Smoked Salmon Recipe – How To Smoke Salmon

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Smoked Salmon gets raves every time I make it!   Learn how easy it is to smoke your own salmon with a home smoker.  The hard part is catching the fish!   

For best results you will need a proper smoker/cooker that has a water tray for moisture.  The smoking method I use is called “hot smoking.”  I vary the ingredients used every time I smoke my salmon.  I like to use whatever herbs I have available.  Fresh from the garden are always the most favorable, but sometime I do not have any herbs available.  Lemon is a popular citrus to use, but sometimes I will substitute with limes.  In other words, I use whatever I have available at the time I am ready to do the smoking.  Be creative and enjoy your own smoked salmon!


Smoked Salmon



Stop here for more of Linda’s great Salmon Recipes and also How To Select, Buy, and Cook Fish.  Learn the interesting story of Pacific Salmon.


Smoked Salmon – How To Smoke Salmon:

Smoked Salmon Recipe - How To Smoke Salmon

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Yield: Makes 4 to 6 servings (depending on size of salmon filet).


2 large salmon fillets
Zest and juice of 2 to 3 fresh limes
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves*
1 teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper
1 teaspoon coarse or sea salt
1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (depending on size of fillets)
Juice of 1 lime for finish
Coarse salt, sea salt, or Fleur de Sel Salt
Brine Recipe (see recipe below)

* I use whatever fresh herbs that I have at the moment.  I have also used lavender and it was great!



Brining SalmonBrine Formula:  2 1/2 tablespoons plain salt (without iodine) to 1 quart (4 cups) water.

Using approximately 1 quart of water; heat water to just lukewarm.  Add salt to the lukewarm water to make the brine; stir until dissolved.  Add warm salt water to approximately an additional 4 quarts cold water (I use my sink as a bowl for this step).

I am using approximately 5 quarts of total water.  Sometimes I use more.  Just figure salt for the 5 quarts (even if you use more water).  5 quarts water x 2.5 tablespoons salt = 12.5 tablespoons of salt.  So - I am using approximately 3/4 cup of salt total.

Rinse the salmon steaks in cold water.  Place salmon, skin side down, in brine at for 20 minutes (make sure the fish is entirely covered by the brine).

After 20 minutes, gently remove salmon from brine and lightly rinse both sides with cold water to remove all traces of salt.  Gently pat dry with paper towels.

Let salmon air dry on wire racks for at least 2 hours (this causes a "pellicle" - a tacky glaze on the fish to form. This indicates that it is ready for the smoking process).

Air Drying Brined Salmon


Prepare your smoker according to manufacturer's directions:

SmokerI have an Electric Smoker (see photo on the right), and I like to use either alder or cherry wood (but any hard wood will work just fine).  Smoking temperature of your smoker should be between 200 to 225 degrees F. (no higher).

The easiest way to help keep the temperature low, is to almost close down the vents.  Keep the top vents wide open, and use the bottom vents to adjust the temperature.

If you have a smoker that does not have any vents, cock the lid of the smoker so there will be a small gap (keep the gap small enough to maintain the correct smoker temperature, while large enough to allow adequate airflow).

Do not open or raise the lid of the smoker any more than you absolutely need to (it reduces the temperature inside every time you do).  Monitor your temperature of your smoker during the smoke time.


Smoking the Salmon:

Place salmon fillets (skin side down) on sheets of aluminum foil and cut the foil around the fillets approximately 1/4-inch bigger (this keeps the fillets from sticking to the racks in the smoker).  I also spray the racks with vegetable oil spray (makes for easier cleaning).

Grate the zest from the limes then squeeze the juice.  In a small bowl, combine lime zest, lime juice, thyme (or other herbs), pepper, salt and olive oil; stir to mix.  Rub the seasoning mix on the salmon fillets; coating them well.

Place salmon fillets (with the aluminum foil) on the oiled smoker rack.  Smoke until a meat thermometer registers an internal temperature of 140 degrees F. in thickest part of salmon (salmon will be slightly opaque in thickest part).

Avoid Over Cooking Smoked Salmon!  Remember the salmon continues to cook after it is removed from the smoker (You don't want an overcooked and dried out salmon.  I prefer a moist salmon and not dried out.)

The biggest mistake most people make in cooking salmon is to over cook it.  Resist the temptation to over cook your salmon until it "flakes."  Flaking indicates the salmon is becoming dry and overcooked.  If you do not have a good cooking or meat thermometer, please purchase one and use it for cooking all your meats and fish! You will not be sorry!

Thermapen ThermometerThis is the type of cooking and meat thermometer that I prefer and use in my cooking.  I get many readers asking what cooking/meat thermometer that I prefer and use in my cooking and baking.  I, personally, use the Thermapen Thermometer shown in the photo on the right.  To learn more about this excellent thermometer and to also purchase one (if you desire), just click on the underlined: Thermapen Thermometer.

Remove salmon fillets from smoker.

Cut extra limes in half and squeeze the juice over the cooked salmon fillets.  Sprinkle lightly with more coarse salt.  Serve salmon either warm, cool, or chilled (refrigerate until ready to serve).  If making ahead, cover airtight and refrigerate up to 3 days.  I also freeze the smoked salmon fillets.  Just freeze in air-tight bags.


Perfect Smoked Salmon



Brine Time: 20 min

Drying and Curing Time: 2 hours

Smoking Time: 45 min


Comments From Readers:

Just used your smoked salmon recipe on my new smoker for first time.  Never smoked anything before – Outstanding!   My friends and family think my newly acquired smoker skills are the best ever!  Thanks to you and your great directions of course – thanks a bunch!   Salmon is excellent. – Michael Brady (1/8/16)


Comments and Reviews

6 Responses to “Smoked Salmon Recipe – How To Smoke Salmon”

  1. Rahul

    Very informative and useful. I’ll try this out and definitely let you know how it turned out. I was wondering which smoker that is? I couldn’t figure it out from just the picture.

    Btw, Have you tried using apple wood chips? A lot of my buddies recommend them.

  2. P. Palmateer

    Using approximately 1 quart of water; heat water to just lukewarm. Add salt to the lukewarm water to make the brine; stir until dissolved. Add warm salt water to approximately an additional 4 quarts cold water
    Question: do I put salt in the 4 qt. of cold water? or just the warm water? Thanks

    • Linda Stradley

      Just like the recipe says: Using approximately 1 quart of water; heat water to just lukewarm. Add salt to the lukewarm water to make the brine; stir until dissolved. Add warm salt water to approximately an additional 4 quarts cold water (I use my sink as a bowl for this step).

  3. Dalton Bradshaw

    When do you skin the salmon?

    • Linda Stradley

      It is up to you. You can either skin your salmon fillets or not before smoking. I have done it both ways.

  4. Gulf Diver

    Awesome recipe- am smoking salmon on my Acorn smoker right now largely following this recipe. Have probably made it a dozen times so far, little tweaks here and there, but it always gets raves, and I usually throw extra fillets on to pass to friends who love this too. Thanks for the recipe!


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