Making Lox a picture guide.

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Master of the Pit
Original poster
OTBS Member
Aug 24, 2007
Western Colorado
The name Lox?

Well many different theories are around about its beginning name. Most come back to the fact German’s made the cured fish in New York in the early 19th Century and so many feel it was the German name for Salmon that led to it being called lox Basically the word may have been derived from the Yiddish lox (”salmon”)-which is a cognate of Icelandic (lax), Swedish (lax), Danish/Norwegian (laks), German (Lachs), and Old English (l�x) so you can take your pick of where you think it came from, but it always means cured salmon.

Types of Lox?

To smoke or not to smoke? First one must realize why smoking of meats was done. In the early part of the 19th century refridgeration was none existant. Smoke is a natural fly repellant and so many many meats were smoked to keep flies off them during the holding times through the summer. Because so much additional flavor is imparted on the product when it is smoked, smoking also became part of the flavor profile for particular foods. Bacon, Ham, sausage and Salmon being the most common to carry a smoke flavor component. In the end lox can be smoked or not, depends on the appetizing-store you grew up visiting with Mom!

Belly Lox: Dry cured in Salt or Cure Salt, and sugar, then lightly cold smoked, this is a heavy salt salmon

Nova or Nova Scotia Lox: Brine cured either Scot’s style (dry brine) or wet cured then cold smoked, not nearly as salty as the belly lox and preferred by many of the next generation Jewish people.

Gravad Lax: Scandinavian, rub cured and will contain spices in the mixture, usually associated with the presents of dill weed as a spice. You will hear this referred to as gravlax and is perhaps one of the oldest methods for curing the salmon.

Last Cure salt, I use cure salt with contains sodium nitrite to chemically cook the fish. This method was preferred in the area I grew up in because it will handle pathogens and parasites with vigor. Rendering a safe product everytime.

For the recipe and the steps to making lox. Lox recipes that do not include the step instructions are incomplete, the steps and times are as important as the spicing used. First a word on lox recipes, there are as many recipes for lox as there are colors in the world. So if yours does not match this one go forward knowing, “it’s ok” you will still make lox. I am following a recipe and method I learned from a German butcher in Pennsylvania, I have inturn also changed that a little to suit my taste. I am using the methodology I learned as a kid helping the butchers and have also modified that to take into account how I want the salmon to taste. Along the way I am going to explain how to adjust the methods to help you understand how to adjust the taste.

So on with the ingredients:

1 tsp cure salt (pink salt 6.25 percent sodium nitrite)
1/2 cup kosher salt
1 tbsp white pepper
1/2 cup white sugar (some use brown sugar for the extra molassas flavor)
mix the above into a dry ingredient rub.


2 salmon fillets, Skinned , chilled, and clean.

Pro Tip: Porosity; all meats have porosity, for consistant products we like to know that the porosity is the same everytime. So I always brine my salmon fillets in ice cold salt water for 30 minutes to insure I start with the same porosity every time. Fail to do so at your own peril! (one gallon warm water, stir in all the salt it will take, (til salt lay on the bottom) and then ice it down to 32 F)

Zest an orange and a lemon and reserve the zest.
Dredge the salmon through the mixture. Spread half of the remaining cured mixture on the area where the salmon fillets will lay. Then spread half the orange and lemon zest under the area you will place the salmon. Now lay the fillets flat in a plastic box on top of the zested cure area. After fillet placement spread the remaining mixture over the salmon evenly, then use the remaining zest to coat the top of the fillets.


Place a nice size maple board ontop of the fillets in the plastic box and apply 3 pounds of weight to the top of the board. I am using ice in a ziplock freezer bag for the weight. Because I want things cold and ice is a safe food to use as a weight.


Now you will allow this to sit in the reefer for 48 hours. This requires a modification of my beer refridgerator in the garage. I must remove the beer from my shelf to make room for the salmon box.

After the 48 hour curing time you will pull the salmon and wash it off. Then we start the step that most books and people leave out.
Pro Tip: Desalinization is important in all curing and smoking. And it is the most unspoken of the curing secrets. People offer their recipes, they offer their smoking methods, but almost none speak of the desalinization step. Even in the most well written books you will see this step skipped. It is the “black art” of curing that remains a secret insuring your cure will never turn out as well as the Pros! Bacon, hams, sausages, all need to be desalinated to achieve the correct taste.

Here I am going into the ice water desalinization step. I will allow the lox to sit in the ice water for 90 minutes. In my younger days of curing I would collect the water sample every 15 minutes and use a specific gravity bulb to measure the amount of salt removed from the product. Now I am to the point where I can just taste the water and know how much I have removed. I use ice water so I know the removal rate is the same.
Once the freshening step is complete it is into the reefer to dry. I use a large cake cooling rack with paper towel under it to dry the fillets. I dry for 36 hours.

Once dry we are ready to smoke. The thing that makes lox is the mouth feel. So lox must be cold smoked. That is to say we take steps to insure the product never goes above 90 F while smoking. This is referred to as cold smoking. The nitrite has “cooked” the salmon and is rendered harmless as a nitrate. So all we are looking for here is: water removal, shrink the protien enough to tighten it up and during the tightening to have the protien pull in some smoke! I am smoking here under light smoke for 4 hours.



Once the smoking is complete I return the lox to the reefer for chilling. I chill for 24 hours.

I will separate the belly from the dorsal for the first fillet so you can see the difference in belly lox and what is commonly referred to as Nova. But realize most Nova was the complete fillet. However in the early days of commercial food the Dorsal was worth more money to the restaurants than the belly, so the restos got the dorsal fillets for meals and the delis got the bellies for lox.


Now that we have preppped we slice and package!



The use of lox is for many purposes, the most common I have included below. A New York water bagel, schmeared with Phila. Brand cream cheese, topped with lox and a thin slice of onion, cut in half!


�Til we speak again, purchase a little lox and some bagels, it is a very nice way to start the day. And a little more at noon will get you through the day with energy to spare!

Chef Bob Ballantyne
The Cowboy and The Rose Catering
Grand Junction, Colorado, USA
I have been wanting to smoke some fish. Never thought about LOX.

Thanks for the class.

It is truly amazing how much a guy can learn sitting in his EZ chair drinking a bud light, and watching Pit-masters.

Thanks for the tutorial. It looks great. I have a question, though. I was of the understanding that it's critical to use the precise correct amount of cure for the amount of meat, especially with dry rubs. How many pounds of fish is your cure recipe for?

Thanks in advance. 
Pokey, I can understand your question and it is a good one.  I have a good idea of what is going on here, but I will not post it up for fear it could be mis-read or misinterpreted by someone.

I would recommend you PM bbally to get the answer straight from the source.  The "trusted authority" in his title is well earned in my opinion.

Good luck and good smoking.
I make gravalax every year for xmas.I do a salmon & a kingfish for contrasting colours on the plate. I learnt a lot from your tutorial,thanks a lot. The desalination tip is particularly valueable.
I make gravlox a few times a year.  We love it at my house.

We do it differently from how bbally does it too. His original post made it clear that there were many different ways of making "lox".

I would like to see the differing ideas on this.  I would especially like to see what bbally says on this, because I respect his knowledge of food safety so much!

Good luck and good smoking.
Swedish people showed me how to do gravalax,if I  do whats sold down here as Atlantic salmon or ocean trout its all farmed fish from Tasmania. Thats why I  tried out kingfish. Tuna might work but fillet thickness might give you trouble. Tuna season in full swing here bluefin to 130 kg,yellowfin to 90kg if your geared up to go fish out wide.
My sincere compliments on a most informative and well wriiten tutorial. As one who does many pounds of salmon a year, I picked up on some great Pro steps and I thank you for that.  The amount of #1 cure is the only question I also have. The actual ratio of cure to product.

Beautifully done sir.


Thor the tuturial and my wife loves lux to but then she says it's a New York thing. She just eats it there on Jewish Bialys (bagels) from a shop that has been making them for 120 some years. You never know maybe I can make some for her and she will eat it. 
This tutorial is simply awesome.

I am also wondering on the ratio of cure......and if I were to just do 1 fillet could I just cut the recipe in half??
The recommended amount of Cure #1 for any meat is 1 level teaspoon for each 5 pounds of meat being cured with a Dry Rub...Same would apply here. In terms of smaller amounts Mr. Bally's recipe is good for 1 or 2 fillets and then can be multiplied by the number of additional fillets and then spread evenly if larger quantities of Salmon fillets are to be prepared. Although I can't tell for sure, the Salmon pictured looks like about 5 pounds worth so similarly the Recipe can be multiplied by each additional 5 pounds of Salmon...JJ

From "The Sausage Maker" website: Insta Cure[emoji]8482[/emoji] No. 1, a basic cure used to cure all meats that require cooking, smoking, or canning. This includes poultry, fish, ham, bacon, luncheon meats, corned beef, pates and other products too numerous to mention. Formerly Prague Powder #1. Insta Cure[emoji]8482[/emoji] #1 contains salt and sodium nitrite (6.25%). Use 1 level teaspoon per 5 lbs. of meat. 8 oz. of Insta Cure[emoji]8482[/emoji] will process approximately 240 lbs. of meat.
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