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How to: smoke salmon on a pellet grill

Smoking salmon fillets like a pro is easier than you think.

  • 1 salmon fillet or fillet portions
  • Dry brine
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt and 1 tablespoon white or brown sugar
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons BBQ rub
  • Prep time: 45 minutes
  • Cook time: 1 hour
  • Servings: 6

If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on high-quality fish, smoking salmon on the pellet grill is well worth considering. Smoke enhances salmon’s natural sweetness, and produces subtle flavors that can’t be achieved with other cooking methods. The process is simple and the finished product more than speaks for itself. Served hot or cold, this delicious dish is sure to please any crowd.

Here’s how it’s done:

  1. 1

    Debone and scale salmon as needed.

  2. Lay the salmon skin-side down on a cutting board. Run your fingertips along the length of the salmon fillet and feel for pin bones. If you find pin bones use kitchen pliers or tweezers to remove them and discard.
  3. To remove scales, flip the fish over so the flesh side is down. Using a flexible knife like a fillet knife or a boning knife, use the non-sharpened side to remove the scales by running it along the skin against the grain of the scales pattern. Rinse and pat dry.
  4. 2

    Season the salmon. Preheat the grill.

  5. Combine the kosher salt and sugar. Sprinkle about 25% of the brine on the skin side of the salmon fillet and 75% on the flesh side, then allow the fish to dry brine for 20-30 minutes. Wash the dry brine and juices from the fillet and pat dry.
  6. Preheat your pellet grill to 215°F.
  7. 3

    Time to smoke.

  8. Place the seasoned salmon fillet in the center of your pellet grill. Smoke the salmon until it reaches an internal temperature of 145°F, approximately 50–60 minutes.
  9. 4

    Serve up your salmon.

  10. You can choose to serve your salmon immediately off the grill, or allow it to cool uncovered in the refrigerator and serve chilled. Garnish with lemon and enjoy!

How should you make smoke salmon on a pellet grill?

High-quality smoking wood and salmon is all that’s really required to make smoked salmon. If you have a pellet grill, there are some distinct advantages to using it for smoking.

Kingsford takes the frustration out of finding high-quality smoking woods with its line of all-natural hardwood pellets.

It’s hard to go wrong using either Kingsford’s Cherry or Maple pellets to smoke salmon. Both of them coax the right amount of sweetness from the fish without masking its natural flavors.

How should you make dry brine?

A dry brine for salmon consists of two ingredients. Salt and sugar.

Sprinkle a high-quality kosher salt on all sides of the fish, including the skin, until evenly coated. Repeat with the sugar.

Allow the fish to rest on a plate for 20 minutes so the dry brine can work its magic making the fish more flavorful and firming the meat. When the time is up, rinse the salmon well with icy cold water and pat dry.

What temperature should you smoke salmon on a pellet grill?

Salmon is typically smoked between 180–250°F on a pellet grill. Although salmon can be smoked at both lower and higher temperatures, there are some benefits to keeping within this range.

On the low side, pellet grills tend to operate at about 180°F for a minimum temperature setting. The benefit of smoking at a lower temperature is that it takes the food longer to achieve your desired temperature. The longer your food enjoys the smoke bath, the more delicious it will be on the plate.

If you’ve ever cooked salmon and seen white sweat marks on the fish, it’s actually a protein being released from the fish called albumin. Albumin is naturally occurring. Although perfectly safe to eat, the milky white drops look odd when beading on the surface of the fish.

Cooking salmon at a high temperature can be traumatic for the fish’s delicate flesh, as it forces juices and albumen to be squeezed from the fish. Cooking at a lower temperature allows the meat of the salmon to dry at a slower pace. It takes longer, but the result is more desirable.

How long should you smoke salmon on a pellet grill?

The amount of time you smoke salmon is determined by a couple of variables. The thickness of the salmon fillet should always be considered. If you have a fillet that is extra thick in the middle but tapered on the ends, you should consider breaking the fillet into portions of a more even thickness.

Although temperature does factor into how long you will smoke salmon, it’s recommended that you cook salmon to a safe internal temperature of 145°F.

What kind of pellet wood should you use to smoke salmon?

It’s hard to go wrong using fruit wood to smoke salmon. Kingsford® Cherrywood Pellets bring a delicious brightness to the dish with just the right amount of sweetness. Kingsford® Maple Pellets also work well with salmon, as they have a milder flavor than other hardwoods.

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