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Master of the Pit
Original poster
OTBS Member
Apr 22, 2011
Washington, DC
Ok, I had planned to smoke some lox to give to some friends as Christmas gifts. My Smoker was swiped yesterday, so I'm in a bit of a quandry. I Got the salmon (actually steelhead) on Sunday the 22nd, and put the cure on it the morning of the 23rd. On the 25th, I rinsed and soaked in fresh water, then let it sit on the counter for 3 hours under a fan. I then put it back in the fridge loosely covered. I also added an extra half teaspoon of cure to BBally's recipe in order to have a slightly more "cured" texture to the fish.

So it's been below 40˚ for all except the 3 hours in front of the fan, though it had already been cured at that point.

I am planning to use a friend's grill tomorrow afternoon to cold smoke it for around 5 hours, at which point I was planning to give some to several people.

Any reason I should be concerned? I certainly don't want to make anyone sick. I just tasted some and it smells and tastes great, no off flavors, aromas or textures.
md, morning.... The fish will be fine as far as temp is concerned....
How about the additional cure added.... 1/2 tsp. is enough cur for 2 1/2 #'s of fish....
How many #'s of fish are you turning into Lox......

Maybe I'm missing something here..... You did ask about concerns.... what are your concerns..

Thanks Dave. My 2 main concerns are whether I need to worry about the longer hold time, and whether the additional cure is going to make it unsafe. It was a little under 4lbs before skinning. BBally's recipe didn't really specify a weight, but just that he had 2 salmon fillets. Mine looked about the same size as the ones in his post. I've seen varying amounts referenced, but I do remember the 1tsp per 5 lbs rule now that you mention it. The last time I made lox I used a quarter teaspoon for a little over a pound and while it was good, the cure seemed no tot penetrate the thicker parts of the fish, so I added a little extra. I'm now thinking this may have been a bad idea. What's that old expression, "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing"?

Should I chuck it?
md, First I will address the cure didn't penetrate the thicker portions of the meat.... More cure will not speed up the process and penetrate thicker cuts of meat... Only time will allow for additional penetration of those thicker cuts....

The amount of cure.... Salmon, If I remember correctly, 200 ppm nitrite is max. allowable for commercial processing... in smoked fish....
So 1 tsp. would be OK for 4 #'s of salmon ... approx. 195 Ppm... Then the additional 1/2 tsp. would bring 4#'s fish to ~ 290 Ppm.... All of the above assumes you used 1 tsp. cure #1 in the initial mix for ~4#'s salmon..... Then there is the rinse, which removed a fair portion of the cure due to the short time it was cured, and the cure probably was mostly near the surface of the meat.....
Then we have the fact that no one is going to eat more than about 2-3 ounces of the Lox.... I'm gonna say it will be fine....

Below is the toxicity of pure sodium nitrite.... not cure #1... Cure #1 takes about 16 times more to kill you than the pure stuff...
So.. 71 mg/kg is now 1136 mg cure #1/kg of body weight... 1.1 gram cure #1 per 2.2 #'s body weight .... Or so the experts say... I don't think they have tested just exactly how much it takes to kill you...

1.5 tsp. of cure #1 is about 8.5 grams.... You would have to weigh about 20#'s for 1.5 tsp. to be lethal.... Extending that thought, 1 tsp. will kill an infant.... So it don't take much... By the way, nitrites are not allowed in infant food.... FWIW.....

Anyway, as you can see from the numbers, the Lox should be safe in small amounts ..... there may be some reaction... some folks may react to nitrites..

This extended dissertation is intended for you to follow my logic and for others to learn from..... Hope I wasn't too BORING ...:biggrin:

Nitrites can be deadly .... given the Ld (LO)...

While this chemical will prevent the growth of bacteria, it can be toxic in high amounts for animals, including humans. Sodium nitrite's LD50 in rats is 180 mg/kg and its human LDLo is 71 mg/kg, meaning a 65 kg person would likely have to consume at least 4.615 g to result in death.[15] To prevent toxicity, sodium nitrite (blended with salt) sold as a food additive is dyed bright pink to avoid mistaking it for plain salt or sugar. Nitrites are a normal part of human diet, found in most vegetables.[16][17][18] Nitrite levels in 34 vegetable samples, including different varieties of cabbage, lettuce, spinach, parsley and turnips ranged between 1.1 and 57 mg/kg, e.g. white cauliflower (3.49 mg/kg) and green cauliflower (1.47 mg/kg).[16][19] Boiling vegetables lowers nitrate but not nitrite.[16] Fresh meat contains 0.4-0.5 mg/kg nitrite and 4–7 mg/kg of nitrate (10–30 mg/kg nitrate in cured meats).[18] The presence of nitrite in animal tissue is a consequence of metabolism of nitric oxide, an important neurotransmitter.[20] Nitric oxide can be created de novo from nitric oxide synthase utilizing arginine or from ingested nitrate or nitrite.[21] Most research on the negative effects of nitrites on humans predates the discovery of nitric oxide's importance to human metabolism and human endogenous metabolism of nitrite.[citation needed]
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Dave THANK YOU so much for taking the time to address these things. It's wonderful to have it broken down in plain terms. Lesson learned! In the future I'll carefully weigh things and religiously stick to the 1tsp per 5lbs rule, and maybe give a little extra time for curing.

I did rinse after 48 hours in the cure and also soaked for about 3 hours with 3 water changes, so I'm guessing a fair amount of the cure was removed. That being said, I'm not to comfortable giving it to friends now, as I was a little too cavalier in the process. I think I'll maybe go ahead and smoke it to taste it, but probably not give it as gifts.
I would be totally upset if I had to sit down and eat 4# of Lox.... NOT.... I can devour it.... Fresh bagel and cream cheese..... UMMMMM...
It's even good on a Triscut cracker...

With all the rinsing and soaking you did on a 2 day brine... there ain't much nitrite left in the fish.... especially as soluble as it is...

Enjoy.... wish I was there to share....

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Figured I'd update this. The lox turned out to be the best I've made, though considering I've only made it a couple times that wasn't hard :)

The smoker getting ripped off put my schedule back by 2 days, AND I'M SO GLAD IT DID! I'd followed BBally's method pretty closely up to the drying/pellicle forming stage. I dried it on the counter for 3 hours in front of a fan, then wrapped in plastic and had to wait 2 days to smoke it. This, I feel, helped to create a wonderful velvety texture all the way through the fish that I'd missed on previous attempts. Earlier efforts had been really good, but the exterior was a little leathery. Not so this time. The flavor was excellent with a nice brightness from the citrus zest and the dill. By the way, the green flecks in the pictures of the fish are dill that didn't wash off during the desalinating soak. 

Here it is!

Md, nice..... that's what lox is supposed to look like.... translucent... beautiful.... I like it......

Thanks Dave!! I forgot to mention this is actually Steelhead. I just like the color and flavor of Steelhead a lot better than farm raised Atlantic salmon, and can't really afford wild caught.
Now I have a question. What if I were to use the old fashioned salt/sugar cure with no cure #1 added and let it cure for say 4 or 5 days? Would that provide the same texture? I know it's safer to use cure #1, and I have plenty on hand, I was just curious how lox was made back in Ye Olden Days before they had access to chemical cures.
I have made smoked lox once with cure #1...... for the last 40 years, I used sugar, salt, dill etc....

The lox I made was grav-lox.... not smoked... I used 50/50 sugar salt... let it sit in the refer for 2-3 days with a "mild" weight sitting on it.. rotated the fish.... rinsed, dried let sit in the refer for a day and sliced and ate it.... I never knew about cure... the fish wasn't smoked in a low oxygen environment..

The cure didn't affect the flavor of the cured and smoked batch that I could tell....

Knowing what I know now.... all the bacteria etc., I will use cure #1 in all my lox, smoked or not... The majority of the botulism noted in the US is from Alaska... whether it be from clams, seals, fish or whatever.... it is a different strain of botulism than what is in vegetables but, hey, when you get botulism, it could be lights out..

Now to your question..... Yes it will provide the same texture... and a darn good flavor also.... I added a very small pinch of dill to my sugar/salt mix to add that "something flavor".....
Now I have a question. What if I were to use the old fashioned salt/sugar cure with no cure #1 added and let it cure for say 4 or 5 days? Would that provide the same texture? I know it's safer to use cure #1, and I have plenty on hand, I was just curious how lox was made back in Ye Olden Days before they had access to chemical cures.
If you really want to prepare Lox as it was in "Ye Olden Days", it's pretty simple. All you need is a salmon filet, salt, and time. Put 1/4" of Kosher salt in a container, put the salmon in the container, and put another 1/4" of salt on top of it. Put weights on top of the salmon, and refrigerate it. The time involved depends on the thickness, but 3 days is a good rule of thumb. If you want to get exotic you can flip the filet daily. When finished, rinse and soak well, dry, and your done. Slice and serve. True Lox contains no curing agent and it's never smoked.

Same with gravlax, but the salt is mixed with sugar, black pepper, fresh dill, and cognac. Some add additional spices and substitute the cognac with aquavit, gin, or vodka.
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