Smoky and Savory Salmon Jerky


Salmon jerky on a wooden platter
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Salmon jerky is a delightful variation of traditional smoked salmon and salmon candy. In this article, we will explore the process of making this flavorful treat. Whether you’re an experienced chef or a novice in the kitchen, join me on this journey of creating delicious salmon jerky.

The Perfect Cure

To achieve the best results, it’s important to start with a well-regarded recipe. My standard smoked salmon recipe is a great starting point. The fillets or blocks of salmon are brined and basted with birch or maple syrup, or honey. The goal is to create tender, lightly smoked, and fully cooked salmon.

From Candy to Jerky

Salmon jerky closeup photo
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Take a step towards salmon jerky by trying my salmon candy recipe. Instead of a brine, thick strips of salmon are salted and lightly sweetened, then smoked and basted. This results in sturdier salmon that can be enjoyed on day trips and stored for a longer time in cool conditions.

But what if you want your salmon to last even longer? That’s where salmon jerky comes into play. The curing process is similar to salmon candy, but with longer smoke times and thinner cuts.

The Art of Slicing

When making salmon jerky, remember to slice the fish around half an inch thick, from the tail to the head. This technique is crucial as cross cuts from top to bottom will cause the jerky to fall apart. It’s also advisable not to slice the fish thinner than a quarter of an inch, as this may result in overly dry and brittle jerky.

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I personally prefer leaving the skin on as it’s edible and helps hold the jerky together. However, if you’re not a fan of the skin, feel free to peel it off before indulging in your homemade treat.

The Flavorful Result

When done right, your salmon jerky will be chewy, slightly salty, and subtly sweet. It makes for a perfect trail snack, road trip food, or a delightful treat while out fishing for more salmon.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with the flavors. While my go-to baste is maple or birch syrup (you can purchase birch syrup made by my friend Sam Thayer here), you can get creative with black pepper, chile powder, garlic, or any other seasoning that brings you joy. Feel free to mix and match to find your perfect combination.

Wood Selection

The choice of wood is entirely up to you, but I recommend alder, maple, or fruit woods for their complementary flavors that enhance the taste of the salmon.

Storing Your Jerky

After smoking, allow your salmon jerky to cool on a rack until it reaches room temperature. Once cooled, store it in a container in the refrigerator to retain its freshness.

Enjoy your homemade salmon jerky as a delightful snack on-the-go, a tasty accompaniment to road trips, or while venturing out to catch more salmon. So, what are you waiting for? Get started and savor the wonderful flavors of homemade salmon jerky!