BBQ Starts Here is supported by its readers. We may earn a commission when you buy through the links on our site at no additional cost for you.

How to smoke salmon in an electric smoker

How to Smoke a Salmon in an Electric Smoker

Do you want to learn how to smoke salmon in an electric smoker but aren’t too sure how to go about it? It’s a known fact that smoking will make your salmon last longer.

The final result is largely dependent on the equipment you use—not forgetting your smoking skills of course.

Different types of smokers with varying heat sources are available for you to pick from. So why did we single out the electric smoker?

We discuss why you must pick an electric smoker compared to the other models. We’ll also outline the steps you need to take to properly prep and smoke salmon. By the end of the article we’re certain you won’t be able to wait to put your salmon smoking skills to the test.

Why Use an Electric Smoker

Easy to Use

Cooking the best salmon recipes for your family or your guests is probably your priority. So, you’ll agree that spending hours trying to figure out how the smoker works shouldn’t form part of your smoking experience. Pick this type of smoker and you don’t have to worry thanks to its intuitive interfaces which you’ll find simple to operate.

Z Grills

Highly Convenient

If the idea of tending to your meat throughout the smoking process isn’t appealing, then buying a smoker is the way to go. With a smoker, you simply set the temperature and attend to other tasks until the salmon is ready.

Extremely Flexible

Note that salmon recipes vary. Salmon can be prepared by using cold or hot smoke. Even the most skilled pitmaster may find regulating the smoker internal temperature quite taxing.

Take the easy way out by opting for a smoker that gives you the ability to pick between hot and cold settings. This way you increase your chances of serving well cooked salmon.


How to smoke salmon in an electric smoker

Types of Smoking Salmon Methods

As mentioned earlier, there are two methods to smoke salmon at your disposal; hot and cold. The hot smoking method requires high temperatures—between the approximate range of 125 and 175ᵒF. It follows that the cold smoked salmon requires low temperatures—between 65 and 85ᵒF.

Whichever method or recipes you pick, the following steps will ensure that you end up with the best smoked salmon yet.


Z Grills

Related posts: How to Smoke a Carp Fish

What Do You Need?

To get the process started you’ll need the following.


As you’re probably aware, there are different types of salmon you can select from. Simply pick your favourite. Is it King salmon, Fillet or Dolly Varden? We’re not concerned about the type of salmon you pick, rather the portions. Make sure the pieces are somewhat small—approximately a ¼ to a ½ pound to ensure even cooking.

Bear in mind that the type of salmon you pick will determine how long you’ll prep it for smoke. Fillet doesn’t take much time if you’re looking for a quick and simple dish.

You can decide to smoke the salmon with its skin on or off. It’s really a matter of preference.

The Right Electric Smoker: What to Consider Before Buying One

We’ve highlighted the benefits of using an electric smoker but there are different benefits associated with different types that you can pick from. So before you buy the first electric smoker you come across, pay attention to the brand.

A casual search online will reveal many brands that you can pick from. It’s in your best interest to buy one from a reputable manufacturer. This way you’re guaranteed a high-quality smoker that’ll last a long time.

Wood: What Are the Different Types?

The type of wood chips you use will determine the final taste of your smoked salmon, so pick wisely. The best wood for salmon will likely not be the same as if you were smoking a brisket or a chicken. But the type you pick is ultimately a matter of preference when you smoke.

Word of advice; salmon is pretty delicate to smoke. You should stick to mild flavoured wood chips to ensure your meat remains in one piece throughout the cooking process. We can’t guarantee that if you use certain types of wood chips such as oak flavoured. This is because they burn long and slow which isn’t ideal when smoking salmon—especially fillet.

Not sure which type to pick? We list a few options you can consider depending on the smoked salmon recipe you pick:

–       Alder: This type is ideally suited for smoke salmon recipes. You can expect a mild taste with a hint of sweet flavor.

–       Cherry: Cherry wood flavored chips are also best for cooking smoked salmon recipes. They’ll give your smoked salmon a mild fruity flavor.

–       Maple: Pick this type if you want the final taste of your smoked salmon to resemble a mild and sweet flavor.

–       Apple: These types of wood chips are dense compared to the other types. And the final taste when used to smoke salmon will be a combination of sweet and smoky.

–       Mesquite: This is the type to pick if you want a bold and distinct flavor for your smoked salmon.

–       Mulberry: Mulberry flavored wood chips are the option to pick if you’re in the mood for a gourmet flavored smoked salmon recipe.

Salt: Which One is Best?

In case you think that any type of salt will do, we’re here to set the record straight. Firstly, you’ll want to stay clear from your regular table salt. Here’s why; not only does it contain iodide which can be detrimental to your health, but it also has anti-cracking agents. The latter will give your salmon an unpleasant taste. Rather take your pick from the following options:

–       Diamond Crystal

–       Morton

–       Kosher salt

Note that many pitmasters agree that kosher salt is ideal for best tasting smoked salmon.

Add Something Sweet

Smoked salmon lovers will tell you that adding something sweet to your dish will significantly enhance the taste. Consider the following options:

–       Birch syrup

–       Maple syrup

–       Honey

–       Brown sugar

Whatever you do, make sure that you purchase real syrups and not imitations. We can’t guarantee the same taste if you opt for the latter. If you’re working on a budget, then brown sugar will work fine.

Large Container

You’ll need a large container to place the water mixture that you’ll soak your salmon in. We highly recommend that you purchase a plastic container because it allows for easy clean up. Plus, it’s inexpensive too.

You’ll also find it much easier to stack up plastic containers in your refrigerator during the brining or curing period. We’ll explain these steps later.

Wire Rack

A wire rack is also necessary to leave your salmon on during the drying process. This allows for that much needed air circulation before smoking your salmon.

The same rack can be used to rest your smoked salmon before storing it.

Basting Brush

We’re guessing you already have one in your kitchen. If not, then you’ll need to buy it. Make sure you purchase the flat type.

How to smoke salmon in an electric smoker

The Method


–       5lb of salmon

–       Sweet syrup of your choice for basting

–       Salt

Cooking Instructions

Prep Your Salmon

Ask any pitmaster and he or she will tell you that it’s important to prep your smoked salmon first for best results. Take your pick between the following two proven prepping methods before your salmon hits the smoker. This process may from 2 hours up to 36 hours:

–       Brining: For the brining method you’ll need cool water, 2 ounces of salt and one cup of brown sugar. Leave your salmon to soak in this water solution. As mentioned earlier, how long you soak your salmon will depend on the type. Thick King salmon pieces will need up to 36 hours in the brine. Silver salmon will require at least eight hours in the brine while thinner pieces like fillet will need only 2 hours of prep time.

–       Curing: With this method you’ll also need sugar and salt, just leave out the water. Cover your salmon in this mixture. This method is designed to eliminate some of the moisture found inside the salmon.

Whether you pick the brining or curing method, make sure you prep the salmon depending on the type. This process will give the salts enough time to fuse into the salmon which not only enhances flavor but preserves the fish.

Be sure not to prep your salmon for more than 48 hours to avoid an overly salty dish.

For extra flavour feel free to add your preferred spices to the mixtures. A few options you can consider include chiles, bay leaves and garlic. You can even consider adding minced onions and we believe you’ll be impressed with the final result.

Dry Your Salmon

Is your salmon well prepped and ready to be smoked? Before you place your salmon inside the smoker, make sure you rinse and dry it. This is done by taking it out of the brine and patting it dry. Leave the salmon on the wire rack to cool down.

If you happen to have a ceiling fan in your kitchen, you can place the rack directly under it and set the temperatures to 60ᵒF.

Alternatively, you can place the smoked salmon outside in a cool place. Whichever method you pick, leave the salmon to dry for at least 2 hours at minimum. If you have more time you can leave the salmon to dry overnight in your fridge.

How do you know that it’s completely dry? Your smoked salmon will develop a shiny skin. This “shiny skin” is quite sticky and will allow smoke to adhere to it much more easily.

Smoke Your Salmon

Once you’ve achieved the shiny coat, the next step is to apply oil onto the skin. This process is important to ensure that the salmon doesn’t stick to the smoker rack.

Select your desired temperature and start the smoking process. Start with a low internal temperature —approximately 140ᵒF and gradually increase the heat to 175ᵒF. When the salmon is smoked, you want its internal temperature to be no less than 130ᵒF or 140ᵒF.

Important: Always make sure you put water or ice in your drip pan to regulate the temperatures effectively.

Baste the Salmon

After smoking your salmon for 1 or 2 hours based on the size of the salmon, the next step is to baste it with the syrup of your choosing. This process can be repeated hourly until your fish is ready.

Cool and Store Your Salmon

After your salmon has been smoked and basted, you can place it on the cooling rack for approximately 1 or 2 hours based on the size of the fish before placing it in the fridge. You can either wrap the smoked salmon in a plastic or vacuum seal it. The latter will store it for up to 10 ten days. If you want your smoked salmon to last for a year then you can freeze it.


Tips to Keep in Mind

Smoking salmon sounds simple enough. But the reality is that a lot could go wrong if you don’t take the necessary precautions. We list a few handy tips that you must keep in mind when smoking your salmon to ensure the best results.

Know the Smoker’s Temperature

It’s important that you’re aware of the internal temperature ranges of your smoker’s chamber. This makes it easy for you to control the heat and ultimately the cooking process.

Add Chips Often

When it comes to smoking salmon, the first 30 minutes are crucial. It’s during this time that the majority of smoke flavour is absorbed into your meat. And as such, the risk of over smoking your fish is significantly high if you’re not careful. The end result is an undesirable bitter taste.

To avoid this, make sure that you add chips into your smoker often during these 30 minutes.

Visible Smoke

One sure way of ensuring that the smoking process is going smoothly is the sight of visible smoke escaping the vent. Just make sure the smoke isn’t too dense as this can also negatively affect the taste of your salmon. The minute you notice too much smoke, stop adding the chips.


It’s clear that smoked salmon will last long. Say goodbye to throwing away your fish prematurely. Follow the above mentioned steps and soon you’ll be a master at smoking salmon.

Do you have any questions? Leave a reply in the comment section below regarding how to smoke salmon in an electric smoker. We’ll be more than happy to help.

How to Smoke a Salmon in an Electric Smoker