We all know that smoked salmon is delicious, but many people are wary of smoking their own salmon because they think that it is too difficult. There is some truth in this, it isn’t the easiest meat for beginners to smoke, but once you get the hang of using your electric smoker there is no reason why you shouldn’t try to smoke your own salmon.
In this post, we will show you how to smoke salmon in an electric smoker and share some great tips and recipe ideas as well, so let’s crack straight on.
Guide to smoking salmon with an electric smoker
Before we get started it is worth knowing that there are two ways to smoke salmon: hot smoked salmon and cold smoked salmon.
Cold smoked salmon is salt-cured and preserved by the smoke. Hot smoked salmon is wet brined and cooked in a higher temperature smoker.
Cold Smoked Salmon
Cold Smoked Salmon or, is smoked at about 65°F – 85°F. The smoke is funneled into the chamber which holds the fish in cold smoking. This is the key to cold smoked salmon as it isn’t exposed to a high temperature it is slowly cured over many hours.
Hot Smoked Salmon
Hot Smoked Salmon is smoked at about 125°F – 175°F. It results in a fully cooked product. It has its own taste and texture.
How to make Smoked Salmon in an Electric Smoker?
I believe it is better to have the salmon brining before smoking it. Ideal time for brining of salmon is 12 hours. Brining involves leaving the salmon in a solution of salt, sugar and water. For a touch of something extra, one can add spices as well. Dry the fish after brining it.
Please note that the majority of smoke flavor is absorbed in just about 30 minutes. If you over-smoke it, you might be facing a rather unpleasant taste. You should add some chips regularly for making the process smooth. A little amount of smoke is always visible escaping from vent. If it is blowing out then some tuning is necessary.
What types of Salmon are best for smoking?
Smoking works really well when you use Wild-Caught Salmon when it is available. If it is not then go for a frozen wild salmon. Make sure to thaw it slowly in the refrigerator. It is preferred to use a whole filet rather some individual portions of salmon. It has the advantage that it is a lot easier to handle and keeps the fish moist. So, the Salmons works best are:
- Wild-caught Salmon
- Frozen Wild Salmon
How to prepare salmon for smoking in an electric smoker
Preparing salmon for smoking is not a hectic task as it doesn’t require lengthy preparation. You need to remove the pin bones in the filet using a pair of fish bone tweezers. Start from the tail and work your way to the head. Now apply dry brine but before that; use paper towels to wipe the liquids from the filet.
Now, apply the brine as it will help to preserve the salmon. Not only that, the salmon will last longer after it gets smoked, flavors will be intensified and a little moisture will be pulled out.
What kind of Wood are best for Smoking Salmon?
Wood chips are really important for smoking salmon. The question of best wood chips for smoking salmon depends on personal taste. Whatever you like can work well for salmon. I prefer to use a mild-flavored wood owing to the delicate nature of salmon.
A few good choices of wood chips are:
How to Smoke Salmon in an Electric Smoker
Lots of people think that smoking salmon is difficult but it’s really not. Check out these simple instructions to see just how easy it can be.
- First, brine the salmon for about 1.5 hours.
- For indirect smoking, prep the smoker with Alder wood-chips at 225°
- Place the Salmon skin-side down on a piece of kitchen and put it in smoker.
- Keep smoking until the internal temperature reaches 140°
- Rest it for about 4 – 5 minutes.
- Have your first bite.
Tips for Smoking Salmon in an Electric Smoker
Every little detail is important while smoking salmon but these few things serve as the key to having the best smoked salmon. Make sure to not over-complicate it.
- The Brine. A mixture of Kosher Salt, Brown Sugar and Water.
- Right Wood Chips.
- Avoid Overcooking. This is probably the most important thing. Usually, the key temperatures are 225°F inside the smoker and 140°F internal to avoid drying out the salmon.
- Make no compromise on temperature control. Keep monitoring the internal temperature of salmon and the temperature of the electric smoker.
- For heat regulation, it is recommended to use a drip pan with warm water. Ice can also be used when the temperature is shooting.
- Use a foil sheet with folded rim for placing the salmon. It makes it easier to get the salmon to the smoker and is also easier to clean up.
- Avoid over-smoking of salmon otherwise, the salmon will become too smoky flavored.
Some Smoked Salmon FAQs
1. How long to smoke salmon? How long does it take to smoke salmon at 225°F?
It can take about 30 minutes to 1 hour for a 3 pound salmon filet at 225°F. It is advised to stop cooking when the internal temperature of salmon become 140°F.
2. Is the smoked salmon cooked or not?
Well, in the case of Hot Smoked Salmon, it is definitely fully cooked. The cold smoked salmon is not fully cooked.
3. How long does the smoked salmon lasts?
If the salmon you bought is fresh, it will last for 1 week in the refrigerator most of the times.
4. Can you freeze the smoked salmon?
You can freeze the hot smoked salmon easily. Make sure to place the chunks of it into zip-lock freezer bags before placing in the freezer. You can defrost it as well by placing the salmon in a bowl of water. Don’t defrost in microwave oven.
Equipment Required for Smoking Salmon
Here is listed some basic equipment required for smoking salmon.
- Electric smoker
- Fish tweezers
- Kosher Salt
- Smoke Alarm
- Sheet pan
- Alder wood chips
- Aluminum Foil
- A Wire Rack
- Basting Brush
Ultimate Recipe for Smoking Salmon
Here is the ultimate electric smoker salmon recipe….
Please keep in mind that my salmon brine is quite simple.
You can add the things you want without hesitation. I have gone for materials
like garlic and minced onion, chilies and bay leaves.
- 5 pounds Salmon Filet
- Birch for basting
- 1 cup Brown Sugar
- 1 quart Cool Water
- 4 cups Alder Wood-chips
- 1/3 cup Kosher Salt
Brine the Salmon. Create a mixture of brine ingredients. Place the salmon in a glass container and put it in refrigerator. This process will remove some moisture and helps in preserving of salmon.
Brine for 4 Hours. You’ll need 4 hours at least for proper brining of salmon. Make sure not to brine too much or the fish will become much salty. Add more brine if it doesn’t cover the salmon filet.
Drying of Salmon. Now, remove the salmon brine and pat it dry. Fillets must be set skin-side down. You can dry the salmon for 2 hours at least at 60°F. The fish will develop a shiny skin called pellicle. Once the salmon filet has pellicle, you can refrigerate the salmon for a few hours more.
Smoking of Salmon. Slick the salmon filet with some oil so the stickiness can be avoided with smoker rack. Now, start a small fire first and then gradually make progress. Don’t start with high temperatures. I usually start the smoking process at 140°F and 150°F and finish at 175°F for about 1½ hours.
Mild Temperature. Smoking is an art. You want to keep the temperature mild so always put water in your drip pan to do so.
Fish Basting. Baste the fish with maple syrup after an hour in the smoker. Repeat this process after every hour. This process will brush away any formed albumin. Your goal for internal temperature should be about 130°F to 140°F.
Avoid High Heating. You should not smoke salmon at too high heat. Otherwise, you’ll get a lot of albumin and you’ll screw up the salmon. A little albumin is fine. At high temperatures, the muscle fibers of meat contracts violently generating a lot of albumin which congeals the surface of the fish. It also means your salmon filet will be much drier than normal.
Cooling the Salmon. Once you are done with smoking, let the salmon rest on a cooling rack for an hour. Now, put in the fridge if you want to store it. If you wrapped plastic the salmon, it will be good for 10 days. You can also freeze the salmon for a year.
Important Advice: This process of smoking salmon takes a while so try to fill-up your smoker with salmon. Go for the big patch and enjoy your meal.