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Smoked Salmon

The first thing you need if you want to make smoked salmon is a fresh whole salmon.  With a golden sugary glaze this smoked fish can be made into several dishes.

In Michigan, salmon is plentiful in the surrounding lakes and rivers. 

Smoked Salmon
Smoked Salmon

Emil Dean

I remember salmon fishing with my Uncle Emil Dean when I was a kid on his fishing boat, the Mary E.  My Uncle Emil owned a charter fishing boat and also a river boat which is how he made his living.  

After we spent the day fishing my Aunt Toots would cook up some of the fish we caught so at an early age I was able to experience “lake to table” fish dinners! 

This is one of the reasons why I love living in Michigan!  Fresh fish anytime of the year.  

After catching a fresh salmon, it is time to clean it!  

How to Make Smoked Salmon

Make sure to leave the skin on the fish filets.  Cut the filet up into large chunks like the picture.  

Rinse fish chunks under water.  In a clean bucket mix up a salt brine with a ratio of one cup iodized salt, one cup granulated sugar to one gallon of cold water.  Place the fish chunks into the salt/sugar brine bucket and refrigerate overnight. 

Salmon Brine
Salmon Brine

What kind of wood chips should be used?

There are many choices of wood chips flavors to choose from. The choice is personal preference and may need some trial and error to find the perfect fit.

Cherry, Apple, Mesquite, Hickory, Alder, and even Sugar Maple are a few options for your choice of wood chips to use. You will want to soak the wood chips in water overnight help bring out your flavor choice.  

Wood chips
Wood Chips

The next day, take the fish chunks out of the salt/sugar brine and pat dry.  Let sit for a coupe of hours to dry really good.

This is called pellicle. A skin or coating of proteins will form on the surface of the fish meat, which allows the smoke to adhere better to the surface of the meat during the smoking process. 

What kind of smoker should I use?

There are many smokers to choose from.  My preferred smoker of choice for making smoked salmon is a Brinkmann Smoke ‘N Grill. 

Time to smoke!!  Smoke according to your smoker’s directions. 

Brinkmann Smoker
Brinkmann Smoker

Place the wet woodchips into a mini loaf foil pan (or according to manufacture directions) and place in the bottom of the smoker.  

Smoker Pan
Smoker Pan

Line the dried fish onto the smoker racks making sure there is space between the chunks and that the skin is facing down.  Pat dry again with paper towel to remove any moisture.  

Take brown sugar and spread a generous amount on top of each fish chunk. This is what makes the fish glaze over and brown.  

Smoked Salmon
Smoked Salmon

Place racks into the smoker and smoke for several hours until fish is cooked.    

Smoked Salmon – FAQ

What to Make with Smoked Fish

What can I make with my smoked fish? My family loves this smoked fish dip. You can also try this salmon toast which is the best!!

Smoked Salmon Recipe

Get the full recipe and nutritional information below.

Yield: 18 servings

Smoked Salmon

Smoked Salmon on a smoker rack.

The first thing you need if you want to make smoked salmon is a fresh whole salmon. My husband loves to eat smoked fish right out of the smoker!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Brine & Drying Time 10 hours
Total Time 12 hours 15 minutes


  • Salmon, Whole (2 Fillets) 1 each
  • Salt, Iodized 1 cup
  • Sugar, granulated 1 cup
  • Water, cold 1 gallon
  • Sugar, Brown 2 pounds


  1. Clean fish, leave skin on filet and cut fillets in chunks like picture.
  2. Rinse fillets in cold water.
  3. Make a salt/sugar brine in a clean food safe container using 1 cup of salt and 1 cup of sugar to 1 gallon of cold water ratio.
  4. Add cleaned fish chunks to the salt brine and refrigerate overnight or at least 8 hours.
  5. Soak wood chips in water overnight or at least 8 hours.
  6. When you are ready to smoke the fish, take fillets out of the salt/sugar brine and pat dry. Let air dry for about 2 hours. A pellicle shiny skin will form to seal and create a sticky surface on the fish. This will help the smoke to adhere to the fish producing a better tasting piece of meat.
  7. Place fish chunks onto the smoker racks making sure to leave a space between each piece. Take brown sugar and put a generous amount onto the tops of each piece of fish.
  8. Drain water from wood chips and put chips into a small mini foil pan. Place pan in the bottom of the smoker or follow smoker instructions.
  9. Put racks of fish into smoker and smoke about 2 hours or according to manufacture instruction.
  10. Test fillets for doneness.
  11. Store fresh smoked salmon in an airtight container/bag in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Smoked fish can also be frozen for up to 3 months in a vacuum sealed bag or wrapped tightly in plastic wrap.


Nutrition Information



Serving Size


Amount Per Serving Calories 264Total Fat 2gSaturated Fat 0gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 1gCholesterol 8mgSodium 2010mgCarbohydrates 62gFiber 0gSugar 61gProtein 3g

Note: For exact nutritional information, consult your dietitian. All nutritional information is simply a guideline.

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By on August 21st, 2019
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About Sherry

Welcome to FROM MICHIGAN TO THE TABLE! My name is Chef Sherry Ronning and I am a food blogger from Michigan. Professionally cooking and baking Midwestern Cuisine for more than 30 years. Specializing in fresh fish, venison, farm raised meats and griddle recipes. Please enjoy my recipes!!

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6 Comments on “Smoked Salmon”

  1. This made me smile, because, talking about Emil and toots. My dad had a charter boat about 4 boats away from the Mary E. Its a special time that I always remember.

    • Thank you for sharing your memories!! I have a lot of fond memories exploring the boat yard as my parents would visit with Uncle Emil and Aunt Toots.


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