Honey smoked salmon is made with a simple, yet delicious salmon brine that infuses the salmon with flavors overnight before smoking on the grill. While it cooks, the fish is basted with honey giving a perfect smoky, sweet flavor. Use it to prepare a variety of tasty meals everyone will love.
As far back as I can remember, I've always been a HUGE salmon fan. Especially smoked salmon. Pasta, deviled eggs, on a pita, bagel, or as a smoky, delicious dip are just a few ways to make foods that taste better when smoked fish is added to them!
Since I love using smoked salmon in different recipes, I decided it was time to make my own smoked salmon brine recipe. That way I could make my own smoked fish any time I wanted it instead of buying it! I think you are going to love the results!
Best Honey Smoked Salmon Recipe
The smoking process allows the natural flavor of the fish to stand out and gives you an opportunity to infuse it with additional flavors too.
I’ve got lots of smoker recipes and it’s become one of my favorite ways to cook outside and infuse food with delicious smoke flavor.
This recipe requires only four ingredients you will need to purchase to make!
- Salmon fillet
- Dark brown sugar
- Kosher salt
Check the recipe card for the full listing of ingredients with quantities of each.
How to Make the Smoked Salmon Brine
Here's an overview of how to make this recipe at home. Check the recipe for detailed instructions and step by step photos.
Step 1: Prep the Fish
Check the salmon fillet to make sure all of the pin bones have been removed.
Place it In a large plastic or glass container, skin side down.
Step 2: Prepare the Salmon Brine
Combine the dark brown sugar and kosher salt with the water.
Step 3: Brine the Fish
Pour the brine over the fillet and allow it to cure for at least four hours in the fridge. You can also prepare it the night before and let the fish cure overnight.
Tip: If the brine doesn't cover the entire fillet, double the brine recipe. It's important that the entire salmon be submerged in the brine.
How to Cook the Honey Smoked Salmon
Step 1: Prep the Fish for the Smoker
Once cured, remove the fillet from the brine and place, skin side down, on a cooling rack on top of a baking tray to catch any juices that may drip off.
Gently pat the fillet dry with a paper towel and place back in the fridge to dry for 2-4 hours. Ultimately, the fillet needs to develop a pellicle, a shiny skin that seals the salmon and gives the smoke a sticky surface to adhere to.
HINT: You can speed up the drying process by placing the fillet directly under a ceiling fan that's on high but it's important to make sure the fish isn’t kept at room temperature for too long.
Step 5: Smoking
When the fish is dry, put a light coating of oil on the fillet to prevent it from sticking to the grates.
Place the fish inside the smoker and smoke for about two hours at 200 degrees Fahrenheit or until it reaches an internal temperature of 135-140 degrees Fahrenheit.
Pour the honey into a small bowl and use a brush to baste the fillet every 40 minutes.
Step 6: Serve
When the salmon is cooked, carefully remove it from the smoker and serve it immediately as a main dish or allow it to rest and prepare it to be stored for future recipes.
A handful of kitchen tools and smoker equipment are need to easily make honey smoked salmon.
- Airtight/sealable container
- Large baking tray
- Cooling rack
- Meat thermometer
- Wood chips/chunks/pellets (whatever your smoker is designed for).
- Honey: Swap it out with pure maple syrup.
- Salmon: Other types of fish such as mackerel, tuna, swordfish and bluefish work great too!
Cold vs. Hot Smoked Salmon
Generally speaking, cold smoked salmon is considered raw, tastes milder, and has a smoother, softer texture in appearance than hot.
Cold smoked fish usually takes almost 24 hours to prepare. The temperature in the smoking chamber fluctuates between 60 and 85 degrees Farenheit and is not quite hot enough to cook the fish.
Hot smoked salmon has a smokier, natural flavor, is super flaky, like other types of cooked salmon, and is lighter in color.
With hot smoking, the fish is soaked in a brine prior to being placed inside the smoking chamber to help with the fish's texture after cooking. Hot smoked salmon is actually cooked at hot temperatures over 250 degrees Farenheit.
The flesh of smoked salmon becomes firm and appears opaque. Luckily, if you have your own smoker, it couldn't get any easier to make hot smoked salmon at home.
I frequently get asked how long does homemade hot smoked salmon keep?
Once the fish has fully cooled, cover it with plastic wrap or store it in an airtight container in the fridge for seven days.
You can also store it vacuum-packed where it will easily last up to three weeks. If you don't plan to use it right away, store the fish in your freezer for up to 3 months.
Is Smoked Salmon Safe to Eat?
Cold smoked salmon is made with a smoked salmon brine recipe and is additionally smoked at a lower temperature. Lox is raw salmon that's been salt cured or brined.
Since neither are actually cooked, both are considered foods that can cause food borne illnesses such as listeria.
Keeping the fridge at 40 degrees or lower helps slow the chances of listeria developing. And if store-bought, it's important that this fish be consumed by the best before date.
Unless expecting or immune compromised, most people can enjoy a little cold-smoked salmon or lox served on a bagel with cream cheese, as a topping for sushi or as a simple appetizer.
Honey smoked salmon is cured with smoke. It's not raw since this smoked salmon has been hot-smoked and cooked all the way through.
How to Make Without a Smoker
If you don’t have a smoker, don’t worry, you can easily make honey smoked salmon on a gas or charcoal grill.
- Prep the salmon using the regular instructions. Then just before grilling, soak wood chips in water for 15 minutes, then drain.
- Using a large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil, wrap soaked chips in a 8x4½-inch foil packet. Cut 2 evenly spaced 2-inch slits on top of the packet.
Tip: Make sure chips don't poke holes in sides or bottom of the packet.
- Remove the cooking grate and place the wood chip packet directly on the primary burner.
- Set cooking grate in place, then turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot and wood chips are smoking, about 15 minutes.
- Turn the primary burner to medium and turn off other burner(s). Adjust the primary burner as needed to maintain grill temperature which should be between 250 and 275 degrees.
- Clean and oil the cooking grate(s) and brush the fish lightly with oil just to help keep it from sticking to the grates.
- Place fillets (skin side down) on the cooler side of the grill, with thicker ends facing the fire.
- Cover grill (position lid vent over salmon if using charcoal) and cook until centers of fillets register at 135 degrees (for medium-well), about 28 to 35 minutes. Baste with the honey while the fish cooks.
- When the salmon is ready, transfer it to a plate, tent with foil and let it rest for 5 minutes.
How to Eat Honey Smoked Salmon
Prized for its salty flavor, maple or honey glazed smoked salmon is considered a delicacy owing to its relatively high cost. Now thanks to this recipe, you can make it at home to save a little money.
You can serve up this smoky fish as a fillet for a main course or on a bagel with cream cheese along with capers, onions, and tomatoes similar to lox. But if you’re looking for some more inspiration for serving up honey smoked salmon, here are some of my favorites!
- Eggs benedict
- Smoked Salmon Cream Cheese Bagel, Pita or Croissant
- Simple Deviled Eggs
- Best Classic Egg Salad
- Diced up in a quiche
- As a topper for crostinis and top with a slice of cucumber, tomato or red onion
- Easy Smoked Salmon Pinwheels
- Grilled cheese
- Smoked Salmon Cream Cheese Dip
Low and slow is the best way to smoke fish or meats. This really allows the flavor of the seasonings and the wood to penetrate into the fish.
Always make sure to check the steam pot and fill it with water as needed. It is important to maintain a high moisture level within the smoker.
When brining the fish, make sure the entire fillet is submerged in the brine. If not, you will need to make additional brine to ensure it’s fully covered.
When cooking honey smoked fish, if the skin sticks to the cooking grate, insert fish spatula between skin and fillet to separate and lift fillet from skin.
Use maple wood for the best flavor when smoking salmon, but hickory, apple, oak or pecan will also work in a pinch.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the questions I get asked about making this recipe at home.
It's a way of treating food with coarse salt to preserve, tenderize and season it. In many cases, the meat is cooked following it's time soaking in the brine.
Yes. Regular table is quite often iodized and this can give the salmon fillets a metallic taste.
No! Using different kinds of wood offers a unique variety of flavors. In this recipe, maple or cherry was the wood of choice which gave it a different type of sweetness in addition to the honey and brown sugar
Yes and no as it depends on whether it was smoked hot or cold.
Hot smoked salmon is cooked all the way through and is smoked at a high temperature. Cold smoked salmon is still basically raw but has somewhat of a longer shelf life because it's smoked at a cooler temperature.
More Easy Salmon Recipes
Honey Smoked Salmon
- 2-3 pound salmon fillet
- ½ cup honey or maple syrup for basting
- wood chunks or chips, pre-soaked, or pellets (whichever your smoker uses)
- Check the fillet to make sure all of the pin bones have been removed.
- Place the fillet, skin side down, in a large plastic or glass container.
- Prepare the brine by combining the dark brown sugar and kosher salt with the water.
- Pour the brine over the fillet and allow to cure for at least 4 hours in the fridge. (I usually prepare the night before and let the salmon cure overnight). If the brine doesn't cover the entire fillet, double the brine recipe. It's important the entire salmon be submerged in the brine.
- Once cured, remove the fillet from the brine and place, skin side down, on a cooling rack. (I like to place a cooling rack with a baking tray underneath to catch any juices that may drip off).
- Gently pat the salmon dry and place back in the fridge to dry for at least 2-4 hours. If possible, place fillet directly under a ceiling fan that's on high, to speed up the process. It's important to make sure the fish isn’t kept at room temperature for too long. Ultimately, the fillet needs to develop a pellicle (a shiny skin that seals the fillet and gives the smoke a sticky surface to adhere to.
- When fish is ready, put a light coating of oil on salmon to prevent it from sticking to the grates.
- Smoke the salmon for about 2 hours at 200 degrees Fahrenheit, basting the fillet with honey or maple syrup every 40 minutes or so.
- Cook until the salmon reaches an internal temperature of 135-140 degrees Fahrenheit. When ready carefully remove salmon from the smoker.
- Serve immediately as a main dish with peppercorns or capers. You can also allow maple or honey smoked salmon to rest and prepare it to be stored for future recipes.
Alright, do you feel like you know how to serve smoked salmon and how to eat smoked salmon? Please let me know how it goes in the comments!