Smooth, silky, smokey, and surprisingly simple…there’s no flavor better than smoked salmon that you’ve made yourself. Simultaneously rich and healthy, filled with awesome Omegas and protein, and with flavor that is absolutely out-of-this-world-better than anything that you can find at the store.
You have to try making DIY smoked salmon at home!
I’ve mentioned before the joy that is the fact that my aunt and uncle go fishing every year in Alaska and bring back tons of freshly caught Alaskan salmon and halibut. Because they so generously share what they’ve caught, I do have access to some truly incredible fish that is nearly impossible to beat in terms of flavor. Fresh and salty like the ocean, totally mild and never fishy, they have the perfect flavor.
Smooth, silky, smokey, and surprisingly simple, there's no flavor better ... Click To Tweet
Now, I doubt that most of you have access to such amazing fish, but all you want to do is find the best quality salmon that you can. No matter what, it will be amazing! ( You can also use this same recipe with other fish that you want to smoke (trout is fantastic!), just be aware that a thinner fish will cook more quickly, so you’ll have to keep a careful eye on your cooking time.)
How to Make Smoked Salmon at Home
Once you get comfortable with this recipe, have some fun and play around with the salt cure! I always like to include a little citrus, whether it’s lemon, lime, orange, or grapefruit zest. You’ll definitely want both salt and sugar in there, but you can try different types of sugar if that interests you. I always use Kosher Diamond salt for my cures and brines, but you could play around if you want. Beyond that, play with the flavors you like! Ginger, lemongrass, scallion, thyme, bay, shallot, and so on. It’s totally up to you. Have some fun with it!
You have to try making smoked salmon at home! Click To Tweet
We are lucky enough to have a smoker, but you can also easily smoke your fish on a grill. You can even build a little tray for your chips if you don’t have one. Just take a small to medium disposable aluminum tray (they have these at most grocery stores as well as places like Target, Walmart, and Amazon, of course), put your chips inside, and then cover it tightly with aluminum foil. Then poke holes all over the aluminum foil and the base of the tray so that the smoke can get out. For smoked salmon, you’ll want to put the chips over the heat source and keep the fish as far away from the heat as possible.
Ideally, you would have a cold smoker for fish so that you can really get that smoke flavor into the flesh without cooking it too quickly. Even I don’t have that (though I do want to try to build one at some point!), so the trick here is to get lots of smoke without lots of heat. I often start the chips over a higher heat to get them going, turn down the heat, and then add the fish. Even better, try putting a tray of ice between the heat source and the fish. In a smoker, I actually fill the drip tray with ice, but you could put a bunch of ice in a baking tray or bread pan, depending on the space you have to work with.
After that, the trick is trying to keep your grill or smoker closed to keep all of that lovely smoke inside, but still be aware of the temperature of the fish. If you have one of those cool thermometers like this one that keeps the temperature probe inside and the readout outside of your oven, this is the perfect time to use it!
Overcooked fish can be dry and tough, but if you can get your smoked salmon to the right temperature, it will be absolutely melt-in-your-mouth amazing. You’re aiming for 110°, after which you’ll rest your smoked salmon. During the resting time, the fish will continue to cook and will wind up right at the perfect temperature.
Because fish comes in such different sizes and thicknesses, it’s almost impossible to tell you how long exactly to smoke your salmon. For a perfect smoked salmon, you’re looking for a nicely cooked exterior with a beautifully pink and rare interior. Don’t be overly cautious, though. Plenty of people like well done salmon, so there’s nothing wrong with taking it all the way!
Once you have your smoked salmon, you can, of course, just dig right in! On the other hand, this smoked salmon is amazing on salads, pastas, pizzas, soups, and absolutely everything else. Eggs in the morning become the best eggs you’ve ever had with a little DIY smoked salmon! Little flakes of tender smoked salmon make a risotto or a creamy pasta truly incredible. You just can’t go wrong!
We had my family over for smoked salmon night over here, and because it was such a warm summer evening, I made this massive salad with smoked salmon, asparagus, avocado, radish, tons of greens, fingerling potatoes, fresh basil, scallions, and parsley, and some awesome avocado dressing that was so simple! I blended (in the blender) one clove of garlic with a little olive oil and then added one avocado with some sour cream, a little buttermilk, and a bunch of scallions, some lemon juice, salt, pepper, and a pinch of Calabrian chili flakes. It was simple and incredibly delicious!
Melt-In-Your-Mouth DIY Smoked Salmon
- 1 cup wood chips (like apple or hickory)
- 1 # salmon, bones removed
- 1 cup salt (like Kosher Diamond)
- 1 cup brown sugar
- ½ tsp chili flakes (I used Calabrian chili flakes)
- zest of 1 lime
- 1 1" piece ginger, peeled and minced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ½ bunch thyme, chopped
- optional: 1 pan of ice cubes
- Soak the wood chips in water for 10 minutes, remove from water.
- Combine the ingredients for the salt cure and press carefully into all surfaces of your salmon. Place your salmon on a tray or plate and allow to sit in your refrigerator for 1 hour.
- Rinse the salmon well and pat dry.
- Add the wood chips to your smoker or grill and allow to begin to smoke. Lower the heat as far as you can and add the salmon to the smoker or grill. (Tip: it's a ton easier to remove the salmon when it's done cooking if you spray or wipe your grill grates generously with vegetable or canola oil first!). If using, place the ice cubes between the heat source and the fish.
- Close the lid completely and allow salmon to smoke until a thermometer registers 110 degrees.
- Remove the smoked salmon from the heat and allow to rest 20 minutes. Dig in right away, or use it in salads, pastas, and anything else!
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