Cook the Book: Salmon with Scotch Whisky Sauce

Cook the Book: Salmon with Scotch Whisky Sauce

Book Cover

Scotland actually produces many of the best meats in the world, from Angus beef, to venison, lamb, and game birds such as pheasant and grouse. All of which make for superior spit-roasting. And then of course there's fish. The Scots are renowned for their salmon, often smoked over apples or fragrant chips of wood.

Today's Cook the Book recipe, excerpted from The Best Barbecue on Earth by Rick Browne, is for Salmon with Scotch Whisky Sauce. The major difference between Irish and Scottish whiskies involves the drying of barley after the malting process. The Scots heat their barley over smoldering fires, which produces a smoky flavor. In Ireland, the barley is oven-dried, which makes for stronger malt flavors.

For this recipe, an inexpensive, blended whisky will do. Save the good stuff for an after dinner, fireside nightcap.

  • Yield:4 to 6 servings


  • 4 (8-ounce) salmon fillets, preferably sockeye or king salmon
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cut into pieces
  • 3 tablespoons Scotch whisky
  • 3 tablespoons very hot tap water
  • Olive oil


  1. 1.

    Wash the salmon well, then pat dry. Combine the salt, sugar, zest, and pepper. Rub all over the salmon and refrigerate for about 2 hours.

  2. 2.

    Preheat a charcoal grill or a gas grill to 350ºF. Make sure the grill rack is clean and oil it thoroughly with nonstick cooking spray.

  3. 3.

    For the sauce, combine the egg yolks and lemon juice, whisking to blend. Transfer to a heat-proof bowl set over a saucepan of hot (but not boiling) water over low heat. Whisk until the mixture begins to thicken. Gradually stir in the butter, a little at a time. If any lumps appear in the mixture, remove the bowl from the heat, add a teaspoon of cold water, then return to the heat. Continue cooking until the sauce is smooth and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the bowl from the heat and add the whisky and water and whisk until just smooth. Keep the sauce warm while the salmon is cooking.

  4. 4.

    Brush the salmon with olive oil and transfer it to the prepared grill rack over direct heat. Grill until just cook through, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer the fillets to serving plates and serve with the whisky sauce on the side.