How to Hot Smoke Salmon

How to Hot Smoke Salmon

Ironically, I was taught how to hot smoke salmon by a man called ‘Fish’

In the summer of 2016 we spent a week with Martin (Fish) and his family in their home in Arrhus, Denmark. It was an amazing holiday filled with love, laughter, food and drink. If you have never visited Denmark I can highly recommend it. The pace of life and leaning towards an outdoor lifestyle. The friendly people, the countryside and sea and of course the food.

During the week, Martin took me trout fishing (my first since I was very young) and later taught me how to hot smoke the fish on a barbecue. There is something very pure about taking ingredients from field (in this case lake) to plate and seeing the evolution of hard work, a little love and a little skill.
The below is a variation of Martin’s recipe which means it too can be changed. Add herbs, spices, peppers, tea, alcohol. There are very few rules as long as you enjoy the flavour.

There are two steps to this recipe. First we will cure the salmon and then we will slowly smoke it on a barbecue.

What you will need


1 Side of Salmon
Zest of 1 Orange
Zest of 1 Lemon
Zest of 1 Lime
32g Salt
96g Dark Muscovado Sugar
A handful of wood chips (cooking grade, see below)
For the barbecue

You will need a barbecue with a lid that is big enough for a whole side of salmon. Price’s vary so stick to your budget but it does need to have a lid for the smoke to impart its flavour.

For the Smoke

You will also need some wood to smoke. There are many different varieties of wood that you can use but I prefer hickory and cherry. Please don’t use any old wood that you find lying around. Many types of wood are treated and not suitable to use when cooking. If you are unsure, don’t use it.

What you might need…

This item isn’t essential but can be very useful. A barbecue thermometer can let you know exactly when something is done. Not only does this mean you can get that steak just right. It also means you won’t be serving under cooked chicken to your guests.
You don’t need a barbecue thermometer for this recipe… but it helps

Let’s Cook!

First we are going to cure the salmon

Rinse the side of salmon and pat dry with some kitchen towel.
Make sure to remove any pin bones.
Mix the salt and sugar together and pour a quarter into a perspex or non reactive tray and place the salmon on top.
Sprinkle the orange, lemon and lime zest over the salmon and then pour over the rest of the salt /sugar mix.
Cover the salmon with cling film and then refrigerate for 12 hours.

12 hours later…

Remove the salmon from the fridge and brush off the salt / sugar mixture.
You will notice that a lot of liquid has been leached from the fish and that the texture has changed. This is absolutely fine and in fact, what we are looking for.
Rinse the salmon under cold water to remove any remaining salt and then pat dry with kitchen towel.
Place the salmon back into the fridge or an hour while we set up the barbecue

orange cured salmon

Setting up the barbecue

Take a handful of your choice of wood chips and place in a bowl.
Cover with water and soak for 1 hour.
We are going to set the barbecue up for indirect cooking. This means that we won’t be putting the salmon over the coals. We will put the coals to one side of the barbecue and have the salmon on the other side. Also, we don’t want the barbecue to be too hot so we will only need 12 – 15 pieces of charcoal.
Light the barbecue and wait for a layer of ash to form on the coals.
Meanwhile, remove the salmon from the fridge and allow to come the room temperature for 5 – 10 minutes.
Place the salmon onto some baking parchment on a metal tray.
Drain the wood chips.
Place the salmon tray onto the barbecue grill but not directly over the coals.

hot smoked barbecue salmon
If using a barbecue thermometer follow the manufacturers guidelines and then close the barbecue lid.
If not using a barbecue thermometer, close the barbecue lid.
After 10 minutes open the lid and sprinkle the soaked wood chips onto the coals before closing the lid again.
The wood chips will create a lot of smoke which is great for the flavour of the fish but not for any washing that may be hanging out to dry. You have been warned.

When will the salmon be cooked?

This is not an exact science. If using a barbecue thermometer it will be say to tell when the salmon is done.
If the barbecue is too hot it may only take 20 minutes to cook the salmon. If the barbecue temperature is just right it should take around 45 minutes.
Remember, the salmon has been cured so should be fine to eat slightly under cooked but if in doubt, give it another 5 minutes.

This may seem like a lot of work but the results speak for themselves. You can’t get this kind of flavour from a supermarket bought hot smoked salmon. And once you know the principles to the dish, you can apply them to other types of fish and meat.
You could even cook a roast dinner on the barbecue… But that is another blog for another day.


Mr M


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