How to Smoke Salmon Easily

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How To Smoke Salmon EasilyMaybe you’re looking to host a Friday night dinner with something fancier than chicken or pork? Then look no further than fresh salmon, which can be infused with a smoke flavor; this can then be used as a spread, chowder, smoked salmon dip, or be stored for later. Here, we explain how to smoke salmon easily while providing the best smoked salmon recipe.  

What Type of Salmon is Best for Smoking? 

Any kind of Salmon will be great for this easy smoked salmon recipe, but we recommend going with high-quality fish like wild-caught salmon, sockeye salmon, or Atlantic salmon. The best kind of salmon you can use for smoking is pink salmon or chum salmon. These tend to come with a lighter color and a more subtle taste to complement this process and will deliver a superior flavor.  

What’s the Best Pellet Smoker for this Recipe? 

When it comes to smoking salmon, the Traeger smoker is among the top choices if you don’t already have a pellet grill. They’re really easy to use, and will deliver perfectly cooked salmon every time! Their 34” models can fit as many as 6 pounds of salmon and still have room to spare — this recipe will use a wet brine and then slowly cook your salmon. 

The smoker temperature should be at 180 degrees and should take around 3 to 5 hours, depending on how thick your salmon is. If you’re using an electric smoker, you’ll go through a similar experience but the cooking time will be different.  

Cold Smoked Salmon or Hot Smoked Salmon? 

This is a hot smoked salmon recipe, but how is it different from cold smoked salmon? Cold smoked salmon is simply a different method; below are just a few things to keep in mind.  

Hot Smoked Salmon

Hot smoking salmon refers to cooking the salmon filet at 180 degrees or higher. This results in fish that are fully cooked and flaky, which can be great if you want to use it for soups and dips. It will also allow for a strong smoky flavor to permeate the fish. 

Cold Smoked Salmon

This refers to a method of cooking that uses a lower temperature, usually at 90 degrees. It produces fish that’s slightly undercooked and then sliced thinly. Cold smoking salmon is the best way to make fish to be used as a garnish for veggies or crackers. Comes with a milder flavor and less smokiness but it can be a bit saltier. 

Easy Recipe for the Perfect Salmon 

Below is everything you need for the best salmon recipe; just follow the instructions here to ensure that your dinner party is a hit! 

Ingredients 

  • 2 three-pound large salmon fillets

For the Brine 

  • 4 cups of cold water
  • ⅓ cup of kosher salt
  • ½ cup of brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. of black pepper
  • 2 tsp. Of garlic powder

For Basting

  • Pure maple syrup

Equipment

  • Cooling rack
  • Glass bowl or baking dish
  • Pellet grill
  • Basting brush
  • Instant read thermometer
  • Pin bone tweezers

Instructions 

Preparing your Salmon

Start by prepping your salmon; remove all the pin bones using tweezers or you can cut them out. Doing this will save you a lot of time from picking out these bones as you enjoy your smoked salmon or when you want to use it in a dip. Next, take your fillets and cut them up into sections. 

However, this will be up to your personal taste; in our experience, the best size is around 4 to 6 inches but you can make them as small as 2 to 3 inches.   

Brining your Salmon 

Inside your mixing bowl, whisk your sugar, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and water together until everything has fully combined. Make sure that both the sugar and salt are fully dissolved before moving to the next step. In a different bowl or baking dish, place fillets inside and pour your brine over it, making sure that the salmon is completely covered. If necessary, add more cold water, then take a spatula and mix it all together. 

Be sure to put your salmon skin side up to make sure that all the meat stays submerged. It’s time to cover your fish with some plastic wrap or a lid and place it in the fridge for the next 8 to 12 hours, depending on their thickness. Make sure your fish doesn’t stay in the brine any longer than this or it could get too salty.  

Resting your Salmon 

This is an optional step but sticking with it can really make a huge difference when you’re smoking salmon. First, take your fish out of the fridge and remove the brine then place salmon onto a wire rack, then dab it with paper towels to eliminate excess brine or you can gently rinse it off. Once your fish is on the cooling rack, be sure to put it back inside the fridge for another 8 to 12 hours; you’ll notice that your fish developed a layer of film, which will stop it from getting dry.    

Smoking your Salmon 

When you’re ready to start smoking your salmon, use some cooking spray or brush some oil onto your grill grates so your fish won’t stick. Put every piece of salmon to the grill and turn it on; make sure that there’s ample space between each one to let the smoke move around easily. Smoke your fish for 3 to 5 hours at 180 degrees. 

After 1 hour, baste your salmon with pure maple syrup; just a thin layer will do, then check your salmon’s temperature afterward. Repeat this step after the 2nd and 3rd hour then stop because it won’t need more than this. Your fish will be done once it becomes flaky and the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees. 

Be sure to check the temperature of your fish using a thermometer. It’s fine to let it cook past 145 degrees when smoking your salmon, and you can go as high as 155 to 165 depending on your preferred texture.  

Resting your Salmon

When it’s time to rest your salmon, remove it from your grill and peel off the skin while it’s still warm; this can be much easier to do compared to once it gets cold. Put your salmon on wire racks and give it time to cool completely. 

Smoking Salmon Tips 

  • Only do a few pounds of salmon at a time. Because the process can be long and tiring, smoking just one piece might not be worth it. 
  • Take the pin bones out before smoking. You can do this with a pair of tweezers or you can cut the whole section of pin bones; this is faster but you’ll lose some meat.
  • Smoke using a low temperature. Keep your grill around 180 to 225 degrees; any higher than this and your fish can dry out. 
  • Always brush your grill grates. Use some oil or cooking spray before placing your salmon down to prevent them from sticking.  
  • Rest your salmon inside the fridge. After brining your fish, place it on a cooling rack for a minimum of 12 hours. This is important because it will make a layer to trap moisture. 
  • Try not to crowd your fish. Ensure that they aren’t touching when placed inside the grill. This will allow the smoke to move around freely on all sides of the salmon. 
  • Keep the temperature between 145 to 165. Smoking any warmer than this can dry out the fish. 
  • Baste your fish with maple syrup. Do this according to the instructions above, doing a thin layer each time. Make sure to use pure maple syrup since imitations won’t work. 

Smoke Salmon Easily

The smoking process isn’t so straightforward, and there are many great options when it comes to choosing the most succulent salmon. Now that you know how to perfectly smoke your salmon, you can host the best Friday night dinners for family and friends. Using a few simple ingredients, you can get the best results using the recipe above.

 

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