The Differences Between Gravlax, Lox and Smoked Salmon (and How to Make All Three)

© FREDRIKA STJARNE
By F&W Editors Posted December 16, 2015

Do you know the differences between the cured fish preparations?

Lox, gravlax and smoked salmon—all delicious and, despite how similar they look, they're all different. How? Let’s start with lox. Originally derived from the Yiddish word for salmon (laks), lox is never cooked. You make it by taking a fillet from the salmon's belly and curing it in salty brine. Gravlax is similar, but instead of a simple salt brine, the traditional Nordic recipe calls for a cure with three ingredients: salt, sugar and tons of dill. (Optional additions include juniper berries, horseradish and aquavit or vodka.) Smoked salmon is similar to lox (it's salt-cured, usually without much sugar), but there are two big differences: It can come from any part of the fish (not just the belly) and, of course, it's smoked (either cold-smoked, which leaves it with a raw texture similar lox or gravlax, or hot-smoked, which results in a firm, flaky texture).

Now that you know the differences between the three delicious fish preparations, there's something else you should know: They're all easy to make at home. Here, our best recipes for lox, gravlax and smoked salmon.

Three-Day Brined Lox with Anise-Herb Sauce 
This Nordic method of wet-brining fish takes some time but it’s well worth it.

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Salmon Gravlax 
Andrew Zimmern’s stellar recipe results in superb flavor and texture.

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Smoked and Cured Salmon with Orange Zest 
Cold-smoked salmon usually requires an elaborate setup, but this brilliant trick of quickly smoking the fish, then curing it like gravlax, is a great option for the home cook.

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