The Best Hot Smoked Salmon Recipe

The Best Hot Smoked Salmon Recipe – brined, then dry-rubbed and smoked sockeye salmon, that tastes amazing.

Step by step guide and a video how to smoke salmon on an electric smoker.

Hot smoked salmon on a tray

What is hot smoked salmon?

There are two main ways to smoke salmon – hot smoking and cold smoking. Both ways are used to preserve salmon, but also to add delicious smokey taste to it.

Hot smoking – signature to the Pacific Northwest is fully cooking the salmon at temperature between 120- 180 F for a period of time where the salmon is fully cooked and flakey.

Cold smoked salmon, which is quite popular in most grocery stores is silky and translucent.

It is cured in salt for 24-48 hours, and smoked at lower temperature, usually around 80 F for 6-12 hours.

It is best, when you use cold smoked salmon in cold dishes and don’t cook it further.

Hot smoked salmon doesn’t need to be consumed hot.

It is that the process of smoking is done at higher temperature and this is where the name comes from.

Today’s recipe is for a hot smoked salmon that I made on my new Green Mountain Pellet Smoker.

Got smoked salmon on a baking sheet with dill and lemon

What ingredients do you need to make hot smoked salmon?

  • salmon
  • brine – made with salt and water, but also seasoning, brown sugar and other ingredients like -soy sauce, citrus zest, garlic
  • rub – I used a combination of brown sugar, paprika, salt and pepper on one piece of salmon, and garlic, dill, salt, pepper and a little bit of olive oil

Hot Smoked salmon on an electric pellet grill (smoker)

Hot smoked salmon on a drying rack

Making smoked salmon on my Green Mountain Grill was super easy, effortless and fun.

After brining, frying and rubbing the salmon I just placed it on the grill, put the thermometer in and smoked it for 4-5 hours, until it reached 180 F internal temperature.

How do I make smoked salmon?

There are so many different methods and different cooks prefer to use the one that works best for them.

I’ve tested a few different ways, because I wanted to try try smoking salmon without any sugar.

Most hot smoked salmon brine recipes call for the use of brown sugar, salt and water.

Brown sugar is used as a preservative for salmon. No, the final result doesn’t taste too sweet, if you decide to use brown sugar in the brine.

Since I made two different kinds of salmon, one of which I wanted to be 100% sugar free, I made my brine with just salt and water.

I brined the salmon in water and salt in the fridge for 8 hours. You can do it for as little as 4 hours or up to 12 hours.

Then I rinsed (rinse well!!!) it and placed on a drying rack over a baking sheet and dried it in the fridge for 12 hours to achieve pellicle on the skin on the fish.

This is an optional step, but highly recommended.

Pellicle is the shiny layer that forms on the surface of the salmon, after you cure (brine ) it and dry it.

How long to smoke salmon for on an electric smoker for?

Smoke salmon at temperature between 150-180 F, until it reaches internal temperature of 135-140 F.

The lower you are able to keep the smoker temperature, the better, this way the salmon will remain moist and won’t overcook.

But on the other side lower smoker temperature will take longer time to cook the fish.

Hot smoked salmon with brown sugar

Making smoked salmon summary:

  1. Pick the fish and purchase it. I prefer sockeye salmon, skin on, but Atlantic salmon, Coho or Pink work great! Keep in mind that Sockeye has less fat content than farmed Atlantic for example, so it may be a little more dry, no matter how precisely you cook it.
  2. Brine the fish for 4-8 hours in the fridge.
  3. Wash and pat dry.
  4. Let it dry in the fridge for for 8-12 hours to form a pellicle.
  5. Rub with seasoning.
  6. Smoke.
  7. Serve.
  8. Store left overs in the fridge.

What kind of wood is best when you smoke salmon?

You can use your favorite pellets, either Traeger or Green Mountain grill wood pellets.

Oak, hickory and maple are all good choices.

Two pieces of hot smoked salmon on a baking sheet

Should you baste salmon while smoking?

You can baste salmon with maple syrup (the real stuff) or orange juice every hour while smoking.

I did not baste the fish in this recipe, since one of the pieces was not sweet and the salmon still turned out moist and tasted good.

What to use this hot smoked salmon for?

This smoked salmon tastes great on its own and could easily be added to dishes like:

  • pasta
  • corn chowlder
  • smoked salmon dips
  • casseroles

This hot smoked salmon could be cooked further, by adding it to dishes like soups and pastas and it will still taste great.

How long does smoked salmon last?

Make sure it is tightly wrapped and stored in the fridge at all times. It usually lasts between 10 and 14 days.

Servings: 12

The Best Hot Smoked Salmon Recipe

Prep Time:
15 minutes
Cook Time:
4 hours
Total Time:
4 hours 15 minutes
The Best Hot Smoked Salmon Recipe - brined, then dry-rubbed and smoked sockeye salmon, that tastes amazing. Step by step guide and a video how to smoke salmon on an electric smoker.
Hot smoked salmon on a baking sheet
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  • 4 lb sockeye salmon — 2 pieces, 2 lb each

For the brine:

  • 1 quart cold water
  • 1/3 cup kosher salt

For the brown sugar rub:

  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika

For the garlic dill rub:

  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil


  1. In a large plastic container with a lid, combine the water and salt. Add fish skin side up. Brine for 4-8 hours in the fridge.

  2. Remove from the brine, rinse well with cold water and pat dry. 

    Set a drying rack on top of large baking sheet and place the fish, skin side down on it.

     Let the fish dry for 8-12 hours in the fridge to form a pellicle.

  3. Preheat your pellet grill. Set the temperature to 180 F. You can start smoking the fish at 150 F and gradually increase the temperature to 180 F.

  4. Remove fish from the fridge.

  5. In two small bowls, combine the ingredients for the sweet and savory rubs.

  6. Rub one piece with the sweet rub and the other with the garlic dill rub.

  7. Place salmon on the smoker skin side down and smoke for 3-5 hours, until the internal temperature reaches 135 -140 F. 

    You can baste the fish (the sweet rubbed piece)while it is smoking with maple syrup or orange juice.

Recipe Notes

Make sure it is tightly wrapped and stored in the fridge at all times. It usually lasts between 10 and 14 days.
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
Keyword: hot smoked salmon

Nutrition Information

Calories: 234, Fat: 10g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 83mg, Sodium: 3501mg, Potassium: 748mg, Carbohydrates: 2g, Sugar: 1g, Protein: 30g, Vitamin A: 155%, Calcium: 22%, Iron: 1.3%