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This smoked salmon recipe makes tender fish with a pure smoky flavor! Here’s how to smoke salmon and ways to use it in recipes.

Smoked Salmon
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One of the best delicacies in the world is smoked fish! Since it’s so widely available in stores we often buy it, but got an outdoor smoker? You can make your own at home. Now that we have a smoker, we’ve spent a while honing this method. Here’s our best smoked salmon recipe for tender, buttery fish with a rich, smoky flavor that is undeniably irresistible. Here’s how to smoke salmon, and 10 smoked salmon recipes for how to use it in dips, pasta, salads, and more.

Equipment and ingredients for smoked salmon

It might sound daunting, but it’s simple to make your own smoked salmon at home. You’ll need an outdoor smoker, but other than that there’s no special equipment required. The ingredient list is short, and the method is hands-off. Here’s what you’ll need to smoke salmon:

  • Outdoor smoker of any brand
  • Smoking chunks or chips: We like to use a combination of cherry and hickory wood.
  • Salmon fillets, skin on: Use wild caught if possible (we used sockeye).
  • Brown sugar
  • Onion powder
  • Garlic powder
  • Kosher salt
Smoker

How to smoke salmon

Smoked salmon is simple: the most important thing you’ll need for this recipe is time. You’ll need to prepare the salmon the day before smoking using a process called dry brining. Dry brining is salting and resting food before cooking it, which makes for deeply seasoned, juicy salmon without diluting the flavor, which can happen with a wet brine or marinade. Here’s how to smoke salmon:

  1. The day before (dry brine): Sprinkle the salmon fillets with salt, brown sugar, onion powder, and garlic powder (see the recipe below for quantities). Place it on a platter uncovered in the refrigerator 4 to 6 hours. Then rinse and refrigerate it uncovered overnight.
  2. The day of smoking: Heat an outdoor smoker to 200°F. Place the salmon in the smoker and cook for 45 minutes to 75 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 135°F.

Tips on outdoor smokers and pellets

Any outdoor smoker is suitable for this recipe. Keep in mind that the timing can vary based on the thickness of the salmon fillet and the specific smoker. We use a temperature-controlled smoker from Masterbuilt, which is very easy to use. This recipe works for Traeger smokers or any other brand, including both manual and automatic smokers.

Feel free to explore different woods to find your favorite flavor. A lighter fruit wood is a popular choice for salmon, but we favor a slightly more robust flavor with a mix of cherry and hickory. For a consistent smoke throughout the cooking process, it’s helpful to layer chunks of wood with charcoal in the smoker.

Why it’s better homemade

Smoked salmon from the store can be incredibly delicious, and we’ve found some great brands. However, homemade salmon is like taking it 10 steps up. The flavor is beautifully intense, and you can vary the flavors depending on the wood you use. You can also vary the seasonings according to your liking.

You’ll find when you serve it, no one will be able to resist this smoked salmon! It did not last long at our house.

How to smoke salmon

Hot smoked vs cold smoked (lox)

What’s the difference between hot smoked and cold smoked salmon? Hot smoking flavors the salmon and cooks it at the same time, whereas cold smoking imparts flavors without fully cooking it. Cold smoked salmon is typically cooked at 90°F. Cold smoked salmon (lox) has a buttery, smooth texture, whereas hot smoked salmon is flaky and cooked through.

This smoked salmon recipe is for hot smoked salmon, so it has a flaky, meaty texture. You can use it in all the same ways as you would cold smoked salmon or lox, but it doesn’t have the classic shine or buttery texture.

Flavor variations

There are lots of ways to vary this smoked salmon recipe. You can use lighter smoking chips like apple or cherry to have a more subtle flavor. We’ve tried this recipe with simple salt and pepper and it tastes great too! But to us, the brown sugar is essential for bringing out the earthy flavor of this fish.

Storage info

How to store homemade smoked salmon? Place it in a sealed container or plastic bag and refrigerate it for up to 10 days. You can also freeze it for up to 1 month (we haven’t tested this, because it gets eaten too quickly in our house!).

10 smoked salmon recipes

Smoked salmon is perfect for eating on its own: it works for breakfast, lunch, snack or dinner! But it’s extra delicious incorporated into recipes. Here are our top smoked salmon recipes to use up leftovers:

This smoked salmon recipe is…

Gluten-free, dairy-free and pescatarian.

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Smoked Salmon

Smoked Salmon Recipe


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5 from 1 review

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: Overnight
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 0 hours
  • Yield: 3/4 pound 1x

Description

This smoked salmon recipe makes tender fish with a pure smoky flavor! Here’s how to smoke salmon and ways to use it in recipes.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 3/4 pound salmon fillets, skin on (wild if possible; we used sockeye)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Smoking chips: we like a mix of cherry and hickory

Instructions

  1. The day before (dry brine): Sprinkle the salt, brown sugar, onion powder, and garlic powder over the salmon. Place it on a platter uncovered in the refrigerator 4 to 6 hours. Then rinse, pat dry and refrigerate it uncovered overnight. 
  2. The day of smoking: Heat an outdoor smoker to 200°F with smoker chips, chunks or pellets (we prefer a mix of cherry and hickory wood). Place the salmon in the smoker and cook for 45 minutes to 75 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 135°F. Place it in a sealed container and refrigerate up to 10 days. 

Notes

If you prefer, you can cover the salmon loosely in the refrigerator, just make sure that it is exposed to air.

  • Category: Essentials
  • Method: Smoked
  • Cuisine: Seafood
  • Diet: Gluten Free

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes and the joy of cooking! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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9 Comments

  1. Shola says:

    Do you have any tips to adapt for us apartment dwellers and others without an outdoor grill?

    1. You can buy a stove top smoker and do the same thing!

  2. Harley says:

    So you completely rinse off the ingredients before you smoke it?

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      You don’t have to scrub it, but rinse off any excess.

  3. Mark Dusza says:

    I am going to use your recipe soon. I have one fillet that is about 12 ounces. Your recipe calls for 3/4 pound fillets, so is the recipe for multiple fillets, or just one fillet?

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      Go by the weight, whatever size you have!

  4. Shaheen says:

    Thanks for the delicious recipe

  5. Sami says:

    Thankyou so much for this recipe, I only buy organic Salmon, expensive so I really appreciate this easy recipe with easy instructions. Going to make it this weekend and I will let you know how it turned out.






    1. Jared mclaren says:

      How did it turn out?
      Do not post 5 stars if you haven’t even made the recipe!
      I’m trying to find a recipe to try for the first time and people posting 5 stars and “this looks great, I will have to try it” doesn’t help.
      Only rate a recipe if you actually tried it!