Final Smoked Salmon with recipe, instructions, and Qview

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Gone but not forgotten RIP
Original poster
OTBS Member
Group Lead
Sep 12, 2009
Macungie, PA
Smoked Salmon (Final Recipe)

The experiments are completed. The best recipe I found is all that’s left.

The following is my results from smoking 8 batches of Salmon caught in Upstate New York. I experimented with many different ways to see what worked best for me. My variations included cold smoking for 3 hours before putting them in my MES, smoking with & without skin on, with & without water in pan, with apple juice in pan, with apple wood, with cherry wood, with hickory wood. I tried going hot right away, and I tried taking heat up gradually. I tried a few different mixtures in my brine.
I have also read that there are two ways to eliminate parasites that are said to be in all fish. You must either cook the fish to over 160 degrees, or freeze for at least 30 days at Zero degrees or below. Since I only want to smoke my Salmon & not cook them, I chose to freeze mine to 0 degrees for 30 days or more before smoking.

The following is what seemed to be the best of my first 7 batches, and my eighth batch was a duplicate of the best of the first 7 batches to confirm that it was indeed the best. It was!
The Salmon I smoked were caught in Upstate New York, in a tributary of the Salmon River, near Pulaski, NY. They were all from Salmon approximately 30" to 36" long. The fillets at their thickest point were about 1 1/2" thick.

This will be the recipe and instructions I will follow for smoking Salmon from this day forward:

I discarded all other notes, because this is the best:

Thaw fillets, remove skin, cut the fillets lengthwise right down the middle and cut these strips into 7" or 8" lengths (usually 1/3 of the length of the fillet).
Put these pieces into the following brine:

Put 1/2 quart of apple juice in a pot on the stove, bringing to low boil & then down to simmer.
Add to this;
6 ounces of soy sauce
1/2 cup of non-iodized salt
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/2 tsp of Garlic powder
1/2 tsp of Onion powder
1/2 tsp of Cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp of Dried Bay Leaf Flakes (or 2 or 3 fresh bay leaves)

Stir until salt is dissolved. Then add 1 1/2 quarts of water & ice to cool quickly.

Leave the Salmon pieces submerged in this brine for 6 hours in fridge. Overnight was too long. 4 hours was not long enough.

On Edit due to further testing, I will change the lengths of time to keep pieces of fish in the above brine:

Pieces thicker than 1/2" should be in brine for 6 hours.

Pieces 1/2" thick or less should only be in brine for 4 hours.

After removing from brine, rinse each piece well, pat dry, and lay on paper towels.

Get however many smoker racks you will need. My batches just fit on three racks. Spray each rack with Pam to limit the amount the fish will stick to the racks. Dry the thickest pieces one at a time again with paper towels, and put these pieces on one rack. Dry the thinnest pieces, and put them on a different rack. Dry the rest of the pieces, and put them on a third rack. I put the three racks in my extra fridge overnight (uncovered) to dry & form pellicle.

The next day: (Time to smoke the Salmon)
Put the rack with thinnest pieces on top position of your smoker, medium on next position, and thickest on third position.
NO water in water pan.
Exhaust vent fully opened.
Put meat probe in center of thickest piece of fish.
Set smoker to 100 degrees.
Put hickory chips & a couple chunks of Hickory in smoking pan.
During smoking, when smoke stops, add Apple chips & chunks.
Use Hickory only for first couple hours.
I try for a light to medium smoke with my MES.
A little burst of heavy smoke doesn't seem to hurt.
Don't need any smoke after first 4 hours.

Note: If I would have had an AMNPS at the time I smoked this Salmon, I would have filled it, lit one end, and put smoke on it for the whole time it was in my smoker.

Keep smoker at 100* for about one hour.
One hour later, bump temp up to 120*--------My internal is about 76*
One half hour later, bump to 140*--------------My internal is about 98*
One half hour later, bump to 160*--------------My internal is about 113*
One half hour later, bump to 180*--------------My internal is about 124*
One hour later, bump to 200*-------------------My internal is about 134*

Remove pieces as they go above 145* internal.
How long this takes doesn't matter, just so they go over 145*.
Some of mine have gone up to over 160*, and it didn't hurt.
If you have to, you can bump your smoker up to 200*, but no higher.

Let the pieces cool for an hour or more in an open top plastic bowl.
Put the bowl in a fridge overnight (uncovered) to cool & air out.

Next day, dump pieces out on paper towels, wipe surface moisture off of each piece, and vacuum pack a couple pieces in each pack. Mark date & freeze packs.

Thawing before eating:
After freezing & thawing, the pieces have a lot of moisture on their surfaces. I found that the best thing to do is rinse each piece quickly, and wipe each piece dry with paper towels. Any piece from that pack that isn’t eaten immediately should be wrapped loosely in a paper towel, and stored in the refrigerator. After the first day or two, you can put the leftover thawed pieces in a baggie to keep from getting too dry. These pieces should keep in the refrigerator for at least 4 or 5 days. I never had any left thawed out longer than that, so I don’t know how much longer they’ll keep in the fridge.



Three fresh NY Salmon fillets:

Fillets split in half lengthwise:

Skin removed:

Salmon cut in pieces, and put in brine:

Pieces rinsed, dried, and laid out:

Pieces on racks ready for overnight pellicle forming:

Completed Smoked Salmon:
Last edited:
Thanks Dave,
For me, smoking 8 full smokers worth of Salmon wasn't any harder than consolidating all of the notes from those 8 smokes, boiling it down into something everybody could follow, and typing it all out with that one right index finger of mine. I hope I didn't make it too long of a read. I know if it doesn't help anyone else, it'll sure make it easy for me come next October, when my son drags another mess of Salmon down from his weekend trip to NY.

Thanks Geert & werdwolf,
I'm glad you liked it.
Now I have to rest that right index finger, after typing all of that.
I think I'll keep this post handy. There's always somebody asking how to smoke Salmon, just like I was a few months ago.

Very nice there Bear carver you did a great job with everything.
for sure.
Thanks for your hard work! I have a mess of King Salmon I caught last October that I've been needing to smoke and to be honest, I 'm afraid I am gonna screw it up.
Your post has all the info I need to make that leap. You have been alot of help. Thanks

I stop by here once in a blue moon and usualy just in time for you to post about smoking some salmon. Im glad that you have settled on a recipe and technique that you really like. Over time I'm sure youll tweek it here and there to make it a little different once in a while. Lookin good Bearcarver.
Thank You mballi & SOB. This was the hardest my right index finger has worked typing in a long time.
I just hope I can find it (when I need to) to recommend to those who ask how to smoke salmon. Every person I give some to goes absolutely nuts over it.
I printed it on paper too, just incase it gets lost. Then my wife could type it----she types with all 10 fingers really fast!---LOL

Thanks again,

Hell Fire Grill,
I doubt I'll ever tweek this one----I went through far too much experimenting to get to this point. Why switch from a winner.
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Very nice tutorial! I catch and smoke a fair amount of Salmon here in Michigan and many of the things you are doing are very similar to where I ended up, although it took a bit longer and was not nearly as well documented

I am curious about a couple things though, just for some additional info:
1. I actually have been leaving the Skin on for the last several batches I have done and could not tell a big difference other than it saved me a bit of time from removing. What did you like more about skin off for the smoke?
2. I have never tried more than 1-2 hours for the Pellicle to form. Did you get to 6 just to let it get a little drier?

I have not tried starting lower and then bumping the temps up as you go - very interesting! I have a propane smoker and am wondering if I can get consistent smoke at the 100 - 120 degree level - never tried it that low, but will give it a shot for the next batch.

Thanks for any additional info you can share
Thanks for your comments.

1st question) To me, removing the skin is easier after I cut the fillets in half. I just slide the knife along the skin just like was done during the filleting operation, but I also find it a lot easier to get the pieces clean when rinsing if there is no skin involved. It is also easier to get good smoke on both sides of the Salmon pieces. Just like my reason for removing the skin (rind) on a slab of bacon before smoking, why should we smoke something we aren't going to eat----the skin.

2nd question) The "6" was the number of hours in the brine. The pellicle forming was overnight. I do that overnight, because once I cut, rinse, and brine my pieces for 6 hours, it is about 2PM. So since it doesn't hurt to be in the fridge overnight, and it doesn't get much drier in the fridge in 18 hours than it does in 2 hours, I put them in overnight. Then it's time to smoke the next morning.

Also my main reason for starting at 100* and bumping it up gradually is I can get more smoke on the Salmon that way. Instead of getting up to temp and only having my MES element maintaining that temp, each time I bump it up 20 degrees, my element gets hot long enough to keep the wood chips & chunks going.

These are just things that work good for me, and I hope they help you & others.

Thanks again,
I've been waiting for the final recipe! WOOHOO that sounds amazing! I'm gonna be smoking some soon before the desert gets to hot. Points to you!
Thank You,


Thanks meateater,
I remembered you were waiting.

Thank you, thank you for the recipe. Just found and joined forum this was my first smoke that really worked! is reader supported and as an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases.

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