In Episode 050 we are making smoked salmon! This is a family recipe that has been passed down through generations. Taryn goes over exactly how to smoke fresh salmon fillets, including helpful tips and detailed instructions that work for a Traeger wood pellet grill or a smoker. Listen in to hear how it’s done!
These are some of the recipes mentioned in the episode, all of which are on Hot Pan Kitchen.
Some of the following are affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
- Grill Like A Mother Episode 016
- Traeger pellet grill and smoker
- Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- Traeger signature wood pellet blend
- Baking sheet with a lip
- Using a meat thermometer for grilling (includes recommendation)
- Vacuum sealer
Taryn Solie: Hello grillers, and thank you for tuning in today! I am your host, Taryn Solie, and I am here to give you some grilling inspiration. In this episode I will be going over one recipe in detail from my recipe website, Hot Pan Kitchen, including the full ingredients list and instructions as well as some tips and tricks to help you along the way.
In today’s episode we’re going to be making smoked salmon. This is a family recipe that’s been passed down to me from my grandpa and my dad. My dad grew up fishing with his dad and brothers and kept on fishing as an adult, which meant I ate a lot of fish growing up. Looking back I realize what a luxury that was, but at the time I got so sick of fish! To help keep it from going bad, my dad would smoke it and vacuum seal it, and smoked salmon was one thing I never got tired of.
I interviewed my dad on this podcast in Episode 16 where we talk a lot about salmon – the different types, different ways to cook it, etc. If you’re curious about it or you just love cooking and smoking fish I highly suggest you go back and listen, it’s a really great episode.
Today though is all about smoked salmon – it’s so good, and much cheaper to make smoked salmon than buy it. It does take a while to make as you have to allow time for the fish to brine, dry out, and smoke, but it is so worth it. Both my dad and I smoked ours on a Traeger wood pellet grill, but the instructions I’m going over would work for any wood pellet grill or smoker.
To start off, let’s go over the ingredients. You will need:
- 2 whole salmon that have been cleaned, filleted, and cut into roughly 3 inch wide sections – except for the tail piece, which can be more like 5 or 6 inches long as it’s thinner;
- 2 cups of brown sugar;
- ½ cup of Diamond Crystal kosher salt;
- ½ tablespoon of garlic salt;
- ½ tablespoon of ground black pepper; and
- ½ tablespoon of roughly chopped fresh dill fronds.
A couple of tips for this recipe.
First, a note about the brand of kosher salt: This recipe uses Diamond Crystal kosher salt. I prefer this brand as it’s less salty by weight than other salts, which leaves a little more room for error when you’re salting your dishes. If you have a different brand of kosher salt I would use a little less salt, around 5 tablespoons. Or if you’re using table salt I would use about ¼ cup, which is 4 tablespoons.
The second note is about substituting brown sugar. If you follow a paleo diet, or just are looking to use a different type of sugar, you can absolutely make this recipe with coconut sugar. It tastes nearly the same as brown sugar and is a 1 to 1 swap.
And the last tip before we get into the directions is about the type of wood to use. There are a couple of different types you could use and it depends on your taste preferences. You can use fruit wood pellets like apple or cherry to give the fish a nice sweet smoke. If you want a stronger smoke flavor you’d want to use a stronger scented wood like hickory. I typically use the Traeger signature blend as it has hickory, maple, and cherry in it to get both some of the sweet smoke and some of heavier smoke flavor.
Okay, time to get into the recipe! The first thing to do is measure out the sugar, salt, garlic salt, pepper, and dill and place them all in a bowl. Mix them up with a fork or whisk to combine them. You could use a spoon, but sometimes the spices or the dill will clump together and using a whisk or fork helps keep them separated.
Place the salmon skin side down in a single layer on a large dish or plate. I like to use a baking sheet with a lip on it to help contain the dry brine mixture as it’s being sprinkled – I’ll link to the one I use on the show notes page. Grab some of the salt mixture with your fingers and start sprinkling it over the fish, being very liberal with how much you use. You want to get a nice thick coat of it on the fish, enough so that you don’t see the skin under the salt mixture. Once you’re done, put the dish with the salmon in the fridge, uncovered, for a minimum of 12 hours but up to 24 hours.
Once it’s done dry brining, the next step is to remove the salt mixture and let the fish dry out a bit. Take the fish out of the fridge and rinse off the dry brine in cold water. Pat the salmon fillets dry with paper towels and lay them out skin side down on the the grates of your COLD pellet grill or smoker. Do not turn on your smoker! You just want the fish to form what’s called the pellicle layer, which is a sort of coating that the flesh of the fish gets when dried out a bit in the air. This layer is what the flavor of the smoke will stick to. Close the lid so any moisture doesn’t get in and leave them out there for 4 to 6 hours, making sure to keep the smoker out of the sun – you don’t want it heat up. If it’s hot where you are, you can do this in a cool garage on some drying racks too.
Next remove the fish from the smoker and heat it up to 165 degrees F, then place the salmon fillets back on the grill, again with the skin side down. Smoke the salmon until it reaches an internal temperature of 135 to 140 degrees F and is opaque in the middle. This will likely take 3 to 4 hours but will depend on how thick your fillets are and the outdoor temperature where you are. If you’re smoking fish in winter snow, which my family has been known to do, then if may take longer. Also, thinner pieces of fish, like the tail end pieces, may finish first so be sure and check each piece as it smokes.
Once the salmon is done, remove the fillets from the grill and you can either serve right away or let them cool completely and store them away for later. My family likes to vacuum seal the fish as it keeps it fresh for a really long time, then store it in the fridge or freezer. Vacuum sealed smoked salmon should last 2 to 3 weeks in the fridge and 3 or more months in the freezer – I will link to the vacuum sealer we have on the show notes page. You can also put it in an airtight container and place it in the fridge, but the salmon will only keep for 3 or 4 days that way.
Now for serving suggestions – there are a ton of ways you can use smoked salmon. My family loves to just eat it with crackers, but it’s great in a variety of different dishes – caesar salads, frittatas, omelets, and one of my favorites, a smoked salmon cheese ball. In fact, next week’s episode is going to focus on the smoked salmon ball my family makes year after year, so be sure and stay tuned for that episode. It’s great to serve at holiday parties and other gatherings.
I’ll include a link to the full printable recipe for this smoked salmon, as well as other recipes I’ve mentioned, on the show notes page. To get to it you can either go to my main website at Hot Pan Kitchen dot com and click on podcast in the main menu, or you can click on the link provided in whatever podcast app you’re listening on.
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That’s it for today, thank you so much for listening, and until next time, keep grilling like a mother.