Hot Smoked Salmon Recipe: This healthy and delicious slow food recipe is a perfect use of good quality salmon. Hot smoking salmon is a great way to preserve it for later and you can use it in a variety of dishes (or eat it immediately like I do!) |
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My First Hot Smoked Salmon

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Char-Broil. All opinions are 100% mine.

Ever since I read and reviewed Aaron Franklin’s manifesto on smoked foods, I’ve wanted to dive into the hugely in-depth (and sometimes intimidating) world of smoking. So, when Char-Broil offered to send me their Deluxe Digital Electric Smoker, I jumped at the chance.

The smoker came basically assembled and I’ll get into some of the cooler features that it has in this post. The instructions were easy to follow and after I seasoned it and pre-heated it, it was ready to use! I actually tried a small brisket on it first just to get a feel for it (turned out great), but I wanted to try something a bit more delicate also.

Enter smoked salmon! I’ve never smoked fish before so I was excited to try it. After doing some research (I ended up roughly following Hank Shaw’s method), I bought some really nice fresh salmon and dove in!

Serves 6-8.
Prep Time
Total Time

Just a moment please...


Hot Smoked Salmon Recipe

This healthy and delicious slow food recipe is a perfect use of good quality salmon. Eat it immediately or preserve it for later!


2 pounds fresh salmon filets
2 quarts water
2/3 cup kosher salt
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Wood smoking chips

Helpful Equipment

Electric Smoker
Print Recipe  


1) Mix together water, salt, sugar, syrup, and cayenne pepper. Pour over salmon in a shallow container. Brine should cover the salmon. Cover the salmon and refrigerate in the brine for 24-36 hours. For thicker filets of salmon, you definitely want to shoot for 36 hours. I also recommend flipping the salmon halfway through just to make sure it is brining evenly.

2) Drain brine from salmon. Place salmon in a cool dry clean place and let it dry for 2 hours. This will form a light, sticky surface on the salmon. You can smoke the salmon at this point or refrigerate it for later smoking (you should smoke it within a day or two of brining and drying it.)

3) Prepare smoker according to instructions. Be sure to season the smoker or preheat it with soaked wood chips in place and water pan filled.

4) Smoke salmon at the lowest temperature you can manage (hopefully around 120 degrees F.) for 2 hours. Check the temperature of the salmon frequently to make sure it isn’t cooking too quickly. Then you can slowly raise the smoker temperature to get to the desired temperature.

5) The salmon should take 3-4 hours to get to the desired temperature of 140 degrees F. If it cooks too fast, you’ll see white liquid being pressed out the top of the salmon. If there’s a lot (some is okay), it means the salmon is cooking too fast. You can always turn off the smoker completely to slow the cooking process. Keep the door closed to keep the smoke circulating.

6) When salmon is done smoking, remove it from the smoker and serve it immediately by flaking it off or let it cool.

For storage, cool completely, wrap in plastic and store in the fridge for up to 10 days. You can also vacuum seal the fish and freeze it for up to 6 months. I recommend eating it immediately though!

Hot Smoked Salmon

Brining the Fish

You don’t have to brine salmon before smoking it. You can just toss it in the smoker, I guess, but brining adds a lot of good things to the fish. It pulls out some of the liquid and gives the fish good color and flavor.  It gives the salmon more flavor and the sweet/salty components of the brine go really nicely with the smoked flavor.

The downside, of course, is that it basically adds two days onto your cooking time. Plan ahead!

Hot Smoked Salmon Recipe brine

Brine time.

You could use any salmon for this, but if you’re taking the time to smoke salmon, buy really good fresh salmon. I bought a two pound filet of really good salmon and hoped that I would be able to do it justice.

For my version, I decided to leave the pin bones in the filet to keep the fish more intact. Since I knew I would be flaking it apart for serving, the pin bones wouldn’t be a huge deal to pick out later.

salmon for smoking.

Good fish.

Mix up the brine until the salt and sugar is dissolved and pour it over the fish.

I let mine sit for about 36 hours in the fridge.

Hot Smoked Salmon brining

24-36 hours!

Drying the Salmon

After you’ve brined the salmon, it needs to dry out. What you don’t want to do is pat it dry with paper towels. On the surface of the salmon, a thin layer of syrupy liquid will form if you let the salmon dry slowly in a cool, dry place. This time of year, I just dried mine in my kitchen next to an open window on a cool night.

After a few hours, the salmon will be dry and a bit sticky to the touch. At this point you an smoke the salmon or store it in the fridge and smoke it later (within a day or two). The salmon is basically cured at this point thanks to the salt and sugar in the brine so it will preserve okay for a few days.

Hot Smoked Salmon Recipe Drying

Dried out a bit.

Hot Smoking the Salmon

There are two types of smoke when it comes to salmon. Cold smoking salmon is tough to do unless you have a really specific setup. Hot smoking salmon is a little easier although the word “hot” is tough. You don’t want to HOT smoke salmon. Intense heat will destroy it. So even when you are applying heat, it’s a gentle heat.

When I was ready to smoke, I added some soaked wood chips (sweeter woods like cherry or apple go well with salmon) to my smoker box.

Hot Smoked Salmon Recipe chips

Soaked chips.

Then I just put the salmon on the top level of the smoker and inserted the probe thermometer. I set the temperature in the smoker to a pretty cold 120 degrees F.

Charbroil smoker

The beast.

Yea… that’s right. I said probe thermometer. One of the things I love about this smoker is there is a built in probe thermometer. It hooks into the digital settings on the smoker so you can set a finished temperature that you want and the smoker will automatically shut off (and switch to warm) when the probe thermometer hits that temperature.

Hot Smoked Salmon Recipe probe

Love the temp probe!

There’s also a digital remote so you can monitor the smoker temperature and probe temperature anywhere that the signal reaches (mine reached into my house without a problem).

Very cool features and made smoking really easy!

Hot Smoked Salmon Recipe features.

Features galore.

Controlling Temperature for Salmon

The absolute hardest thing about smoking salmon is controlling the temperature. Ideally, you want the salmon to slow smoke and take 3-4 hours to get to the desired temperature of 140 degrees F.

This can be tricky even with the digital controls on a smoker like this. One indicator that your fish is cooking too fast is if it gets a lot of white liquid accumulating on top. That means that the proteins in the salmon are contracting quickly and pushing out liquid.

I was able to get pretty good temperature control with this model of smoker though. After about 90 minutes and again around 3 hours, I actually switched off the smoker for 10 minutes to cool it down a little bit. It felt like it was getting a bit too hot. But I don’t hold this against the device really. It’s very tough to keep a low temperature like that for an extended period of time.

I was also playing it safe by taking more time. Slower is definitely better here.

My finished salmon picked up some light smoke color but had really amazing flavor.

Hot Smoked Salmon Recipe: This healthy and delicious slow food recipe is a perfect use of good quality salmon. Hot smoking salmon is a great way to preserve it for later and you can use it in a variety of dishes (or eat it immediately like I do!) |

It was perfectly salty and sweet and had nice hints of smoke. It would be great on crackers as an appetizer or on a bagel with some cream cheese obviously!

For my first attempt at smoking fish, I was really happy with how this turned out.

If you’re in the market for an electric smoker, definitely check out the Char-Broil Digital Electric Smoker. It has some really fantastic features and makes smoking good food very accessible.

Hot Smoked Salmon Recipe: This healthy and delicious slow food recipe is a perfect use of good quality salmon. Hot smoking salmon is a great way to preserve it for later and you can use it in a variety of dishes (or eat it immediately like I do!) |


Hot Smoked Salmon Recipe: This healthy and delicious slow food recipe is a perfect use of good quality salmon. Hot smoking salmon is a great way to preserve it for later and you can use it in a variety of dishes (or eat it immediately like I do!) |

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22 comments on “My First Hot Smoked Salmon

    1. Thanks Chris! I’m really excited to use it more. Homemade bacon didn’t even cross my mind, but obviously that’s a good idea.

  1. I’ve always wanted to do this myself. Your pictures, especially of the salmon, look amazing!!!

  2. As usual, very comprehensive & helpful…1 request, tho…As with any “salmon” recipe, PLEASE specify type…NOT the “farmed” garbage, but good, high Omega-3, non-fatty, non-antibiotic’d, non-lousy, REAL WILD Salmon! Not always available “fresh”, but the wild type doesn’t suffer from freezing!


      1. You are right Forrest, I believe Chilean salmon is raised in ocean pens and they are fed netted baitfish. I like the extra fattiness for smoking

        1. I can understand how some folks feel, however if you seen what actually is fed to the BC and Washington net penned salmon you would defer from eating them from this region… I live in washington and have seen the deformations, lethargic actions and the disease these fish are spreading to the wild populations… Farmed salmon in BC and washington is on the verge of collapse and it’s about damn time….

    1. Hey Arjan, yea… it’s a bit counterintuitive, but basically you want to start it as slow as possible. The temp actually goes higher than 120 while it’s heating and then drops so it’s possible. The trick though is that you just want it to smoke VERY slowly. If it isn’t hitting the temp you want, then you can always up the temp of the smoker, but it’s impossible to go backwards so I just recommend starting on what is basically the lowest setting. I hope that makes sense!

  3. The Char broil sounds like a nice little smoker for the price. I have another brand of smoker and the only time I tried smoking salmon it didn’t turn out great – I think the temperature was a bit high.

    1. YEa… it’s really tough to control temp. You have to keep a close eye on it no matter which smoker you use I think!

  4. i have smoked salmon for years. started with little chef,went to a butane smoker then a pellet electric smoker. the key is slow and temp control. make sure salmon is dry before putting in smoker. I always use lemon pepper and coat salmon with a light dusting of brown sugar.. I have never had trouble give it away,get in line. fred in seattle

      1. Wow,..thank you for the fast reply. I have smoked salmon in the past and it always seemed it was done too fast. I do use the probe and when it gets to 150 I took it out. It tasted fine but it was done in like an hour. I have tried smoking at 140 and still done way too fast. I do always brine and let it dry too. I’m going to try this recipe if you will, this weekend. Also, I have heard not to soak the wood, but this time I’m going to.

        1. I’ve done it both ways (soaking wood and not), just depends on how much smoke flavor you are looking for… honestly I didn’t notice a huge difference though either way. Temp control can be a beast. Good luck with it!

  5. I like your recipe very much! It sounds yummy! Here’s my situation that I might need a little help with but you seem like you’ve been down this road so I will ask. I have an electric, digital controlled smoker with internal probe and smoker temperature probe. I also have a “cold” or slow smoker box that is external to the main smoker. I can smoke food in the main smoker at ambient temperature, 60, 70, 80 degrees, whatever the outside temp is at the time. Can you recommend an “oven temp” (main smoker) to use on the salmon? I can feed as much smoke as necessary regardless of the main smoker internal temperature.

    1. Hey Mike… that’s gonna be tricky but I would say as low as possible basically. You want it ot really start off low and slow so it doesn’t cook to fast and then you can slowly raise it if you need to. So not sure how low your main smoke rwill go but I would try to keep it pretty low! Might be some trial and error involved there… Good luck!

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