Main Dishes, Recipes

Smoked Salmon–the best reason to get a smoker!


Weight Watchers: 4 PointsPlus per 3 oz. serving.

I recently composed a post extolling the virtues of getting a smoker and smoking your own meat.  Whether you listened to me and are now anxiously awaiting further instruction, or still need convincing, you need to know how easy and awesome it is to smoke salmon.   I’m quite certain I’ve done salmon more often, and more successfully, for more people, than any other smoked meat I’ve done.  In fact, it was probably the second dish I ever cooked for Colleen, and may have been as responsible for her falling for me as the grilled shrimp and scallop scampi I did for our first date!

And aside from it’s excellence as a main dish, I have also turned it repeatedly into a party-PWNing smoked salmon dip, which has yet to fail to impress.

Not the greatest lighting, but proof that we have brought our awesome smoked salmon dip to parties...

There are a variety of ways in which it can be done, and some will argue salmon should be brined first, some think it should be sat out to dry, but I’ve never had it be too dry or seem in any way like it needs any additional care than what I’ve done.

Sometimes I’ve just used a teriyaki-style glaze, and sometimes I’ve dabbed the salmon lightly with some cooking oil before applying a dry rub, but mostly I’ve just gone with the dry rub alone, unless the raw salmon is particularly dry and the rub isn’t sticking very well.

One of the commercial rubs I have successfully used

I’ve used several rubs successfully, most of which have some brown sugar mixed in.  The sweetness complements the salmon quite nicely (which is why the teriyaki can work well also).  You can see two of the commercial rubs I’ve tried here and here.  Usually these “gourmet” rubs are found in the butcher department, rather than the spice aisle, but your store may differ.  I intend to try a recipe for a cajun salmon rub shortly, and if you are looking for a variety of options, check out the “Just Smoked Salmon” web page.

As discussed in the article linked above, I have both an upright water smoker and an offset firebox smoker, and after many years on the first, and a couple runs on the second, I would say that I prefer the moistness of the water smoker, though either seems to work well.  The pictures here in the post are from the firebox one.

Alder! Good stuff for smoking salmon if you can find it.

I generally let the rub set just until the salmon is room temperature or so, and then place it on the pre-heated smoker (I almost always shoot for 225 degrees when smoking meats) with a couple of wood chunks or a foil packet full of wood chips.  Alder is the preferred wood for salmon smoking, but I’m having a harder time finding it than I used to.  In its absence, you can use apple, cherry, pecan, or hickory, which will be the easiest to find, but some find it a bit strong for salmon.   If you love mesquite, you can use it as well, but it can easily overpower a meat like salmon, so use sparingly.  You won’t be cooking for long, so you will probably only use two or three chunks, or one foil pouch of moist chips.

Firebox at the bottom with foil pocket of wood, salmon filet at the top over a water pan (not really visible). Lid is about to close and cooking will soon commence!

Like most smoked meats, you won’t want to check on it often during cooking, and you definitely won’t want to try to flip it over.  Just let it set about 45 minutes for a standard sized filet, and maybe an hour for an extra thick cut before checking on it.  If it flakes with a bbq fork, it is done!  Salmon is one of those meats that is much better a bit underdone than a bit overdone, so don’t let it go too long.

Cooking complete!

It pairs great with simple wild rice , roasted potatoes, foil-grilled potatoes, grilled asparagus, marinated and grilled artichokes, and many other sides.  Whatever you choose, when you start with the smoked salmon, it is hard to go wrong!


  1. I wanna get a smoker to make some beef jerky. But smoked salmon, YUM!

  2. I’ve been wanting to try jerky on one of my smokers, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. My guess is that the off-set firebox would be more appropriate than a water smoker, but one of the smoker cabinets would probably be optimal.

  3. Cyberwombat

    What temperature do you smoke the salmon at?

    • Jeff Greene

      Thank you for pointing out that I missed mentioning that! I try to keep it around 225 degrees for salmon and just about everything else I smoke, unless the recipe specifies otherwise.

  4. Thanks for catching the omission! I try to keep the smoker at about 225 degrees.  That is the standard temperature for most meats, unless a recipe specifically says otherwise.

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