I’m going to say this riiiiight up front before the mansplainers and their ilk show up: this hot smoked salmon recipe isn’t one for the purists.
I’ve called it “same day” hot smoked salmon for a reason. It isn’t your standard, days long method that necessitates huge planning and a salmon fillet taking residence in your fridge for days. Instead, the salmon is super quick cured, smoked briefly on a Traeger pellet grill and then slow roasted in the same grill to give you the best of both worlds: salmon redolent with smoky flavor, a sticky, almost-candied exterior, but with a luscious just-cooked middle that’s still tender and succulent inside.
Until I moved to the US, I’d never experienced living somewhere as an adult with any kind of outdoor space. I had memories of bbq’s at other people’s houses, mostly in the damp of a typical London summer, but consequently as someone who was always the guest, or the child, I’d never cooked anything outside of a kitchen in my life.
So even in the intervening years of having some outdoors to call my own and the endless-scroll of Other People Cooking Outside Constantly in my social media feeds from spring through fall, I’d honestly never understood the allure or the mystique of Team Grill All The Things.
I mean, you would think that anything that meant I didn’t have to heat up my stove – and, consequently, my kitchen – would have been something I welcomed with open arms in this land of the seemingly perpetual sun, but… the whole thing kind of intimidated me.
Fast forward to some time playing with my Traeger pellet grill… and I’m hooked. It’s got the control of a stove with the flavor of a grill, not to mention the versatility that means it can also smoke, braise, roast and bake alongside bbq’ing like a boss.
Once I’d realized how great this thing was as a smoker, the first thing on my list was to make a hot smoked salmon, because I love the stuff, but let’s face it: it’s insanely expensive.
Well over $30 a pound kind of expensive, and I’m not made of that kind of money. The other element I wanted to tinker with – aside from reducing the amount of time and salt necessary – was making hot smoked salmon that wasn’t as dry as the commercially available options I’d purchased from grocery stores.
(In fact, the price and dryness is why my Hot Smoked Salmon Spread is actually made with a mix of more common canned salmon and hot smoked salmon. Next on my list of things to do in the kitchen: making that spread exclusively with this hot smoked salmon! I bet it would also be delicious in my Baked Parsnip Salmon Cakes, too.)
Since I didn’t need to make a hot smoked salmon that was necessary from a long preservation time point of view, I could afford to cut down on the curing and smoking times. Done this way, the salmon doesn’t dry out as much and you’re left with the perfect blend of concentrated flavor that I love in hot smoked salmon, paired with the silkiness of a slow roasted salmon. This recipe truly is the best of both worlds.
And if that’s the second time I’ve said it in this post, I’m not even sorry about it!
I mean, what’s not to love about same day hot smoked salmon?Print
Same Day Hot Smoked Salmon
This simple recipe is the easiest way to use a Traeger pellet grill to smoke salmon so that it’s both full of flavor & with an almost-candied exterior, but still tender and succulent inside.
- Prep Time: 2 hours 45 minutes
- Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
- Total Time: 4 hours 15 minutes
- Yield: Serves 8
- Method: pellet grill, smoker
MIX: Pat the salmon dry and check it over for any leftover pin bones. If you find any, remove them using fish bone tweezers. In a small bowl, mix together the salt, coconut sugar or maple sugar, lemon zest and black pepper, if using. Add the vodka and use your fingers to crumble the cure mixture into a damp sand texture.
CURE: Spread the cure mixture evenly across the surface of the salmon, making sure it is completely coated. Cut a piece of plastic wrap large enough to completely wrap the salmon fillet up tightly. Lay the plastic on top of the salmon and cure mixture, then carefully flip the salmon over so that the plastic is on the bottom and the fillet is now skin side up. Tightly wrap the salmon all around with the plastic wrap. Place the wrapped salmon on a plate or rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate for 2 hours.
RINSE: Unwrap the salmon and discard the plastic. Under cold running water, rinse the salmon well, carefully ensuring that all the cure mixture is rinsed off. Put the salmon on a plate and let it dry somewhere cool for 30 minutes or so, ideally under or near a fan if at all possible.
SMOKE: While the salmon is drying, fill the hopper of your Traeger pellet grill with your choice of alder, hickory or maple wood pellets. Set the pellet grill to the Smoke setting and preheat the grill until it comes up to temperature. Place the salmon fillet directly on the grill grates, skin side down and close the lid. Smoke for 45 minutes.
COOK: Increase the temperature to 225 F / 105 C. Cook until the internal temperature of the salmon reaches 140 F / 60 C, about 35 – 45 minutes, depending on your grill, the outdoor temperature and the thickness of the salmon. Remove the salmon from the grill.
CHILL: Let the hot smoked salmon rest and cool a little before flaking it with a fork and serving it warm. Or you can refrigerate it until fully chilled before serving it cold. You can refrigerate the finished hot smoked salmon for up to 3 days, but remember that it will not last as long as the hot smoked salmon purchased from stores, due to the relatively short cure and smoking times.
Don’t use table salt, or any other kind of salt with added ingredients that will affect or compromise the finished flavor.