Freezing wild salmon at a very cold temperature for several days, or buying commercially frozen fillets, kills potential parasites common in wild salmon. Although farm-raised salmon is less likely to contain parasites, I dislike the current standard practices and always choose wild-caught. Ensure delicious gravlax by selecting high-quality salmon and treating it like raw fish for sushi, keeping it cold and clean.
Gravlax (Salt-Cured Salmon)
PREP TIME15 min
COOK TIME00 min
1 pound salmon fillet (such as coho or sockeye), skin on, defrosted
3 tablespoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
⅔ cup or more fresh dill fronds
Run your fingertips or the back of a knife over the fillet to check for small pin bones, removing them with tweezers. Cut the fillet in half crosswise into two pieces of equal length.
Lay a large piece of closely woven cheesecloth or butter muslin on a flat surface, then place the fillets, skin-side down, on the cloth, with two long edges touching and the thickest part of each piece at opposite ends.
In a small bowl, stir together the salt, sugar, and pepper. Sprinkle half of the salt mixture on each fillet, gently rubbing it into the flesh. Cover one fillet evenly with dill, then place the second fillet on top, creating a sandwich of fairly uniform thickness with the flesh sides together. Pack any salt mixture that came loose around the salmon.
Wrap the salmon in the cheesecloth, flipping and pulling slightly on the cloth and tucking in the loose ends with every turn (see Note). Place the wrapped fish in a resealable bag, removing as much air as possible and folding extra plastic over the top of the salmon so that it is tightly enclosed. Place the bagged fish in a dish, ideally about the same size, and top with a second dish or other weight.
Refrigerate the salmon for at least 36 hours and up to 3 days, until the flesh feels firm with even color. Flip the bagged fish every 12 hours, taking care to keep the liquid in contact with the salmon.
Unwrap the fish and cut a piece from the tail end of one fillet. If this sample tastes too strong for you, rinse the fish under cold running water and then pat it dry.
To serve, use a sharp knife to separate the skin from the flesh, leaving the skin attached to any portion you won’t be eating immediately. Slice the gravlax as thin as possible on the bias. Store the remaining fish by folding the gravlax-free skin over the cut surface and wrapping the salmon in waxed paper before enclosing it in a resealable bag and refrigerating it. It will keep for about a week.
The goal during the curing time is to keep as much salmon as possible in its juices. I prefer cheesecloth because it can be stretched around the fish, lets the mixture “breathe,” and is reusable, but you may prefer several layers of plastic wrap.