Are you a fan of a toasted bagel smeared with cream cheese and draped with lox? Or what about a breakfast frittata or quiche filled with eggs, cheese, asparagus, and smoked salmon? Maybe you’ve enjoyed a toast point with just a small, savory slice of gravlax and a fresh sprig of dill? Before we continue, let’s agree that the above meals are delicious and that, yes please, we’ll have another. Now let’s agree that we all love the smoky, buttery, and rich flavor of smoked salmon… and lox… and gravlax. And we haven’t even mentioned pastrami salmon!
While their flavor profiles are similar, there are several key differences that distinguish these smoked seafood selections. Let’s explore the contrasts among smoked salmon, lox, gravlax, and pastrami salmon including how they’re made and what meal preparations are better suited for each smoked seafood fish variety. We’ll also share a handful of links to our favorite recipes that feature smoked seafood.
Are you as fired up as we are to talk about smoked fish?
Smoked salmon is a term that is commonly used to describe any preparation of smoked or cured salmon including lox and gravlax, any part of the salmon including fillet or belly, and any type of salmon – wild or farmed, Atlantic or Pacific. In other words, “smoked salmon” is a pretty global term.
Let’s start by narrowing it down to hot-smoked and cold-smoked salmon.
Hot-smoked salmon is fully cooked in a smoker at a temperature ranging from 130°F to 180°F. Firm and flaky, it retains a smoky flavor that is preferred in hot dishes since it’s already cooked.
Cold-smoked salmon, on the other hand, is smoked at a lower temperature, typically 70°F to 85°F after being cured in salt. The resulting product is silky and smoky, and is best suited for cold dishes like salads or cold appetizers.
Is lox hot-smoked or cold-smoked? Neither. Made from the belly meat of a salmon, lox is actually never cooked but is, instead, cured in a salty brine mixture for several weeks. Compared to smoked salmon, lox is saltier with more of a raw texture, making it the perfect addition to a toasted bagel with cream cheese.
Nova lox, specifically, is made from Nova Scotian salmon that is cured then cold-smoked. Nova lovers value its saltiness and smokiness.
Like lox, gravlax is cured in a salt brine but, in the style of Scandinavian tradition, is seasoned with dill, salt, and sugar. Some gravlax preparations include horseradish, white peppercorns, juniper berries, and even aquavit!
As you’d expect from the ingredient list, gravlax has a strong flavor. Its dry texture makes it suitable for many recipes, including cold on crackers or just sliced plain onto a cold plate.
If you are a fan of deli pastrami, you’ll love pastrami salmon. Featuring pastrami’s traditional blend of herbs and spices, pastrami salmon can be prepared from smoked salmon or from gravlax. Either way, it can be enjoyed any way that you would prepare traditional pastrami, including as a sandwich with rye bread, grainy mustard, and tangy sauerkraut.
We’ve rounded up a few of our favorite recipes featuring cold-smoked salmon, lox, gravlax, and pastrami salmon. Enjoy!