The Salmon Guide: What You NEED TO KNOW About Smoked Salmon

Salmon has got to be one of the tastiest fish in the world. 

It is apart of many different cultures around the world. One of my favorite ways to eat salmon is smoked, with a dollop of mustard. 

Not only is it delicious smoked salmon is packed full f flavor and health benefits.

So I have put in some hard yards and found out everything I can about smoked salmon. 

In this article, I will answer some FAQs I get, such as: what is the history of smoked salmon? Where did smoked salmon come from? Who invented smoked salmon? 

In this article I have had some help from some of the best in the salmon business to uncover the best information I can!

Smoked Salmon Fillet

The Origins of Smoked Salmon

Smoking and preserving food has been around since at the times of the Greeks and the Romans. 

The smoking process was first used as a means of preserving fish.

Salmon was caught fresh, salted and then smoked at a high temperature. This would keep the salmon in freshly caught condition for a longer time.

Here in the United States, the smoked salmon industry was born on the West Coast around the beginning of the 19th century. This was developed during World War II when a method of preservation was created to allow the fish to last longer while being transported long distances.

To the Native Americans, salmon was something that they held in high regard. It was believed that if it was mishandled the great oceans spirits would drive all the salmon away from their area.

Many European settlers & servants had a very salmon-heavy diet and it was seen as peasant food. Some got so sick of getting fed salmon they would go so far to write into their contracts that they would only allow salmon to be served to them once a week! (crazy I know!)

These days salmon is enjoyed worldwide and is often a feature on platters, canopies, starters and main meals.

There is no doubt it’s a winner at breakfast time, and the booming popularity of smashed avo at your local café for breakfast, paired with smoked salmon is rightly deserved, it’s delicious!

Adam Harris – Smokehouse

What Are The Different Ways of Smoking Salmon?

There are two ways to smoke salmon, hot smoking and cold smoking

Although they sound like similar processes they are massively different.

So, What is the Difference Between Smoking and Hot Smoking?

The other major difference between the two methods is hot smoked salmon is brined in salted water, not dry cured.

Smoked Salmon Come Out Dry?
If you find that your smoked salmon is dry, you can try rubbing it in warm butter and putting it in the fridge over night. After it has cooled in the fridge, this thin coating of fat would help lock in the moisture. You could also try this sous vide salmon recipe, it will ensure your salmon comes out moist

What is Cold Smoking Salmon?

As the name suggests cold smoking salmon is the process of smoking salmon in a cold environment.

Cold smoking by definition is the method of cooking salmon when the temperature is less than 90°F.

However, this method of cooking doesn’t actually ‘cook’ the salmon per se, this process actually flavors the salmon with smoke and during the flavoring process, the salmon is subsequently cooked over a long period of time.

Cold smoking leaves the ‘raw’ texture of the salmon, essentially, this is because the salmon still is raw. This type of smoked salmon is typically the salmon you find at your supermarket in the flat packs.

Before the cold smoking takes place, the salmon is dry-cured in salt, this draws out most of the moisture in the salmon. This helps the salmon become the perfect silky smooth texture once cold smoked.

Looking to buy cold smoked salmon? Pinnacle Cold Smoked Scottish Salmon is one of my favorites!

What is the Best Age for Cold Smoking Salmon?

“All the salmon we get is 3-4 years old. It takes that long to grow that size. I don’t think the age really affects the taste etc as it would in other proteins”.

BJ plumber – Woodbridge Smokehouse

What Is Hot Smoking Salmon?

Hot smoking salmon is considered smoking salmon in temperatures anything over 120°F.

As the name suggests hot smoked salmon is smoked at hot temperatures.

Before it is hot smoked, the salmon is brined in salted water. This process allows the salmon’s natural flavor to be more pronounced and you can even use this process to infuse other flavors into your salmon.

Salmon that has been hot smoked is often better to be reheated or warmed because the fish has already been exposed to heat before.

Hot smoked salmon is typically the larger portions/ fillets you find wrapped in plastic in your supermarket. (right next to the cold smoked salmon).

My Favorite Hot Smoking Methods for Salmon

Below are three ways to hot smoke your salmon

Brown Sugar Smoked Salmon 

Smoked Salmon On Pellet Grill 

Salt Block Salmon

Looking to buy hot smoked salmon? New York’s Delicacy Hot Smoked Norwegian Roasted Salmon is unbeatable!  

What is Lox? Lox Vs Smoked Salmon

Traditionally speaking, lox is made using the belly of the salmon which has been salt brined or cured.

Lox is far richer than other styles of smoked salmon and has a very silky texture and is almost translucent in color.

Nowadays, in general, Lox is less traditional and made from all parts of the salmon, however, true smokers will always stay true to its original history and use only the belly (it pays to try and find a more traditional product for a better flavor).

The belly of the salmon has much more fat than the rest of the salmon, and in my eyes is much more delicious.

Farmed Scottish Salmon is the best type of salmon for hot smoking. Wild fish don’t have a high enough fat content for hot-smoking.

Lance Foreman – H. Foreman & Sons

What is The Difference Between Lox and Smoked Salmon?

The difference between lox and smoked salmon is that Lox is salt brined or cured but never actually smoked or cooked.

So put simply is Lox raw? Yes, it is.

Essentially lox is brined or salt cured, so if you want to get technical it’s not actually physically ‘cooked’.

There are two other variations of lox, although these two methods of making Lox are cooked after the curing process, they are still considered lox.

Gravlax: Is the Scandinavian version of lox. It is made using fresh dill, pepper, juniper berries and brandy (or similar liquor).

Nova Lox: This is the Nova Scotia version of lox. It is cold smoked after being salt brined or cured.

Lox Variations

There are two types of lox.

Nova lox and lox. Nova lox is first put in a brine, like lox, and cold-smoked at 80 degrees for 3 days. Where as lox is put in salty brine and never cooked.

Below are three of our favorite ways to use lox.

  • Lox Ice Cream: You read that right. You can get lox ice cream. Essentially it is vanilla ice cream mixed with a piece of nova lox and cream cheese, finished off with salt.

  • Lox spread? Lox spread is essentially a lox and cream cheese mixed together to form a spreadable version of lox.

  • Lox and Cream Cheese: Lox and bagels are a classic combo. But what makes them more classic? Cream cheese.. This is also one of the best ways to enjoy lox is to make a lox cream cheese bagel.

    Smother your freshly toasted bagel with cream cheese and give yourself a healthy few layers of lox. Season lightly with salt and pepper and you have one of the best breakfast/ brunch snacks ever.
Smoked Salmon Bagel

What Different Types of Salmon Are There?

There are many different types of salmon out there.

But what are they and what makes them different from one another?

Chinook Salmon / King Salmon / Oncorhynchus Tschawytscha

Better known as the king salmon, Chinook salmon is considered to be the best tasting salmon (hence the name king).

This is because King Salmon is a very rich tasting fish and has a high-fat content, the King Salmon’s belly is often used for high-end sashimi.

The king salmon has a beautiful marbled color or white and deep red. It get this from its mixture of fat and flesh.

This type is perfect for cooking salmon on a salt block. The marbling helps keep the fish moist

Pink Salmon / Humpies / Humpback Salmon / Oncorhynchus Gorbusha

Referred to as the Humpback salmon because of their trademark hump, Pink salmon are the most common salmon found in the Pacific.

Unlike the King salmon, Pink salmon have a very low-fat content and have a much lighter flesh complexion.

You will generally find pink salmon in cans at your local supermarket, however, they are also sold as frozen fillets smoked or fresh from your fishmonger.

Red Salmon / Sockeye Salmon / Kokanee Salmon / Oncorhynchus Nerka

Red salmon, or more well known as the Sockeye or Kokanee salmon are found in the North Pacific Ocean and the rivers leading into it.

They have a very rich salmon flavor and are often frozen sold fresh or canned.

The Sockeye salmon have two different colors This is dictated by what climate or environment it is living in.

When they are in the ocean they are silver with a beautiful blue tinge.

When they return to their spawning grounds in the rivers they take on a different color entirely. Their heads turn green and their bodies turn red, hence the name Red salmon.

Atlantic Salmon / Salmo Salar

Unfortunately, the Atlantic ocean is not home to many different species of salmon, only one. 

So it is simply and appropriately called the Atlantic Salmon or in technical terms Salmo Salar.

Due to human introduction, you can also find Atlantic salmon in the Pacific Ocean. This is in salmon farms throughout the West Coast of the United States.

The Atlantic salmon is the largest of the salmon varieties and all Atlantic salmon caught commercially is farmed. This is a good type for sous vide salmon, its holds us well in vacuum-sealed bags.

Over the past years farmed fish has had some bad publicity, however, every year more and more effort is put into making fish farming more sustainable.

Silverbrite Salmon / Chum Salmon / Keta Salmon / Dkeepchunksog Salmon / Oncorhynchus keta

Silverbite salmon or dog salmon as it is more commonly known as gets its name from its dog liked teeth.

It is one of the smallest types of salmon and has the lowest fat content of all salmon.

This type of salmon is usually only frozen and sold abroad or canned.

Wondering What to Do Next?
Cold Smoked Salmon Recipes
Guide to Buying Seafood Online

Frequently Asked Questions About Smoked Salmon

What Is The Best Part Of The Salmon To Smoke?

The belly is best for hot smoking, the loin for cold smoking. The higher oil content of the belly section keeps the hot smoked product more moist, and takes on more smoke flavour. Where as the loin is more subtle in texture and oil content so produces a more delicate end result from cold smoking.

Adam Harris – Harris Smokehouse

Salmon Pronunciation: How To Pronounce Salmon Salmon Vs Sammon

If your family is anything like mine, you would have had the great ‘saLmon vs sammon’ debate. This generally happens in my house every few months around the dinner table.

‘Is the ‘L’ in ‘salmon’ supposed to be pronounced?’

Originally the ‘L’ in Salmon was pronounced, however, over time the way that we pronounce letters and words has evolved and changed.

Nowadays it is quite uncommon for someone to pronounce the ‘L’ in salmon. This makes it sound more like ‘sammon”

So officially the answer to ‘do you pronounce salmon with the ‘L’ is… yes!

We are supposed to pronounce salmon with the ‘L’.

Does smoked salmon have more calories than grilled?

No smoked salmon has less calories than grilled salmon. Salmon has 208 kcal per 100g whereas smoked salmon 117 kcal per 100g.

Made a Batch of Bland Smoked Salmon?

Add crushed red chili flakes and fresh cracked black pepper as well as a pinch or two of celery seed.

Can You Use Peach Butcher Paper to Smoke Salmon?

Yes you can use pink or peach butcher paper to smoke salmon. The smoke goes right through the parchment so I get the same smoke ring on the bottom as top and sides, and the paper comes off cleanly when you are done. If you prefer you can smoke the salmon straight on the grill just make sure you use spray oil or PAM.

Is Smoked Salmon Raw?

When hot smoking, the temperatures are actually hot enough to ‘cook’ the salmon.

This means that hot smoked salmon is considered to be cooked.

In that case, what happens if you eat raw salmon? Can you get sick from eating raw salmon? Can you eat raw salmon from the supermarket?

It is safe to eat raw salmon, however, you must be careful.

Raw salmon is home to some nasty parasites.

If you are eating raw salmon you must make sure that the salmon was flash frozen as soon as it was caught to ensure that the parasites don’t have time to grow. Once bought you must eat the raw salmon as quickly as possible.

I would be very careful when buying salmon from the supermarket for the purpose of eating it raw.

Always check with your fishmonger and ask if they have ‘sushi grade’ salmon or if their salmon will be safe for eating raw.

Can You Get Sick From Undercooked Salmon?

It is a very common perception that you can get sick from eating undercooked salmon.

Getting sick from eating undercooked salmon is very unlikely. There are several precautions you can take to make sure you don’t.

I will explain below.

Can You Get Tapeworm From Eating Raw Salmon?

It is possible to get tapeworm from eating raw salmon, however, the chances of that are rather low.

If you do get tapeworm from eating raw salmon you may find you have discomfort in your gut, ‘loose’ stool and could even start to lose weight.

The best thing to do is to head to your local GP and get yourself checked out.

Can You Get Salmonella From Salmon?

In short, no you can not get salmonella from eating raw salmon directly. There is no physical link between raw salmon and salmonella.

The only possible way would be if whoever is preparing your salmon came into contact with a food source that did carry salmonella, then handled the salmon directly without washing their hands.

It is very, very unlikely that you will ever get salmonella from eating salmon raw or cooked.

How To Tell If Your Salmon Is Fully Cooked

The FDA recommends that to fully cook your salmon the temperature in the middle of the thickest part must be 145°F.

The best way to check this is with a meat thermometer. I have put together a list of the meat thermometers.

Don’t worry if you don’t have one though, it is quite easy to tell when salmon is fully cooked.

Gently poke into the centre of the salmon with a knife to expose the middle section.

You are looking for the outside to be opaque and the inside to be translucent and the salmon to give slightly when you poke it.

At this stage your salmon is only just slightly undercooked, however, once you rest it on the bench for a further 5 minutes it will finish cooking and be perfectly cooked.

Can You Eat Raw or Undercooked Salmon?

The same principle applies for eating undercooked salmon.

It is safe to eat undercooked salmon, however if you do like to eat your salmon ‘rare’ make sure you are doing so with the freshest and best quality salmon available.

Can You Eat Salmon Scales and Skin?

When preparing salmon it is not necessary to scrape off the scales.

Salmon scales are safe to eat and can are even full of healthy fatty acids and other minerals.

Just make sure you don’t eat them on a first date, sometimes they can get stuck in your teeth.

Do Salmon Have Bones?

Salmon do have bones but don’t worry, they are very easy to remove prior to cooking.

The best way to remove the bones from your salmon fillet is to get a pair of needle nose pliers and just yank them out form towards the center of the fillet.

Do watch out, salmon bones are quite strong so using your fingers can be quite difficult and does hurt a little.

Do You Wash Salmon Before Cooking?

Washing salmon before cooking. It is not essential to wash your salmon before cooking it.

However, with that being said for older fillets of salmon you might be best to wash prior to cooking. As salmon ages the bacteria and enzymes slowly start to break it down, that is what causes the ‘fishy’ smell of fish.

If you are unfortunate enough to buy a piece of salmon that has the fishy smell it is advised to quickly rinse it in cold running water.

This can take away the bad smell. Just be sure to dab dry with a paper towel before cooking.

Smoke On!


Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I have been meat-smoking and grilling for the past 15 years. I have an array of different smokers, thermometers, and have a love for finding the right wood and charcoal combo My favourite recipes are my EXTRA CRISPY smoked pork belly, juicy pulled pork, smoked brisket, duck poppers, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill).

I loves sharing his tips with beginners, helping them navigate the world of smoking. I find it’s not just about cooking; it’s a quest for that perfect smoky flavor.

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling recipes with you!

You can read more about me on our About Us page.

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