Making lox at home is not really all that hard, all you need is salt, sugar, and pepper. Oh yes, and salmon, preferably super fresh salmon. Why would we think to make lox at home? Because we try to make everything at home, but also my mom does it…

fresh salmon

My mom has been making lox for years, she has tried various flavors, including curing it with tea. She buys special curing salt online, but I skipped that. I made two variants, one using basic ingredients anyone can find, and one a bit more special. Both are exceptional, better than just about any lox one can buy.

side of fresh salmon

It started last Friday when we were shopping in Flushing. We were walking around a Chinese supermarket that has a good fish section. I asked the fish monger if he had any whole salmon, and he took out a beautiful, 18-pound salmon, which he was willing to sell me for $4 per pound. While I would love it, we have no room in our kitchen for that size fish. So with the help of my mother-in-law (to do some translation into Chinese), I requested that he fillet and clean half and sell me that portion, it came out to just under six pounds and he charged $4.99 per pound.

When we got the fish home, I used some clean needle nose pliers to pull each of the pin bones out. I also cleaned off any remaining scales and wiped the salmon as dry as possible with paper towels. The final step before rubbing was to slice the side into four roughly equal lengths.

salmon cut in 4

I made two rubs. The first was kosher salt, light brown sugar, and ground black pepper. The second was the same, but I replaced kosher salt with Applewood Smoked Salt.

applewood smoked salt mixture

The magic ratio seems to be:

  • 1/4 cup of salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of pepper

Use that amount per pound of fish.

kosher salt mixture

The next step is to thoroughly, VERY THOROUGHLY, cover each piece of salmon in the rub. Really pack the stuff on. Try to get it built up on top and along each side. The texture is something like sand, so think of building a sand castle. You only need to get the rub on the flesh, don’t worry at all about the skin side. If you get some on the skin, it’s fine, but won’t help much.

salt mixture on salmon

I did two pieces of the basic rub and two pieces of the smoked. It is important to have two of each type you do, because the next step is to sandwich the pieces, flesh to flesh. When making the sandwich a lot of rub is going to fall off, try to minimize it. And after the sandwich is done, press more of the rub into the sides. Be generous!

fold over

Wrap the sandwich in plastic wrap. Try to pull the wrap so the pieces are pressed tightly together. The trick is not pull the sides tightly closed. The salt and sugar are going to pull water out of the salmon and you want that to run off and out of the plastic.

wrap up

Most of the sites I’ve read about making lox recommend the technique my mom uses: just put the lox on a plate that is deep enough to hold the liquid. However, I’m not a fan of this approach, because I’ve seen first hand how it results in the fish sitting in the liquid. I tried something else. I used a steamer upside down in a Cambro box. Because it left space in the corners, I stuffed that loosely with aluminum foil. This worked really well! The foil helped support the weight of the fish and the steamer left plenty of space for liquid to run off.

draining set up

I packed in the fish sandwiches, the smoked one on the bottom, then the basic on top. My thinking was that the liquid run off from the basic would not contaminate the flavor of the smoked, but vice versa may not be as favorable. Plus, I rotated the packages 90 degrees, so the side opening wouldn’t be in the same place. I hoped this would also help sharing of liquids.


Notice how the salmon was a good inch over the rim of the box? By the time the lox was done, it was at least half an inch under the rim. When I put the whole thing in the fridge, I weight it with whatever was around in the fridge. Eventually, when it was below the rim, I found a plastic container cover that fit perfectly, then I weighted that down.

Each day, I poured all the liquid out and flipped each of the sandwiches.

After five days (today), it was time to clean the lox. When it came out of the sandwich, the rub was really packed into the flesh. It looked like gravlax.

done draining done draining 2

Then I headed to the sink to wash off the rub. I used a gentle flow of freezing cold water. It took quite a while, because I kept stopping when my hands went numb. Whatever I couldn’t get off wit
h the water, I worked on with paper towel. That worked well as it’s important to dry the lox after rinsing it.

wash off

The lox darkened dramatically and was tighter and smoother. It smelled wonderful!

applewood smoked lox

I sliced off a few slices as thin as possible using our sashimi knife. Ideally you should use the sharpest, longest, thinnest blade you have. A nice aspect of the yanagi-ba is that the blade is single edged.

If at this point your lox is too salty, you can soak it in water for a few hours (or even up to a day), to reduce the salt level. You need to be careful though, as this can water log the lox and destroy the flavor. Fortunately, my lox came out perfect.

slicing lox

I kept slicing super thin, perfect slices (I’m pretty darn good with a knife). Jessica and I kept eating.

sliced lox

We agreed the two flavors were totally distinct and we loved both. It is exceptional lox.


Not having any bagels on hand, I made my second favorite dish with lox: Lox and Eggs. I scrambled two eggs and laid a few slices on top, then seasoned with some Tellicherry Black Pepper. It was absolute heaven!

lox and scrambled eggs

So, now you know that making lox is not that hard. And at the value it’s so worth it! This whole thing cost about $30 for almost 6 pounds of lox, that’s about $5 per pound. Similar lox around here is $25 per pound. Try it and let us know!

posted by Lon at 12:29 PM Filed under Jewish, Recipes. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.