Hot Smoked Salmon on a Stick

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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.

Helpful Information
  • 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.

What You'll Need
Prepare Salmon

Lay salmon filet on cutting board

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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.

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Further separate the thick and thin sides into strips that are about 1.5 to 2 inches wide.

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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!

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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.

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Put Salmon onto Skewers

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.

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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.

Season Salmon

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.

Get the Smoker Ready

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

Smoking the Salmon

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

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.
5 from 1 vote

Hot Smoked Salmon on a Stick

This hot smoked salmon recipe is easy, quick and gives everyone their own skewer full of wonderful smoked salmon. You gotta love that!
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time1 hour
Total Time1 hour 30 minutes
Servings: 6


  • 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.


*USDA safe temperature for fish is 145°F (63°C) however most chefs recommend cooking this salmon to a maximum temperature of 130°F (54°C) for best flavor and texture.

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5 from 1 vote

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    Recipe was excellent – followed it mostly (didn’t put on skewers, but used the parchment) and was so good. All these years and never made salmon on the egg (shame on me). Putting in refrigerator for it to pellicle made the meat so moist. My mother-in law loved and we will try same thing, except use honey and some crushed pecans next (substituting BBQ sauce).

    Appreciate the tips as always!

  2. I don’t believe I have seen that much difference in the USDA safe and recommended temperature. What do you recommend?

    1. Chris, I undershoot the USDA recommendation by about 15 degrees personally. It’s a very small risk but it’s one I am willing to take. The salmon is SO much better when it’s not dry and overly cooked. Most chefs recommend only cooking salmon to about 130°F (54°C) for the best flavor and texture.

  3. What is the purpose of the skewers in this recipe, other than for show? It seems like it would be easier and less costly to leave them in a rack similar to the one shown in the picture, and pick them out with tongs when done. You would, of course, need to oil the rack. Unless the skewers help the meat to cook in the center, they seem unneeded.

    1. They are not “needed” but it does make it nice for serving. In my experience, people love eating food from a stick and while some might be tempted to call it gimmicky, I am happy to give people something that makes them feel good.

  4. Need to look into letting your fish form a pellicle. Very important step in smoking fish. It comes out so much better.

  5. Hi Rick,
    Just wondered if you ever had an issue with fish smell in your oven after cooking fish / hot smoking salmon and if that has any impact?

  6. jeff, thanks for the web version and the new printable version you have added at the bottom of the recipe page. it has always been a hassle to print your recipes in the past but this makes it a lot faster. i have bought your rub and sauce recipe in the past and have also bought for my son and son in law. the thermapen thermometer is fantastic. i have also bought those for my kids as well. they make great stocking stuffers. we all think its great. i do use a pellet smoker and with a little tweaking to temp and time your recipes are great ideas for the weekends. keep up the good work and as always, look forward to your emails.

    thanks, Rick