This Traeger Smoked Salmon recipe features a succulent salmon fillet that’s been marinated in a sweet and salty brine, then dry rubbed, and infused with smoky flavors in the Traeger smoker.
In this Traeger Smoked Salmon recipe, the combination of brining and smoking techniques transforms a simple salmon fillet into a gourmet delight. The brine, made with a blend of cold water, brown sugar, and kosher salt, enhances the natural flavors of the fish and ensures a moist and tender texture.
As the salmon slowly smokes on the Traeger grill, the aromatic wood pellets infuse the fillet with a rich, smoky aroma that perfectly complements the delicate flavors of the fish.
Why Is Salmon Great for the Smoker
When it comes to texture, salmon’s firm flesh is particularly well-suited for smoking. The low temperature and slow cooking process used in smoking allow the fish to retain its moisture, resulting in a tender and succulent texture.
This gentle cooking method ensures that the salmon remains moist, preventing it from drying out and preserving its natural juices and oils. The result is a melt-in-your-mouth experience with every bite of smoked salmon.
- Salmon filet – I used a wild caught Alaskan Sockeye Salmon with the skin on. Using skin-on salmon will protect the delicate fish from the grates and keep it moist.
- Cold water – Be sure to use cold water so the salmon doesn’t heat up in the brine.
- Brown sugar -The brown sugar in the brine adds a touch of sweetness and helps to balance the flavors.
- Salt – The salt is also used in the brine to lock in the moisture of the salmon.
- Fish rub – Feel free to experiment with different varieties or substitute it with a spice blend of your choice, such as Cajun seasoning, lemon pepper, or a combination of herbs and spices.
What Type of Salmon to Use
When selecting a salmon fillet for smoking on your Traeger grill, consider the following:
- Type of Salmon: There are several types of salmon, each with a distinct flavor and texture. Some popular types include:
- King (Chinook): This is the largest and often considered the best-tasting variety. It has a high fat content and buttery texture. This is an excellent choice for smoking.
- Sockeye (Red): This salmon has a bright red color, firm texture, and strong flavor. Its fat content is lower than the King, but still good for smoking.
- Coho (Silver): This is a medium-fat salmon with a mild flavor. It’s a versatile option that works well with smoking.
- Atlantic: Most salmon sold in the U.S. is Atlantic. It is generally farm-raised and has a high fat content, which makes it suitable for smoking.
- Quality: Whenever possible, opt for fresh, high-quality salmon. Fresh salmon will yield better texture and flavor than frozen. Look for clear, bright eyes and firm, springy flesh. The skin should be moist and shiny, not dry or slimy.
- Skin-on: Purchase salmon fillet with the skin on. The skin helps to hold the fillet together during smoking, and it can be easily removed after cooking if you prefer.
- Size: For smoking on a Traeger grill, it’s best to choose a thicker fillet as it will stand up better to the slow cooking process.
Remember, the final quality of your smoked salmon will depend not just on the type of salmon you choose, but also the brining process, the smoking wood you use, and how you control the temperature during smoking.
What Temperature Should Salmon Be Smoked At?
In this recipe, we smoke the salmon at 225°F (107°C) for the best results. At this low temperature, it takes a bit longer to smoke so more flavor is imparted into the fish. It’s done when the internal temp reaches 120°F or your desired temperature.
The USDA recommends cooking salmon to 145 to prevent foodborne illness, however, Cook’s Illustrated suggests that the ideal temperature for salmon is 125°F for farmed salmon and 120°F for wild salmon. It is up to you what you prefer the temperature to be.
How Long Does It Take to Smoke Salmon?
The smoking time for salmon can vary depending on factors such as the thickness of the fillet, the smoker’s temperature, and personal preference for doneness. However, as a general guideline, it typically takes approximately 1 to 1.5 hours to smoke salmon at 225°F (107°C).
- Smoker – I use a Z Grills 700 series smoker for most of my smoking, though I also have a Traeger grill. You can use whatever smoker you have – they all work the same.
- Wood pellets – There are many types of pellets available. If you’ve already got pellets in your smoker, use whatever you have. I really like Hickory pellets for chicken.
- Meat thermometer – Many smokers have a thermometer built in, but if yours doesn’t, get an instant-read thermometer. I love this Thermapen.
Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill
I’ve been using my Ninja Woodfire Outdoor Grill to make smoked salmon lately. If you don’t have a Traeger or another type of pellet grill, this Woodfire Grill is a great alternative, especially for portability. It makes a delicious smoked salmon in half the time of the Traeger.
Why I Like It
- It imparts an amazing amount of woodfire flavor into the food with just 1/2 cup of pellets.
- It’s incredibly fast and efficient.
- It cooks faster and with more smoker flavor than my full-size smoker – by far.
- There’s no guessing, especially with the built-in temperature probe available on the Pro version.
- The food comes out with a perfect crispy or seared exterior that’s both gorgeous and super tasty.
- It’s very portable and can be set up anywhere on a sturdy surface with a power outlet nearby.
Guess what? We’ve brokered a deal for you, our lovely readers.
Use our coupon code to get a discount on the grill!
- Use LOTG30 to get $30 off the PRO version of the grill ($459.60 before the discount)
- Use LOTG40 to get $40 off the base model of the grill ($369.60 before the discount)
How to Smoke Salmon
Mix together the water, brown sugar, and salt in a shallow dish large enough to hold the salmon. Then place the salmon in the brine and let sit for 20 minutes.
Remove the salmon from the brine and pat it dry. Then sprinkle on the dry rub. Don’t be shy with it. The more rub the more flavor.
Preheat your smoker to 225°F (107°C) and add your favorite wood pellets or chips (we like applewood for salmon).
Place the salmon, skin-side down, directly on the smoker grates. Alternatively you can put it on butcher paper, but you want to make sure you put a thick layer of olive oil on the skin of the fish so it doesn’t stick to the paper. I’ve had it get stuck before and it’s not easy to get off.
Insert a meat thermometer probe so you can monitor the internal temperature of the fish. You don’t want it to go past the desired temperature or it will dry out.
Smoke for approximately 1 to 1.5 hours without raising the lid. Take it off when the internal temp reaches 125°F or your desired temperature (see notes).
Some Tips for Traeger Smoked Salmon
- Before smoking, carefully remove any bones from the salmon fillet using tweezers or fish bone pliers.
- After brining, thoroughly pat the salmon dry with paper towels for better smoke absorption and a crisper skin.
- Select wood chips or pellets that complement the salmon’s flavor. Popular choices include hickory, mesquite, alder, cherry, or applewood for a pleasant smoky aroma.
- Allow the smoked salmon to rest for a few minutes before slicing or serving. This helps to lock in the juices and flavors.
- Smoked salmon makes for great leftovers. Use it in salads, pasta dishes, scrambled eggs, or as a topping for bagels.
What Pellets to Use for the Smoker?
You’ll also need pellets for your smoker, if you’ve got a pellet grill like we do. Pellets come in many different types that you can choose from. I like to use hickory wood, or cherry wood pellets for mine. They also have a bourbon wood pellet that’s very good. My friend Todd swears by the Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey pellets.
Refrigerator: Store smoked salmon in an airtight container or wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. It can be refrigerated for up to 3-4 days.
Freezer: For longer-term storage, smoked salmon can be frozen. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or place it in a freezer bag, ensuring all air is removed to prevent freezer burn. It can be stored in the freezer for up to 2-3 months.
How to Reheat
Oven: Preheat the oven to a low temperature, around 275°F (135°C). Place the smoked salmon on a baking sheet or in an oven-safe dish and cover loosely with foil to prevent drying. Reheat for about 10-15 minutes or until warmed through.
Microwave: Use the defrost or low-power setting on your microwave to gently reheat smoked salmon. Microwave in short intervals, checking frequently to avoid overheating or drying out the fish.
Grill: Preheat the grill to medium-low heat. Place the smoked salmon on a sheet of aluminum foil or a grilling plank to prevent sticking. Cook for a few minutes on each side until warmed through.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
Like this recipe? We’d love for you to share it on your Pinterest board! Click to follow our Pinterest boards so you can find all our recipes!
Instagram it! If you try this recipe please tag #legendsofthegrill on Instagram or Twitter. We love to see your photos of our recipes! Also follow us on Facebook to keep up on what we’re cooking up.
Traeger Smoked Salmon
- 1 1/2 pound (680 g) salmon filet bones removed
- 2 cups (473 ml) cold water
- 1 tablespoon (12 g) brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon (18 g) salt
- 2 teaspoons (4 g) fish rub
- Mix together the water, brown sugar, and salt in a shallow dish large enough to hold the salmon. Place the salmon in the brine and let sit for 20 minutes.
- Remove the salmon from the brine and pat it dry. Sprinkle on the dry rub.
- Preheat your smoker to 225°F (107°C) and add your favorite wood chips (we like applewood). Place the salmon, skin down, directly on the smoker grates. Insert a meat thermometer probe so you can monitor the temperature.
- Smoke for approximately 1.5 to 2 hours without raising the lid. Take it off when the internal temp reaches 140°F or your desired temp (see notes).
- The USDA recommends cooking salmon to 145° F to prevent foodborne illness, however Cook’s Illustrated suggests that the ideal temperature for salmon is 125° F for farmed salmon and 120° F for wild salmon.
🥧 If you’re interested in more great recipes, I share all my favorite recipes at A Food Lover’s Kitchen, Instant Pot recipes over at A Pressure Cooker Kitchen, air fryer recipes at Air Fry Anytime, and cocktails and drinks at Savored Sips. Check it out today!
Laura is a passionate home cook and grill enthusiast who has spent years perfecting her culinary skills, with a particular focus on grilling techniques and flavor combinations. Her fascination with the grill, smoke, and the mouthwatering results they produce has led her on an exciting journey to discover the best methods for grilling delicious and unforgettable meals.