do they survive?

As I've mentioned before, most people don't get sick because seafood-borne parasites do not, in general, survive well in mammals. Some people will get stomach aches or pain that lasts about a week. A smaller group of people may have an allergic reaction to the parasites which can lead to fatality depending on the severity of the illness. The curing process can also reduce the surviving parasites and thus the incidence of illness from consuming this type of food. Chances are, some people were getting mildly sick over the last thousand years, but they were probably getting more sick from unclean drinking water, etc. and dealing with those problems was a higher priority.

Bobby wrote:
They were 20 under 0 degrees. I then asked them how long had they had the fish. They showed me the date received. After that I came to a conclusion that at some time and at one time for sure this fish had been under conditions fatal to parasites and so now, that's where I buy my planks.

20 F degrees under 0°F or 20 C degrees under 0°C? At -20°C, the fish is considered safe by the US FDA from parasitic worms after 7 days. At -20°C (-4°F), the fish would be safe sooner than that. The FDA recommends -35°C (-31°F) for 15 hours for safety, so -20°F would be somewhere in between 15 hours and 7 days. I doubt it's linear, but a couple days in the market freezer should be good enough.

On January 23, 2013 at 08:45 PM, Thoth said...
Esquire just printed a 4 hour gravlax recipe from Marcus Jernmark, the chef at New York's Aquavit. Interestingly he cures in a saturated brine solution.

As for fish-borne parasites they are only a major concern for freshwater fish because those parasites are those that can cause zoonotic infections, such as tapeworm. Otherwise with saltwater fish it is as Michael Chu stated.

On January 01, 2014 at 06:34 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Subject: Gravlax experience
I've followed this recipe twice now, using a food sealer both times. The first time it came out a bit peppery; possibly I mis-measured. The second time I cut the pepper in half and replaced the rest with caraway and it came out great. I used kosher salt and raw sugar both times, as I like the added flavor. There was very little liquid when I opened it, but almost all of the salt and sugar were dissolved and the dill was soaked, so that's where it went. I don't know how anybody else eats it, but we serve it the way we'd serve lox; with bagels and cream cheese.

On January 16, 2014 at 05:33 AM, TusharNijWij (guest) said...
Subject: Beetroot Gravlax
I love this recipe. We made something similar and made it with Beetroot. Very delicious and the colour is incredible:

On December 26, 2014 at 01:03 PM, FlyCreek Minimalist (guest) said...
Subject: Gravlax by Chu
This is a late post. Have used the original recipe for 2yrs. Now I buy Sockeye Filets ~1lb frozen & bagged direct from the Super. Put in freezer until needed. Take from freezer; open bag; take out filet; cover with your own prepackaged dill from squeeze tube; liquid smoke as desired; your own salt/sugar/pepper mix. Use washed index finger to spread. Put back in the original freezer bag. Seal with Foodsaver or other heat sealer, but squeeze out air. Skin side up for 8 hr, with weight, to thaw time. Fridge for 48 hr or more. Can flip as desired. Make sure filet is oriented N/S. (This is a Feng Shui addendum) Cut open bag. Rinse in cold water while in bag. Remove from bag. Dry in fridge for 6-8 hr, uncovered, perhaps on grid. Serve as desired. This is a NO MESS prep.
And thanks to Chu. Sanitary. All you have to do is wash that index finger.

On January 11, 2015 at 12:03 PM, Wendello (guest) said...
Subject: Gravlax
I've been making gravlax for years as salmon is plentiful in the Seattle area. My best product so far uses cilantro instead if dill. I've found that by adding a couple of tablespoons of lapsang souchong tea leaves (available from any good tea merchant) the finished product will have a lightly smoked flavor because the lapsang souchong tea leaves are smoked during drying.

On February 15, 2016 at 05:44 PM, guest (guest) said...
Subject: gravlax with smoke flavor
Thanks for the recipe and discussion. I used applewood smoked salt with the sugar and dill and enjoyed the slightly smoky flavor it gave my gravlax. Does anyone know if there's any reason why this shouldn't be done or if it would affect the cure? Thanks again.

On February 15, 2016 at 05:48 PM, Dilbert said...
the question is regrets not at all clear.

why what shouldn't be done?

On June 11, 2016 at 02:46 AM, NapaCasual (guest) said...
Subject: Thanks!
I make this recipe all the time. It's distilled down to such a simple recipe. I buy a lot of salmon when it's on sale and make a bunch. Then I food saver seal it and freeze in 3 ounce portions and have them for breakfast. So good!

I make it pretty much exactly as per the recipe and it's amazing every time. Thank you for making it simple!

On February 25, 2017 at 10:08 PM, AlainHarvey said...
Subject: Historic Origins of Gravlax
Gravlax, one of the easiest luxury foods to prepare. My version is fairly traditional with wild-caught salmon cured with sea salt, fresh ground pepper, fresh dill, caraway and toasted coriander seeds. After curing for three or more days I enjoy serving the gravlax with a dill-mustard sauce and fresh pumpernickel bread.

Entomologically, ‘Gravlax’ means ‘buried salmon’ or ‘grave salmon’. It is part of the wider family of the Scandinavian fermented fishes which includes Swedish surlax (‘sour salmon’) and Norwegian rakfisk (‘soaked fish’) [Falk and Torp, 1906].

Harold McGee explains that these techniques were used in remote places where huge quantities of fish were caught in a short period of time and where (and when) salt was a rare good [McGee, 2004]. The solution was to bury the clean and lightly salted fish in a ‘grave’ dug into the earth, add some carbohydrates (bark, whey or malted barley) and some antioxidants (pine needles or berries) [Levin and Al., 1964]. This traditional method creates the conditions for the lacto-fermentation process that preserves the fish. Enzymes and bacteria from the fish flesh would break down protein and fat to produce a buttery texture with a cheesy, ammoniated smell.

An ‘acquired’ taste as one would say, though not so pleasant to most of us nowadays.

In the Nordic countries, there are few if any modern adaptations of this traditional buried salmon. And while there are fermented fish products, like the pungent, sulphuric and ammoniated Swedish surströmming [Skara and Al, 2015; Valeri, 2010], it isn’t buried but rather sealed in a tin can.

I believe, based on the historical evidence, these preservation methods directly influenced how food was preserved in Iceland beginning in the age of the Vikings that with little modification, can still be experienced first-hand today. Iceland was settled primarily by Norwegians who brought their knowledge of preserving fish by burial with them from the mainland.

For centuries, Icelanders had to smoke, pickle or dry their food in order to preserve it through the harsh winters. As a result, the traditional Icelandic food mainly consists of seafood and lamb that's gone through some preservation method.

Icelandic hákarl is fermented shark flesh. When their Viking forebears settled the island centuries ago, Greelandic shark, which is abundant in the icy waters of the North Atlantic, became the main staple of the island. The problem with the Greenland shark, other than the fact that it is fairly ugly, is that the meat is toxic to humans.

At the time, it was one of the only sources of nourishment for the island’s small population, so to conserve as much food as possible, the resourceful Vikings developed a preservation technique like no other to purify the poisonous shark meat.

Kćstur Hákarl or hákarl for short, is prepared through a time-honored process. The same process used in Viking times is still used today.

First, the shark is beheaded.

Then, to eliminate poisons, such as trimethylamine oxide and uric acid (a compound found in urine), a shallow hole is dug in the sand and the hákarl is placed in it with stones, sand, and gravel placed on top. The pressure of the stones causes liquids to seep out over a period of 6-12 weeks, a time frame that allows the shark to ferment properly.

After this, the fermented shark; which is 24 feet long on average; is taken out of the ground, cut into long pieces and hung up to dry for several months.

Many hákarl preparers claim they know the meat is ready just by the smell and once a characteristic dry, brown crust forms. When the time is right, the pieces are taken down, the crust is removed and the meat is cut into slices and served and enjoyed by many.

Today to get hákarl, you don't need to bury your own shark, it can be purchased as a prepared food in Icelandic grocery stores.


Falk and Torp: "Etymologisk ordbok over det norske og det danske sprog", 1906

Levin, MG and Potapov, LP. (1964), The people of siberia, The university of chicago press, USA, p 595

McGee, H. (2004), Food § Cooking: an encyclopedia of kitchen science, history and culture, Hodder and Stoughton, UK, p235

Skara and Al, (2015), Fermented and ripened fish products in the northern European countries, Journal of Ethnic Foods, 2 (1), 18-24

Valeri, R. (2010), Surstromming, Sweden's famous fermented herrings, Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery. Oxford, England.

On February 26, 2017 at 04:57 PM, Dilbert said...
oh boy. fixing up some fish left to rot in a trench really whets my appetite!

I think I'll stick with salmon and the fridge.

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