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This hot smoked salmon is easy, hassle-free, and folks love having their own skewer of smoky salmon to eat.
Often, salmon is cooked at really low temperatures around 180°F (82°C), but we are cranking up the heat on these just to show that we can (and, of course, because we're hungry and need food fast!).
When it's almost finished, we'll brush on some glaze to add a lot of great flavor.
- Prep Time: 30 min
- Cook Time: 1.5 hours
- Smoker Temp: 225°F (107°C)
- USDA Finish Temp: 145°F (57°C)
- Chef Finish Temp: 130°F (54°C)*
- Recommended Wood: Apple
*USDA safe temperature for salmon is 145°F (63°C), however, most chefs recommend cooking this salmon to a maximum temperature of 130°F for best flavor and texture. The risk in doing this is extremely small, but worth it, in my opinion. You'll have to decide if this is right for you.
- 3-4 lb Filet of Salmon
- 2 TBS Olive oil
- ¼ cup Jeff's original rub
- ¼ cup Jeff's original barbecue sauce
- 4-6 Skewers, extra long (9 to 11 inches is best)
Lay salmon filet on cutting board
It is best to separate the thick side from the thin side. Look at the cross section of your fish and decide which part is thick and which is thin and simply cut them apart as shown below.
Further separate the thick and thin sides into strips that are about 1.5 to 2 inches wide.
To make it easy to remove the skin, make vertical cuts through the fish stopping when you reach the skin. Then slide the knife under the fish at about a 10 degree angle to separate the fish from it's skin. Easy peasy!
Once all of the fish is separated from the skin, separate them into groups of 4 or 5 of the same thickness since you will want each skewer to have similar thicknesses of salmon.
This way all of the fish pieces on the same skewer will get done at the same time.
Place 4-5 pieces of salmon onto each skewer. I opted to use two skewers in each one so that I could flip them over easily if I wanted to. This is completely optional but I do recommend it.
Once they are skewered, place them on a pan with a rack to make it easy to dry them and carry them out to the smoker.
Forming a Pellicle
After the fish are on skewers and on a pan with a rack, it's a great idea to let the fish sit in some dry, cold air to form a sort of protective layer on the outside.
This is called “forming the pellicle“.
The pellicle does a great job of preventing that white fatty protein, called albumin, from coming out as easily during the cooking process.
It only takes a few hours, but as the fish dries the outside gets a semi-shiny look and a tacky feel to it and you know you're getting close.
Brush some olive oil onto the salmon pieces to help the rub to stick and to aid in helping the fish to not stick to the grates or whatever they are laying on.
It's also a great idea to oil the grates or the rack they are laying on, to prevent sticking.
Sprinkle a little of my original rub on the salmon pieces, making sure to hit the top and bottom sides for maximum flavor.
You are looking for about 30-40% coverage, which means you are not trying to cover the salmon up like you would on ribs, but just get a good sprinkle on it.
Set up your smoker for cooking at 225°F (107°C) using indirect heat. If your smoker uses a water pan, fill it up.
If you happen to be using a pellet smoker, be sure to read my 9 tips for using a pellet smoker
Once the smoker is ready to go, place the salmon skewers on an oiled smoker grate (to help it not to stick) or use my parchment paper trick below:
Tip: lay the salmon on pieces of parchment paper instead of directly on the smoker grates. It completely eliminates the sticking problem.
To make sure the paper does not block the flow of smoke, cut the paper into strips about 12 inches long and 3 inches wide and place one under each individual skewer.
Be sure to leave about ½ inch between each strip of paper. This allows the smoke to flow properly and still works great at keeping the fish from sticking.
Let the salmon smoke cook for about 1 to 1.5 hours depending on the thickness of the salmon, or until it reaches 130°F (54°C) in the center of the fish.
Temperature is very important when smoking meat so you really need to invest in a good meat thermometer if you don't already have one.
The Thermapen ONE is a great thermometer to have especially for things like salmon where you may not want to leave the thermometer in the whole time but you want to check it periodically.
The Thermapen is a high quality thermometer used by pros as well as us backyard guys.
The cool thing is that it reads in only 1 second and you can quickly and easily check things like salmon to make sure every piece is perfectly done before removing it from the smoker.
About 15 minutes before the salmon is finished, brush on some of my original barbecue sauce thinned with a little, fruit juice, beer or even your favorite soft drink. My favorite is citrus soda to give that lemony aspect.
I usually mix one part liquid to one part sauce to make a nice glaze that brushes on easily and adds a lot of flavor.
Serve the salmon skewers right away.. no need to wait around.
- I did not brine or marinate this salmon, but you could if you wanted to. Use my normal brine formula of 1 gallon of water, 1 cup of salt and ¾ cup of brown sugar and place the fish pieces in that for 1 hour. Read more about brining here
- You can also use my Texas style rub on this salmon if you want something more savory.
Hot Smoked Salmon on a Stick
- 3-4 lb filet of salmon
- 2 TBS olive oil
- ¼ cup Jeff's original rub
- Skewers (extra long)
- Slide a sharp knife between the fish and the skin to completely remove the skin.
- Remove the thinner edges of the salmon, then divide the thicker part into pieces that are about two inches by two inches.
- Place the pieces of salmon onto skewers making sure to put pieces of similar thickness on the same skewer.
- You can also place the thinner edge pieces onto skewers. These will get done a lot faster and make great snacks for the chef.
- Place the fish onto racks and into the fridge for several hours to create a protective layer on the fish called the pellicle. You'll know it's finished when it looks shiny and feels tacky.
- Brush olive oil onto the salmon to help the rub to stick.
- Sprinkle Jeff's original rub onto all sides of the salmon to add a nice layer of flavor to the fish.
- Place the salmon skewers onto oiled smoker grates.
- Smoke fish at 225°F (107°C) for about 1 to 1.5 hours or until it reaches 130°F (54°C)* in the center.
- Use a thermometer to check the temperature of the fish after about 45 minutes, or sooner if the fish is a little on the thin side.
- When the fish is finished cooking, remove it from the smoker and serve immediately.