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.
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.
What ingredients do you need to make hot smoked 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)
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.
Making smoked salmon summary:
- 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.
- Brine the fish for 4-8 hours in the fridge.
- Wash and pat dry.
- Let it dry in the fridge for for 8-12 hours to form a pellicle.
- Rub with seasoning.
- 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.
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:
- corn chowlder
- smoked salmon dips
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.
The Best Hot Smoked Salmon Recipe
- 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
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.
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.
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.
Remove fish from the fridge.
In two small bowls, combine the ingredients for the sweet and savory rubs.
Rub one piece with the sweet rub and the other with the garlic dill rub.
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.
This sounds SO good, Mira! My husband and I eat salmon several times a month so I’ve got to try this. I’m always looking for new recipes and I’m loving the sound of this. So flavorful!
Thanks for the detailed instructions! I made this salmon without sugar and it turned out great!
Hi Mira. Which of the two flavors did you like the best?
Hi Susan, honestly I liked the one with brown sugar. I can’t wait to make it again, it is just too cold here and my smoked tales forever at low temperatures.
Good recipies. Couple comments regarding salmon and smokers. First and foremost is the importance of the salmon. Go with the best quality wild fresh salmon u can obtain. Farm raised is OK for some salmon dishes but not smoked. Same with frozen.
Smokers of any type take a little tweaking and practice to get the temperature and smoke rate correct. I have never trusted the temperature gauges on any brand that I have used. Most smokers are hotter than the indicator. No matter the smoking method or equipment I use we always double monitor the process. One probe in each fillet and at least one, preferably two probes at different areas of the smoker.
Seeing so many comments on the “mushy” texture my guess is its most likely a quality issue regarding the fish vs over smoking.
I must not have rinsed enough because it is overly salty. Also my traeger doesn’t go before 180. It said it was at 190 most of the time. The fish reached 135 internal temp in 1hr 30 min.
Not sure what went wrong. Yes, fish needs to be rinsed well. Brine is salty, but helps with preservation.180 shouldn’t be a problem. 1 hour and 30 minutes seems very quick. I have both a traeger (not happy with it)and a Green Mountain Electric smoker and use the Green Mountain more. Is the saltiness the major problem for you, or you don’t like the taste of the fish.
Hi! Do you cover the salmon when it’s drying in the fridge?
No I dry it uncovered.
Fabulous! Thank you so much!! 🙂
Rinsed in cool running water for over 10 min.
Didn’t even add salt to the rub.
Daughter needed to put between 2 slices of bread to eat just a bit of it.
Did you use kosher salt? Sorry, it did not work for you, this is a basic ratio of salt to fish.
Same here. Its 139 90 minutes in. Smoking at 175
Keep in mind you can smoke at slightly higher temperature.
I have a new Traeger and I’ve tried this recipe and a couple others, my salmon is always more mushy than flaky what am I doing wrong? Smoke at 175-180 until internal temp is 135-140 and it looks awesome. Can anyone give some advice, thx….
Honestly there are too many factors that can cause the fish to be mushy. From my experience, using regular, not kosher salt could be an issue. Also fattier salmon can turn mushier than leaner salmon. Temperature – the fish may have been over cooked, it usually happens very quickly at the end and resembles mushy fish. Maybe cook to 170 F internal temperature to test it. What kind of salmon did you use?
Came out awesome. I used a hickory, maple, apple blend of pellets in the hopper (pellet smoker) with an straight apple wood smoke tube. Had trouble keeping my smoker below 180 but was able to stretch out the smoke for about 2.5 hours but still cane out great and Smokey. With an internal temp of 142 and still very juicy and flakey. So be prepared to have a short smoke with it using a pellet smoker. Followed all the other steps to a t though.
If you want to try something that is different and very good. You won’t need but a conservative amount of smoked salmon. Mix some small pieces of Salmon in with your potato salad the night before. You be the judge of the amount. It was surprisingly good.
Maybe stay away from farm raised (atlantic) salmon… terrible for local fisheries.
I’m Karuk tribal from North California. The name of our tribe translates to “upriver”. I only mention this to illustrate the very long history we have with fish, especially salmon(smoking it, in particular). We’ve been smoking the same simple way since time immemorial, and even have smokehouses that have been used for generations. If you’d like an incredibly simple recipe for sugar-free smoked salmon, here you go:
1. Cut your fish into strips( or chunks or whatever you like)
2. DON’T THROW AWAY THE BELLY, COLLAR, FINS, OR HEAD! They are particularly delectable when smoked, as they tend to catch more of the smoke flavor and seasonings because the are full of delicious, absorbent fat and collagen. This is the healthy omega-3 fat that not only is good for you, but melts in your mouth. Yum!
3. Use paper towels and pat dry.
4. Sprinkle all over with coarse-ground, NON-IODIZED salt. Iodized salt will turn your fish to mush. If you’d like, sprinkle other seasonings all over fish, as well. I stick with salt and pepper, both coarse-ground. Sprinkling the salt on your fish instead of brining it means you know exactly how salty it will be, while still allowing you to firm it up a little.
5. Place fish, uncovered, in fridge til a pellicle forms. This is important, because it gives the salt time to firm up the fish, and the pellicle helps trap moisture in while it’s being smoked later. If you aren’t using any sugar, the pellicle won’t be as obvious, and a light tap on the fish will let you know if it’s dry enough. If your finger doesn’t stick to it, it’s good to go.
6. Smoke. After being asked many times what temperature the fish is smoked at( I didn’t now the exact temp, I just know what feels right from experience), we checked, and our smokehouse stays between 165 and 180. When I can’t make it out to a smokehouse, I use my little chief smoker, and a dehydrator. I usually do a dry smoke in the litle chief with alder chips for four hours, which is enough time for four rounds of smoke. It stays between 160-170 if I make sure to keep the wood chips burning. I then place the fish in my dehydator at 158 for 3 hours. If you don’t have a dehydrator, put the fish in your oven at its lowest temp(probably 170-180), and check your fish every hour until it reaches the firmness you prefer.
7. Eat your delicious fish!
The tips are great gonna try it out this weekend with a family gathering.
your salmon is leeching the fats which is a big no no for smoking. doesn’t surprise me that you mentioned pellet smoker. you are running it hot.
At the time, I only had pellet smoker. Now I have a Kamado Joe and this is not happening.
Do you rinse fish in fresh or salt water after time in brine?
I catch saltwater fish, fillet them then rinse them in salt water.
I do not use ant fresh water on saltwater caught fish.
Is this correct.
I usually rinse in salt water. Thanks for the info Peter!
I am constantly amazed at just how sophomoric these instructions are. It’s as if there is no way an adult could figure out what to do. Not to worry though, you’re not the only one who writes recipes a two year old could follow, although your’s takes the prize.
It is that the process of smoking is done at higher temperature and this is where the name comes from. No, really? So what are you saying? Cold smoking means you don’t use heat? What???
WHAT INGREDIENTS DO YOU NEED TO MAKE HOT SMOKED SALMON?
Salmon. What?? You need salmon for this smoked salmon recipe?? And I was getting ready to use two rocks and a hairbrush!
Then I rinsed (rinse well!!!) Ya think three exclamation points are enough????????????
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. No duh!
Pick the fish and purchase it. What is that you say? I need to buy the fish first? What if I already had it? Would your recipe not work?
In a large plastic container with a lid… What if I wanted to use something smaller? What if I don’t have a lid? What would I do?
Remove fish from the fridge. What? Remove from fridge before smoking? I was just going to fill the fridge with apple chips…
In two small bowls. What if I wanted to use a medium bowl? What if I wanted to use one small bowl and one medium bowl? Would the recipe not work? Why are you telling me what size bowl to use? Do you not think we would be able to figure out the bowl size?
Yikers, a recipe written for a newborn.
Now I am certain you would *never* post this, but I feel better now anyway.
I’ll never post it? I’ll post your disrespectful comment, glad you hav the time to leave it.
This is the recipe, thanks for your opinion. Please understand that it took me time to write and test the recipe and comments and critique like this are not appropriate and not needed.
Hope you are at peace from the fact that your comment was shared!
Hey troll, how you step off that giant horse you seem to think you’re on and step into the world of mature human beings. This persons hard work doesn’t need to be cut down by some internet loser looking to get a rise out of someone. Was it took detailed for you? Sorry the op didn’t speak Neanderthal for you, I’m sure that would have made you much happier. Or do you not know how recipes work? They’ve been pretty standard for only about a thousand years. Show some appreciation and respect you pigeon. Just because you live off a McDonald’s, cake, and Doritos diet, and apparently don’t know how a recipe works, doesn’t give you the right to cut down someone’s effort to help others. Take that ish elsewhere you Reddit lurker.
Ps Howard Stern doesn’t care about you.
And for the recipe poster….. absolutely incredible job on this post. The details are just what people love to see. Don’t let losers like this ruin your drive. You are appreciated! You can allow this comment reply if you’d like, I would love for them to see it. I hope you read it at least and know people have your back.
– Just a guy
Thank you! I appreciate your comment!
I just tried this recipe, and it came out…..AMAZING!!!!!!! I have a Master Built smoker and the temp only goes down to 225, so I just cut the time down some and when I say this salmon is mind-blowing……I don’t know what the other guy was on, but he can kick rocks barefoot. Thank you so much for putting this recipe out there.
I’ve been using a CookShack smoker for my salmon and have great results with it. I brine the fish with a cup or two of red wine along with the other seasonings and it works wonders. Usually takes about two hours at 185 to reach an internal temperature of 165. Learned this in Alaska. Live in Texas.
Save the crumbs…makes deviled eggs beyond imagination!! Enjoy. Use this grill for fish only. I do all other meats over regular wood smoke pit grills and get excellent results.
Well not sure where to start. I’ve done both hot and cold smokes for years. I use a dry brine (sugar/saltKosure 5:1.) NO WATER!!! After 24 hours in fridge drain/rinse/dry. Wind tunnel with fans above and below fish racks on table for several hours. That’s right the brine draws out water from the fish. I would never add water to a fish that I need to dehydrate. Duh! Think about it. I catch my own salmon on the pacific coast. As many as I want. Smoke then can them up in jars. Just for the record, a sockeye is as good of eating salmon you’re ever going to find. I wouldn’t feed an Atlantic salmon to my dog.