Indulge in a slice of super tender Smoked Salmon that graciously falls apart in your mouth. Every bite of this easy recipe gives you a mouthwatering burst of flavor. I’m talking about eye-roll kind of goodness you probably won’t forget.
Approved by the Picky Eater King! I’m really happy that my son, a really picky eater, loves this recipe which makes it perfect for weekend dinners. Having my son’s seal of approval, I tried to serve this dish to my cousin’s birthday, and what do you know? It was a hit!
I’m really excited to share with you my simple and easy recipe for your next low-carb dinner. I know we’re all trying to lose some extra pounds especially after pigging out on our favorite comfort food. Luckily, you don’t have to steer away from comfort food to satisfy your cravings.
If you’re like me, you have a large appetite for seafood with hints of tender flavors. I only make this dish for special dinners since a good slice of salmon is really hard to come by. Here are my tips to get value for your money when buying salmon.
- Look at the eyes – Clear eyes signify freshness. I’d steer away from any fish with cloudy eyes
- Take a look at the gills – It should give off a rich deep red color.
- Check the skin – slippery and shiny is always a go for me.
- Try to lift it up -A firm fish is a good sign that it’s fresh while floppy fishes tend to be, well, a flop.
- Give it a light press – A good salmon will always spring back to its original form
- Look for a bright orange color – is a clear sign that it’s of good quality.
- Smell – if it emits a foul sea smell, throw it away immediately. A good fish shouldn’t smell bad at all
A good smoked salmon always comes brined. Its flavor is actually a mix of both internal (the brine) and external (the woodchip used) flavors of your choice. My super amazing salmon recipe only takes about a few simple ingredients to hit that perfect flavorful spot. Here’s everything you’ll need to create my awesome smoked salmon recipe:
Salmon Brine (Dry Brine)
- Salt – the key ingredient for brining that draws out the water from the meat. Kosher salt would do this job perfectly but regular rock salt works fine too.
- Brown Sugar – What I like about this ingredient is that it doesn’t dry out the meat too much. The presence of salt already takes away the moisture of the meat so regular sugar will only heighten the effect. Brown sugar already has moisture so it only adds flavor and takes little to no moisture at all!
- Thyme – using fresh herbs for this recipe is great but dried ones also work fine. I’m actually using dried thyme for this recipe because it has a longer shelf life.
- Onion powder – this dried seasoning distributes the rich onion flavor evenly throughout the meat. Using it in a brine gives the fish a sweet and aromatic internal flavor
- Pepper – What’s salt without pepper right? Add a kick of heat to your smoked fish brine with this simple ingredient.
- Lemon Zest – Give your dish a refreshing zing with bits of lemon zest! No, not lemon juice, just the zest! I’ll tell you why in a bit.
Best Woodchips for Smoked Fish
You can choose any woodchip you’d like but here are my top picks for the flavorful and aromatic.
- Alder – gives your dish a subtle sweet taste with a strong hint of smokiness
- Hickory – also has a mildly sweet flavor and is usually used along with other similar-burning wood.
- Maple – as the name suggests, it also has a sweet flavor. I literally love the hint of sweetness these woods bring to the fish.
- Oak – Oak gives a similar flavor. I often pair this with hickory because they burn similarly. Yes, you can mix and match woodchips for smoked salmon as well.
- White table sugar can replace brown sugar with all the same effects in flavor. Just adjust the amount accordingly so that it doesn’t dry out the meat
- No Onion powder? Try using onion salt. I just have to warn you that this replaces part of the original salt requirement for your recipe. so if you’re using 1 tablespoon of onion salt, remove the same amount of regular salt from the recipe.
- Dried Oregano, Basil, or even Rosemary can substitute for thyme. Don’t be afraid to mix and match herbs relative to this recipe.
Which Smoker to Use
There are a lot of smoking methods you can use to prepare for this dish. Personally, I think that there’s no one specific way to perfectly salmon. I prefer trying out different methods and flavors to get the best taste.
So, without further adieu, here are some of my preferred techniques for this recipe:
My Choice: Pellet Smoker
- Distinct Flavor – Although it takes longer to smoke the fish with a pellet smoker, you’ll surely taste its distinct flavor.
- Flavored Wood Chips – Pellets mainly use compressed and flavored wood chips to smoke the meat in a closed chamber.
- Indirect Heat – This uses indirect heat which means that the heat source is distant from the meat.
- One unit of a smoker can be too bulky – especially if you live in a studio or apartment
Although it takes a while to smoke the fish in with a pellet smoker, you’ll surely taste its distinct flavor. Pellets mainly use compressed and flavored wood chips to smoke the meat in a closed chamber. This uses indirect heat which means that the heat source is distant from the meat.
How to use it?
- Pre-smoke: Preheat the grill until the wood chips start producing smoke.
- Placement: Place the fish in a rack indirect to the heat source. This makes sure that your meat will cook evenly without one side burning.
- Add moisture: Add a pan with half a cup of water to the smoking chamber to prevent it from drying out.
- Trap the heat: Close the lid to trap the heat and smoke we need for cooking the meat
This method also infuses the flavor of the wood chips in the meat. (Check my recommendations above for the best woodchips for smoked fish)
Verdict: By far, this is the easiest way to smoke. It automatically feeds the heater with pellets and fans the heat around the chamber. No need for dirty work, just check the dish from time to time!👍
I, myself, use a Traeger Pellet Smoker because it’s one of the most versatile cookers on the market.
- Compact unit – Its small size makes it truly convenient
- No electricity – No need to plug it for electricity so you can enjoy your dish even when you’re in the great outdoors.
- Low Cost – It’s a low cost makes it really affordable. and it’s waaay easier to clean!
- Direct heat – although technically it’s indirect. the heat source is in the same chamber as the meat. this can lead to roasting rather than smoking which burns one side of the fish.
A simple compact barbecue grill can also be used for smoking. This is the perfect smoker for you if you don’t have much space in your backyard. I’d be careful about using this tho. aside from the hot coals, you’re using to cook the meat, it’s also super easy to stain your shirt with soot.
This smoking method uses charcoal which cooks the meat with low but direct heat. Flavored wood can also be used for this method to infuse a smoky aroma to the dish’s core.
Barbecuing vs Smoking: The difference between barbecuing and smoking is that smoking uses slow and indirect heat so that all sides cook perfectly.
How to use your charcoal grill as a smoker?
- Heat the charcoals – Place the hot charcoals on one extreme side of the grill.
- Catch – Add a tin catch just below the grill so you can catch any juices that drip off.
- Placement – Place the ribs on the other side of the grill furthest from the coals and the water pan beside it.
- Trap the heat – Close the lid to start the smoking process
Don’t wear white when you’re using this method. Trust me.
Verdict: I like using this method tho because it’s the most convenient. I don’t need a bulky unit in my backyard. 👍 All I have to do is take my favorite wood flavor and use it along with charcoal.
- No direct heat – We won’t be using an open fire for this smoker. it’s woodchips and some heating rods.
- Its own thermometer – It has a built-in thermometer to tell the temperature inside the smoker.
- Longer smoking time – It cooks longer and slower because of the low maximum temperature.
- Electric consumption – I think you should expect a higher electric bill when using this smoker.
- Tastes different – Without the authentic smoke from a burning woodchip, you’ll sense a slight difference in the taste. Also, if you don’t preheat the smoker. you’d probably taste a bit of plastic from the manufacturing in your dish.
Electric smokers use wood chips to produce smoke via heating rods to produce the smoke. It also uses convection to heat food giving the food a different flavor due to the lack of fire. The parts are generally similar to a bullet smoker with the wood tray substituting the fire chamber.
How to use it?
- Preheat: Pre-smoke the unit with the woodchips of your choice.
- Add Moisture: Once it reaches the desired temperature, place the water pan inside the lowest space inside the unit.
- Cook the fish: Place the fish meat on the racks and close the lid or door.
NOTE: If you’re a first-time user of this type of smoker, I suggest seasoning your grill with cooking oil. This prevents any residue from the manufacturing to stick to your food.
Verdict: Electric grills tend to cook at a lower temperature which means they would cook longer. I like this method as well because it’s so easy to navigate!
5 Simple tricks for the Best Smoked Salmon
- Brine – never forget to do this. This is basically the internal flavor that you’ll give to your fish meat. If ever you do, you’ll still have the woodchip’s flavor but it wouldn’t penetrate the meat as much
- Use the right woodchips – Mix and match and you might just surprise yourself. Check my recommendations above J
- Keep the skin on – If you’re planning to wow your guests with this dish. I suggest you keep the skin on. This prevents the fish to easily fall apart while cooking.
- Do not overcook – nobody likes super hard and overcooked meat. Yes, you can actually overcook a dish in the smoker.
- Let the meat rest – let those glorious juices settle back in once you finish smoking the fish
How long does it take to smoke a salmon?
It usually takes me about 2 hours to smoke a 4-pound salmon at 225 F. This is generally how long it should take to smoke the fish. However, this may vary depending on the fat content (marbling) of the fish meat, brining, temperature, and other conditions.
The best way to check if the fish is done is to use an internal thermometer. Once it reaches about 140, it’s time to take it out. I take mine out at around 135 F because it continues to cook for about 5 minutes outside the smoker. This is also why resting the meat is important
How to serve Smoked Salmon?
You better get your taste buds ready because this dish only gets better with what you pair it with. The easiest way to serve it is to dig in as it is! I do this whenever I’m alone at home because it’s just one of my favorite comfort food.
My favorite serving style for this dish is actually as a fresh filling on a bagel. The ensemble of dill, fresh onions, and lemon zest just give my palate a burst of freshness.
If it falls apart while it’s smoking, you can still use the meat as a smoked salmon dip. Use any bits of salmon meat that falls off as you’re slicing
Seafood Recipes You’d love