An easy smoked salmon recipe that requires no brining or curing ahead of time. This simple approach results in amazingly flavorful salmon with perfect texture. Serve it up with your choice of sides for a family favorite year round!
Smoked salmon is one of those foods I find most people are super into or super not, with very little middle ground.
Truth be told, I’m not a huge fan of store-bought smoked salmon, but this easy approach is a completely different story. The texture is more reminiscent of oven-baked salmon but it has the added benefit of a lovely smoky flavor.
Cold Smoked Salmon V. Hot Smoked Salmon:
Most store-bought smoked salmon is cured (like Gravlax) and then cold smoked rather than hot smoked (we’re hot smoking here).
In this sense, the salmon is “cooked” via curing it for a few days in sugar and salt, then it is exposed to cold smoke to add the smoky flavor. This is why it has the softer, slimier texture similar to raw salmon.
Hot smoked salmon, like this recipe, is fully cooked.
There are two ways to go about hot smoked salmon.
There’s an easy way (this way), or a longer, more extensive way involving either brining or curing the salmon ahead of time.
So if you’re looking for an easy tutorial on how to smoke salmon, you’ve found it!
For this particular approach, we literally season the salmon then slap it on the smoker.
It’s quick, it’s simple, it results in the perfect amount of smoke, amazing tender yet flaky texture, and is just perfectly cooked.
Let’s get right into it!
Ingredients for Smoked Salmon:
Salmon: The main event! Best salmon to use for smoked salmon? There are a lot of options for the type of salmon you can use for smoked salmon. You can go with one large fillet or smaller fillets, and/or you can go with skinless or skin-on.
You can use Atlantic Salmon, King Salmon, Sockeye Salmon, or Coho Salmon. Or trout! Atlantic salmon and King salmon have the highest amount of fat and will therefore turn out the most tender and flavorful. Sockeye salmon will still taste great even though it is a leaner salmon. In fact, I think smoking sockeye salmon would be an improvement to its flavor.
For the best result, I would recommend going with fresh salmon rather than thawing frozen salmon for the nicest texture. If you do use frozen salmon, just be sure to thaw it completely before putting it on the smoker so that it cooks evenly.
Avocado Oil: While it isn’t mandatory, I like to lightly coat the salmon with avocado oil to ensure it remains nice and moist during the smoking process. Because it will be on the smoker for 30 to 60 minutes, you want to be sure it doesn’t dry out and stays nice and juicy.
This is especially important if you’re using a leaner fish like sockeye, and a little less important if using a fattier fish.
Seasonings: Garlic powder, sea salt, paprika, and black pepper are all you need for the easiest, tastiest seasoning for salmon. I use this combination regardless of the protein and regardless of the cooking method – it’s just unapologetically amazing! You can also use my Dry Rub for Ribs recipe, which works great on any animal protein.
How to Make Smoked Salmon:
Preheat your smoker to 225 degrees Fahrenheit.
Place a long sheet of foil (a couple of inches longer than your fillet) on a large baking sheet.
Pat the salmon dry with a paper towel and place it on the sheet of foil. Fold up the sides of the foil around the salmon, creating a sort of boat.
Sprinkle salmon with sea salt, garlic powder, paprika, and black pepper.
Transfer the salmon to the preheated smoker and close the lid. Smoke for 30 to 60 minutes, or until the salmon reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees F. Begin checking the temperature using a thermometer after 30 minutes.
Note: the salmon will continue cooking after it is taken off of the smoker, so you can pull it off around 140 to 143 and it will raise temperature while resting.
Allow the salmon to rest 10 to 15 minutes before slicing and serving.
At What Temperature is Salmon Fully Cooked?:
Salmon is considered fully cooked when it reaches 145 degrees Fahrenheit. I personally aim for 140 degrees F, but if you are a stickler for FDA cooking temps, go for the 145.
On the other hand, if you like your salmon rare in the center, aim for 130 to 135 degrees Fahrenheit.
How Long Does it Take to Smoke Salmon at 225 Degrees?:
How long to smoke salmon? 30 minutes to 1 hour.
The amount of time it takes to smoke salmon depends on the size and thickness of the salmon fillet, the temperature of the fillet going into the smoker, and the amount of lean muscle versus fat content in the salmon.
I find a 3-pound skinless salmon fillet takes about 45 minutes.
Because there are multiple factors that determine timing, the best bet to achieve a perfect cook on salmon (not overcooking or undercooking), is to use a thermometer. I recommend checking the temperature of the salmon after 30 minutes and go from there.
Do I Have to Cure or Brine Salmon Before Smoking?:
Nope! The first three recipes I googled before making smoked salmon myself all involved brining or curing the salmon, which requires an additional 4 to 24 hours. For a quicker version, follow my lead 😉
In order to get a more traditional smoked salmon flavor, either brining it or curing it first is a great idea. However, if you’re just looking to get that smoky flavor and cook a big hunk of salmon easily, the method in this post is for you!
So there you have it! The easiest method to smoking salmon without any funny business or hassle. I hope you enjoy this crazy tender, delight of an experience!
If you love making food on your smoker, also check out my Smoked Chicken Thighs and Smoked Brisket.
Easy Smoked Salmon Recipe
This simple approach to Smoked Salmon results in amazingly flavorful salmon with perfect texture. Serve it up with your choice of sides for a family favorite year round!
- 1 large salmon fillet (2 to 4 pounds), pin bones removed
- 1 to 2 Tbsp avocado oil, as needed
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp sea salt, to taste
- Lemons for serving
- Preheat your smoker to 225 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Place a long sheet of foil (a couple of inches longer than your fillet) on a large baking sheet.
- Pat the salmon dry with a paper towel and place it on the sheet of foil. Fold up the sides of the foil around the salmon, creating a sort of boat.
- Sprinkle salmon with sea salt, garlic powder, paprika, and black pepper.
- Transfer the salmon to the preheated smoker and close the lid. Smoke for 30 to 60 minutes, or until the salmon reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees F. Begin checking the temperature using a thermometer after 30 minutes. Note: the salmon will continue cooking after it is taken off of the smoker, so you can pull it off around 140 to 143 and it will raise temperature while resting.
- Allow the salmon to rest 10 to 15 minutes before slicing and serving.
Nutrition InformationYield 6 Serving Size 1 of 6
Amount Per Serving Calories 338Total Fat 20gCarbohydrates 0gFiber 0gSugar 0gProtein 38g
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Thursday 18th of May 2023
"Perfect" texture was the perfect description! Just followed your directions last night (used Traeger Fin and Feather seasoning), and the salmon was flaky and delicious!
Friday 19th of May 2023
I'm thrilled to hear that, Brad! So happy you enjoy the recipe! xo