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How to Smoke Salmon in an Electric Smoker? Step-by-Step Guide + Tips

by Outdoor Cooking Pros August 07, 2021

How to Smoke Salmon in an Electric Smoker? Step-by-Step Guide + Tips

Whipping up the best smoked salmon recipe is among many cuisines that even experienced cooks struggle to recreate nowadays. And while the entire smoking process requires extra time and effort, making smoked salmon isn’t as hard as you think. In this step-by-step guide, rest easy as our experienced culinary experts teach you how to smoke salmon in an electric smoker. 

General Guide to Smoke Salmon with an Electric Smoker 

Step #1: Prepare and Brine Salmon

Before we proceed to the main part of learning how to smoke salmon in an electric smoker, you ought to know that the preparation of the fish is the key to this recipe. First off, you should learn how to slice your own salmon. Depending on your preference, you can cut the fish into one to two-inch thick salmon fillets.  


Although you don’t necessarily need to brine to get a perfectly smoked salmon, our resident cuisine experts highly recommend this step as it’ll give a sweet or salty flavor to your salmon filet. A smoked salmon brine solution is typically composed of just salt, dark brown sugar, and black peppers. This type of spice rub is called dry brine. 

slicing salmon

On the other hand, another standard mixture often used when smoking salmon in an electric smoker is wet brine. This smoked salmon rub is a simple combination of cold water and salt. 


After all the soaking, you may place salmon chunks skin side down into a container along with the brine mixture of your choice and store it in the fridge for at least eight hours. Remember to cover the salmon pieces evenly to have consistent moisture and flavor when you cook it in the electric smokers.


When all that’s done, lightly rinse your brined salmon with cold water and pat dry with paper towels before putting it on the cooking racks. You have the option to air dry the salmon for about an hour or two to let the protein coat your fish meat. 


Step #2: Prepare Wood on the Smoker

Choosing the suitable wood chips for your electric smoker is essential in giving your smoked salmon more flavor. Although any hardwood would work just fine for the smoked fish cuisine, you may need to consider your palate preference. 

Alder wood chips are commonly used in the Pacific Northwest for smoking fish and would be a great alternative to consider. Adding typical hardwood in your electric smokers like oak, apple, and maple will also give your smoked salmon distinct flavors.    

Step #3: Set the Temperature

The actual temperature to smoke salmon differs from the ones used for smoking meats. The temperature of heat will vary depending on the type of smoking procedure you’ll do for your salmon recipe. 

If you prefer serving cold smoked salmon, then you should set your electric smoker below 80 degrees F° to cook your fish with cold smoke. Contrary to that, hot smoked salmon is best heated at a temperature around 120 degrees or higher. 


It also doesn’t matter if you’re cooking with hot or cold smoke. We still recommend keeping the top vents of the smoker open for better airflow during the process to maintain a consistent temperature.

Step #4: Smoke the Salmon

Now for the most crucial step of your smoked salmon recipe, you need to place your prepped fish meat pieces inside the pre-heated electric smoker. But before that, lay the skin down on aluminum foil and rub in some olive oil, lime zest, salt, and pepper mixture on its surface to enhance smoke flavor.


After you lay the foil with your salmon slices on the smoker rack, you can monitor the meat temperature using a digital thermometer to avoid unnecessary opening of the lid that interrupts the flow of the heat inside the cooking chamber. Stick it on the thickest part of your smoked salmon to ensure that the fish meat is thoroughly cooked.

smoking salmon


Different Methods of Smoking Salmon

You may not know it, but there are two ways to smoke fish in an electric smoker called cold smoking and hot smoking. Besides the temperature, the main difference between the two is that cold smoking is soaked in a dry brine mixture for days while the wet brine solution is the one used for the hot smoking process[1]


Cold smoked salmon are usually the ones you see in the grocery stores with raw-like textures neatly packed in vacuumed-sealed bags. Salmon cooked with hot smoke, on the other hand, are the type of fish meat cuisine that works well with creamy salads and dips. Unlike cold smoked salmon, these are also good for reheating. 

Duration and Temperature for Smoking Salmon

The preparation and cooking time of smoked salmon isn’t as long as other tough pieces of meat out there. However, it also involves a regular temperature monitor because you wouldn’t want to leave your fish too dry during the process. 


As previously mentioned, the temperature when cooking salmon varies between hot and cold smoking procedures. The estimated duration may also differ but ranges around two to three hours, depending on the level of heat and the cuts of the salmon. 

smoking salmon


You can smoke salmon in a heat up to 225 degrees Fahrenheit, but our resident cuisine specialists suggest keeping it as low as possible until the internal temp of your fish meat reaches 135 to 140 Fahrenheit. The salmon slices will also remain moist if you follow this heat measurement, as it will lower the chances of overcooking.


Best Wood

One of the crucial parts of learning how to smoke salmon in an electric smoker is selecting the best wood chips for added aromatic smoke flavor. As previously stated, you have many wood chip options to consider for your smoked salmon. 


Mild flavored wood pellets are mostly the ones that blend well with the natural taste of salmon. The best examples of these are Alder, Apple, Maple, and Cherry. There are many more wood chips available in the market, so you can experiment with your choices to get yourself familiar with the salmon taste and its ingredients.  

Other Important Tips and Reminders 

Before, during, and after smoking the salmon, it’s vital to ensure that your electric smokers are clean to avoid food contamination. Besides that, always try to get the freshest wild salmon out there to maximize the nutrients it contains when served as a meal. 

raw salmon

If you’re making a large portion of smoked salmon for storage, don’t forget to put them in vacuum-sealed bags or airtight containers before putting them in the freezer. As long as there’s no air inside the bag where you store them, these smoked salmon strips are less likely to suffer from freezer burn and last for years.

FAQ

How long does it take to smoke salmon at 225 degrees?

It takes approximately 1.5 to 2 hours to smoke salmon at 225 degrees F°. However, you must watch the internal temperature periodically in the electric smoker. The smoked salmon should be ready once the thickest part of the fish meat reaches an internal temp of 135 to 140 Fahrenheit.

Do you wrap salmon in foil when smoking?

Yes, you can wrap salmon in foil when smoking. By doing this procedure, the fish meat will remain moist and can avoid being dried out during the entire smoking process. You just need to poke enough holes into the foil that will be the passage of the smoke and bring the salmon enough smoky flavor.


What is the ideal temperature to smoke salmon?

The ideal temperature to smoke salmon is around 150 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. According to cooking experts, maintaining lower heat will allow the fish meat to remain moist and lower the chances of overcooking it. However, with low temperature, expect that the cooking time will increase alongside it. 

What wood is best for smoking salmon?

The best wood for smoking salmon is the hardwoods like Alder and Cherry. These types of wood chips have a sweet aroma that blends well with the natural flavor of salmon meat. You can also mix both to enhance the smoky flavor of the dish. Other typical wood choices you can pick are oak and hickory. 

Conclusion

While learning how to smoke salmon in an electric smoker isn’t exactly the most challenging kitchen task out there, our cuisine experts advise you to follow the recipe closely, especially if you’re a novice cook. Always remember that to smoke fish successfully, monitoring the internal temperature of your smoked salmon remains the major priority. 

Outdoor Cooking Pros
Outdoor Cooking Pros


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