How to Smoke Salmon: Smoked Salmon Recipe

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How to Smoke Salmon with Brine Recipe

Smoking salmon is actually a very simple recipe task.  It just requires some planning and time. If you want to smoke salmon on Saturday, then start preparing on Friday. I’ve tried various recipes, but the one below is the best smoked salmon recipe I’ve made yet. 

Ingredients are simple and you typically have these sitting in your cupboard already. The only thing you will probably have to shop for is some fresh Salmon.

Note: Salt is a key ingredient in my recipe and if you do not prefer a heavy salt based smoked salmon, feel free to reduce the salt by 25% or more.

Smoking Salmon Overview

What Type Of Salmon Should You Smoke

Buy the freshest salmon that you can. I buy the largest uncut fillet so I can decide the size of my salmon cuts for the brine and smoker. In this recipe I’m using Atlantic Salmon because it’s easily available at most seafood stores. Atlantic Salmon are typically farmed fish. My favorite is King (Chinook) salmon, but it’s not always easy to find and you’re also paying quite a bit more.

Raw Salmon fillet
Smoked Salmon on white plate
course salt on wooden spoon

Typical questions I get about smoking salmon range from; How long should I smoke salmon? How to make a brine? Wet brine vs Dry brine etc. What wood should I use to smoke salmon? The recipe will go over this in detail so it keeps the guess work out. 

Taking the time to smoke your salmon gives the salmon a very distinctive smoky flavor and refined texture. Enjoy this salmon warm simply on it’s own, pair with cream cheese, cucumbers, or crackers as an appetizer, or layer it cooled on a bagel with cream cheese for breakfast!

Looking for a less traditional smoked salmon recipe? Try our pineapple teriyaki salmon.

Wet Brine vs Dry Brine For Salmon

I’ve used both methods and I find the wet brine always produces the best smoked salmon. A wet brine usually consists of a large amount of water with salt, sugar, and spices. A dry brine is typically sugar, salt and spices applied overtop of the salmon and held in a refrigerated container for 24 hours. Having the salmon submerged in the wet brine for 8-12 hours helps cure the salmon more evenly than a dry brine. I find the salmon has a more even flavor throughout the cut and the presentation/color of the wet brine salmon is superior. 

How Long To Smoke Salmon

My method to smoking salmon uses three stages. 1st stage is smoking at a low 100F for 2 hours, then increase the temp to 140F for 2 hours, followed by 2 more hours at 175F. That is total of 6 hours. If you do not have a smoker that can achieve these low temperatures, simply smoke the salmon for 4-5 hours at 165F.

I like my Salmon smoky so this 6 hour method is my favorite. Don’t worry about checking the doneness temp of the Salmon because it will be over the typical 145F. If you don’t already have an Instant Read Thermometer, get one and you’ll never overcook any meat or fish again.

How Long To Smoke Salmon at 225F – Pellet Grills

A lot of the new pellet smokers cannot smoke at very low temps. The lowest temperature on most models is 225F. If you’re smoking Salmon at 225F, you will only need to smoke for 3-4 hours. I find smoking at this temp is not ideal. Try to use a drum, electric or kettle to smoke at low temps.

Prep and Cook Time

  • Prep time: 16hrs 15mins
  • Cook Time: 5-6 hours
  • Total Time: 24-25 hours

Ingredients:

  • 3lbs of Salmon (large fillet preferably)
  • 11.5 cups of water
  • 1 ⅜ cup of Kosher Salt (Reduce by 25-50% if you do not like a strong salt flavor)
  • 1 ¼ cup of Brown Sugar
  • 1 Tsp of Onion Powder
  • 1 Tsp of Garlic Powder

Instructions

  1. Mix the water and ingredients together in a large pot. Bring the mixture to a boil to help dissolve the salt and sugar. Remove from heat and let cool in the fridge for 3-4 hours. 
  2. Rinse the salmon fillet in cold water. If the salmon still has skin, remove it at this time. 
  3. Cut the salmon into 3” wide by 4-5” length strips. I find this is an ideal portion size and the smoke penetrates the salmon evenly. 
  4. Once the brine is cooled, place the salmon into the large pot of brine. Cover and refrigerate for 8-12 hours. 
  5. After the brining process, remove the salmon and lightly dry it. Place the salmon on some racks and let sit on the counter for 4 hours. This lets the salmon dry evenly and creates a shiny skin called pellicle. This is a crucial step because the smoke will adhere to the salmon properly. 
  6. Preheat your smoker: I start my smoker at 100F. I typically use maple wood for smoking Salmon. 
  7. One the smoker is ready I lightly oil the grills so the salmon will not stick. Place the salmon in the smoker for two hours. After the two hours move the smoker temperature to 140F and smoke another two hours. Then turn the smoker to 175F and smoke for two more hours. This is a total of six hours. 
  8. If your smoker can not operate at such a low temp, smoke the salmon for 4-5 hours at 165F. 
  9. Remove the salmon and place on racks to cool on your counter. Rest for one hour. After the resting, you are ready to enjoy. Refrigerate the remaining portions. 
Ora King Salmon
Ora King Salmon from Riviera Seafood Club
Canadian Atlantic Salmon
Atlantic Salmon from Riviera Seafood Club
Smoked Salmon on white plate
Print Recipe
4.73 from 11 votes

How to Smoke Salmon – Smoked Salmon Recipe

Taking the time to smoke your salmon gives the salmon a very distinctive smoky flavor and refined texture. Enjoy this salmon warm simply on it's own, pair with cream cheese, cucumbers, or crackers as an appetizer, or layer it cooled on a bagel with cream cheese for breakfast!
Prep Time16 hrs 15 mins
Cook Time6 hrs
Total Time1 d
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
Keyword: best smoked salmon recipe, homemade smoked salmon, how to smoke salmon, smoked salmon recipe, wet brine smoked salmon
Servings: 8 people
Calories: 313kcal
Author: Michael Haas

Equipment

  • smoker

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs salmon Large fillet preferred
  • 11.5 cups water
  • 1 3/8 cup kosher salt Reduce by 25%-50% if you do not prefer a strong salt flavor.
  • 1 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder

Instructions

  • Mix the water and ingredients together in a large pot. Bring the mixture to a boil to help dissolve the salt and sugar. Remove from heat and let cool in the fridge for 3-4 hours.
  • Rinse the salmon fillet in cold water. If the salmon still has skin, remove it at this time.
  • Cut the salmon into 3” wide by 4-5” length strips. I find this is an ideal portion size and the smoke penetrates the salmon evenly.
  • Once the brine is cooled place the salmon into the large pot of brine. Cover and refrigerate for 8-12 hours.
  • After the brining process, remove the salmon and lightly dry it. Place the salmon on some racks and let sit on the counter for 4 hours. This lets the salmon dry evenly and creates a shiny skin called pellicle. This is a crucial step because the smoke will adhere to the salmon properly.
  • Preheat your smoker: I start my smoker at 100F. I typically use maple wood for smoking Salmon.
  • Once the smoker is ready I lightly oil the grills so the salmon will not stick. Place the salmon in the smoker for two hours. After the two hours move the smoker temperature to 140F and smoke another two hours. Then turn the smoker to 175F and smoke for two more hours. This is a total of six hours.
  • If your smoker can not operate at such a low temp, smoke the salmon for 4-5 hours at 165F, or 3-4 hours at 225F.
  • Remove the salmon and place on racks to cool on your counter. Rest for one hour. After the resting, you are ready to enjoy. Refrigerate the remaining portions.

Nutrition

Serving: 6oz | Calories: 313kcal | Carbohydrates: 22.7g | Protein: 33.1g | Fat: 10.5g | Saturated Fat: 1.5g | Cholesterol: 75mg | Sodium: 800mg | Potassium: 400mg | Fiber: 0.1g | Sugar: 22.2g | Calcium: 102mg | Iron: 1mg

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2 thoughts on “How to Smoke Salmon: Smoked Salmon Recipe”

    1. Hi Geoff,
      You bet. After the salmon has been in the brine mixture for that long, it is essentially cured. You want to let the salmon sit for the four hours to develop the pellicle which allows the smoke to stick to better.
      Hope you enjoy it.
      Cheers,
      Michael

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