a filet of salmon with salt

Easy Homemade Smoked Salmon

If you enjoy the rich earthy smokiness of a good smoked fish, Easy Homemade Smoked Salmon needs to be your next kitchen conquest!

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close up of a white bowl with salad, with smoked salmon

If you are among the many food lovers enjoying weekly recipes from the Not Entirely Test Kitchen, consider this smoked salmon recipe and method. It may be executed on a smoker or a gas grill, and smoking fish at home pays back tenfold!

Among the most elegant and EASY of appetizers to serve is an Easy Homemade Smoked Salmon Filet. Situated atop a large charcuterie board and flanked with whipped cream cheese, fresh snipped chives, and a scatter of capers, guests can enjoy this array of savory selections atop lightly char-grilled bread. The sweet and smoky flavor profile of smoked salmon compliments Champagne, Rosé, and is exceptional with Chenin Blanc.

a filet of salmon with seasoning

An Easy Homemade Smoked Salmon Filet is the basis for many other dishes, too. I smoke enough salmon to enjoy in multiple recipes.

The last time I popped into see my fish monger, I spied enormous filets of cold smoked salmon. They were gorgeous…and expensive! Nearly $32/lb to be precise. BUT, I knew they were worth every dollar. I have so many recipes that call for smoked salmon. I was dying to simply bite the bullet and purchase a length.

On my drive home, I recalled the great dinners I enjoyed in Northwest Canada while on travel. Many of those meals included salmon either barbecued or smoked. My time spent in the Canadian Rockies yielded some of my most enjoyable memories. How hard could it be to smoke a salmon filet at home? Surely there MUST be something somewhere about a simple method.

salmon filets on ice

How Do You Smoke Salmon At Home?

After turning the car around and heading back to my fish monger, I began to reminisce about the icy cold water of the Sauble River. I was determined to nail a low temperature smoke on my charcoal smoker or at least manage some dry cured salmon out of the deal. Little did I know how easily smoking salmon at home really was. That, and purchasing fresh salmon was far cheaper than purchasing smoked.

the Weber Smokey Mountain Smoker

The biggest tip I can impart to you is to start with the BEST side of salmon you are able to purchase. Price does NOT represent quality. Know: when the fish was caught, if it was wild or farmed, if farmed what it was fed, waters of origin, and if it’s been on ice for a few days or more than a week.

For me, I look for a very recently caught wild salmon in American or Canadian waters. A caveat: there is nothing wrong with farmed fish as long as it is sustainably executed and has not been treated to enhance color. Do your homework, ask questions at a reputable fish seller, and read the signs that tell you when and where that fish was sourced.

AND, you do NOT need the biggest filet available. There is minimal shrinkage during the smoking process, so purchase what you know you’ll be able to eat. The method I am demonstrating here today is based on a 2-ish pound skin-on, boneless filet of salmon.

What Do I Serve With Smoked Salmon?

I gather my recipes ahead of time and add up my measures so I know how much I will need to purchase to prepare each dish. I am also known for adding a 1/4 or 1/2 pound to those measures. Why? Because I absolutely LOVE a charcuterie board. With the extra smoked fish, a bit of whipped cream cheese, some chives, and a mess of capers atop really good crusty grilled bread, it’s a meal in itself.

If smoking however to serve as a main course, I have served to much applause a Butternut Squash Risotto and also a Sherried Oven Roasted Spaghetti Squash. Both superb without taking the focus away from the fish.

Invest once, care for it, and enjoy the spoils of your efforts from it for years to come. Smokers and gas grills. Barbecue necessaries, click any image for pricing.

How Do You Prepare Salmon To Smoke It?

Seasoning for smoked salmon is quite minimal. You likely already have what is required in your pantry. For the easiest and best smoked salmon, you will need 1/2 cup Kosher salt or coarse sea salt, 1/2 cup brown sugar, black and pink peppercorns, coriander seeds, and about 2 pounds of skin-on, boneless salmon filet. Again, work with THE FRESHEST salmon you are able to purchase.

Always rinse the filet thoroughly. Pat dry with a paper towel and make sure you get the fish very dry, top and bottom. This recipe for smoked salmon begins with a combination of ingredients that will go on as seasoning, and eventually form a brine. Time is your friend in this method. The number of hours spent brining will take more time than the actual smoke itself, however is a crucial step to attaining a flavorful smoky salmon. Begin this process 1 day ahead of needing/smoking your salmon. Who says the best of the best is ever easy?

Have at the ready a glass baking dish, plastic wrap, heavy gauge aluminum foil, a large rimmed baking sheet, and a rack to fit that baking sheet. You will also want a few large chunks of a good smoking wood such as hickory or pecan. Today, I am using apple wood. If you will be smoking on your gas grill, use a smoker box if you have one. If you do not own a smoker box, a large aluminum pan with an aluminum lid will be necessary.

How To Smoke Salmon Without A Smoker

How Do You Cook Salmon On A Gas Grill?

Prepare your smoker box by loading it with wood chips or a couple of wood chunks. Preheat all burners on your grill on high for about 10 minutes. At this time, place the smoker box on the grill and close the lid. That smoker box will be moved once things get hot, so I advise tongs to be able to safely move it around with.

Ultimately, the grill must be set up for indirect cooking by first turning off burners that will be directly under the salmon. We want the salmon to cook using the ambient heat in the grill rather than over a direct heat source or flame. So once the grill is HOT and your wood is beginning to smell aromatic, turn off all but the burners that will be the sole heat sources.

The smoker box will occupy the space on the grill directly above the direct heat source or flame. Use the tongs to move it over the heat source. You are ready to rock and roll once the grill gauge reads 225 degrees F. You’ll add the filet skin side down to the indirect side of the grill. Close the lid.

How Long Do You Cook Salmon On A Gas Grill?

Smoke until the salmon for about 1 hour. You’re looking for a fish filet that is firm to the touch. It will boast a beautiful golden brown sheen to it while remaining just slightly pink all the way to its middle. I like to allow the salmon to stand for 5 to 10 minutes once I pull it from the grill. It can be served immediately or left to cool to room temperature.

How Do You Cook Salmon On A Charcoal Grill? Pellet Smoker, Or Stovetop Smoker?

Easy – the exact same way you’d smoke any meats. Fire your coals and add your wood. Cover and get your temperature to right around 225 degrees F.

Add the salmon skin-side down to the indirect side of a charcoal grill, and replenish the charcoal as needed to maintain the temperature.

How Do You Cook Salmon On A Charcoal Smoker?

On a charcoal smoker, and depending on what type of charcoal smoker you have, place the salmon skin-side down on the indirect side of the grill or in the case of a barrel smoker, atop the grill grate and making sure the water levels in the pan are full. Salmon should smoke undisturbed for about 1 hour. Again, look for a fish filet that is firm to the touch and is nicely golden brown while remaining just slightly pink all the way to its middle.

How Do You Cook Salmon On A An Electric Smoker Or Stovetop Smoker?

If using a stovetop smoker or an electric pellet smoker, follow the manufacturers instructions. The cook time for salmon using either of these appliances will be closer to 30 minutes.

How Long Is Smoked Salmon Good For?

If you plan to use portions of the salmon you are smoking for later recipes, I recommend first placing the salmon into a container and then wrapping the container in plastic. Salmon wrapper directly in plastic may acquire a slimy film. It can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Frozen, it will last up to 1 month.

Can I Eat Smoked Salmon Without Cooking?

Once the salmon is smoked, use it and eat it any way you like. If a recipe calls for smoked salmon to be baked into the dish, it’s fine to add it as any other ingredient would be added and baked. Smoker salmon is completely cooked following its smoke. It’s great if you are looking for a lite supper. Enjoy it at room temperature with some whipped cream cheese and lightly char-grilled bread. Afterwards, refrigeration will be paramount to keeping leftovers fresh.

close up of salmon in a salad bowl

All images and text ©Jenny DeRemer for Not Entirely Average, LLC

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a filet of salmon with seasoning

Easy Homemade Smoked Salmon

If you enjoy the rich earthy smokiness of a good smoked fish, Easy Homemade Smoked Salmon needs to be your next kitchen conquest!
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Prep Time: 16 hours
Cook Time: 1 hour
Resting Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 17 hours 10 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: cold smoked, cured salmon, gravlox, healthy fish preparation, healthy fish recipes, hot smoked, lox, plank smoking, salmon, salmon candy, smoked salmon, smoked salmon filet recipe, smoked salmon recipes, smoking, smoking salmon in a smoker
Servings: 6 servings based on a 2-pound filet
Calories: 327kcal
Cost: $4.33 per serving

Want a bigger or smaller serving size? Hover over the serving size and move the bar until you get the number of servings you want. Easy.

Equipment

  • smoker, gas grill, stovetop smoker, charcoal grill, or electric smoker

Ingredients

Ingredients for Easy Homemade Smoked Salmon

  • 3/4 cup brown sugar light or dark, packed
  • 1/2 cup coarse salt may be Kosher or sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon pink peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 2 pounds salmon fillet skin-on, boneless

Instructions

The Method

    prepping the salmon

    • Put the peppercorns and coriander seeds through a spice mill to grind. Alternatively, crush them using a mortar and pestle.
    • Combine sugar, salt, crushed peppercorns and crushed coriander in a small bowl. 
    • Sprinkle a handful of the mixture, about 1/4 in total, in the bottom of a 9×13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Set aside.
    • Thoroughly rinse and pat the salmon very dry. Place salmon, skin-side down, in the prepared baking dish.
    • Spread the remaining sugar peppercorn mixture over the salmon. Pat it down and cover the flesh of the fish entirely. Cover the entire baking dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate 10 to 12 hours.

    for the smoke

    • Remove the salmon from the baking dish and discard liquids. Rinse the fish under very cold water to remove the sugar peppercorn mixture. Again pat dry with paper toweling both top and bottom..
    • Prepare a large rimmed baking sheet by covering it with foil. Set a rack to fit the baking sheet on top.
    • Place the salmon on the rack and refrigerate uncovered until the surface looks shiny and lightly glazed, about 2 hours.

    for gas grill smoking

    • Prepare the grill for indirect cooking over very low heat, about 225°F. See my notes above for how to set a gas grill for indirect heat.
    • Add 1 handful of wood chips to a smoker box and close the lid. When the wood begins to smoke, place the rinsed and dried salmon fillet skin-side down over indirect heat.
    • Close the lid. Maintain 225°F throughout the smoke. Cook until salmon is firm to the touch and has a golden brown sheen. It should be slightly pink all the way to its middle, about 1 hour.

    for charcoal grill smoking

    • Prepare a charcoal grill for indirect cooking over very low heat, about 225°F. Add 1 wood chunk such as hickory or pecan to the charcoal and replace the lid.
    • When the wood begins to smoke, place salmon fillet skin-side down over indirect heat.
    • Replace the lid. Maintain 225°F throughout the smoke. Cook until salmon is firm to the touch and has a golden brown sheen. It should be slightly pink all the way to its middle, about 1 hour.

    for a traditional smoker

    • Prepare a traditional smoker for indirect cooking over very low heat, about 225°F. If using a barrel smoker, ensure water pan is full once coals are lit. Add 1 wood chunk such as hickory or pecan to the charcoal and replace the lid.
    • When the wood begins to smoke, place salmon fillet skin-side down over indirect heat or in the case of a barrel smoker, directly on the cooking grate.
    • Replace the lid. Maintain 225°F throughout the smoke. Cook until salmon is firm to the touch and has a golden brown sheen. It should be slightly pink all the way to its middle, about 1 hour.

    for a stovetop smoker or electric smoker * cook time drops with these appliances to approximately 30 minutes

    • Follow the manufacturers instructions for smoking fish. Pay close attention as the cooking time is reduced by half.

    Notes

    The biggest tip I can impart to you is to start with the BEST side of salmon you are able to purchase. Price does NOT represent quality. Know: when the fish was caught, if it was wild or farmed, if farmed what it was fed, waters of origin, and if it’s been on ice for a few days or more than a week. FRESH IS BEST.
    If you plan to use portions of the salmon you are smoking for later recipes, I recommend first adding the salmon to a container and wrapping the container in plastic. Fish wrapped directly in plastic can acquire a slimy film.
    After smoking, the salmon can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Frozen, it will last up to 1 month.

    Nutrition

    Serving: 1serving | Calories: 327kcal | Carbohydrates: 29g | Protein: 30g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 83mg | Sodium: 9506mg | Potassium: 808mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 27g | Vitamin A: 69IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 60mg | Iron: 2mg

    Please note that the nutrition information provided above is approximate and meant as a guideline only.

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