Appetizers and Drinks, Grilling, Sunday dinner
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Grill Smoked Salmon

Grill smoked salmon on a yellow platter

Grill Smoked Salmon

Hot smoked salmon is my favorite appetizer for a crowd.  When I want to show off for a dinner party, this is what I make.  A whole side of smoked salmon is very impressive, particularly when your guests are used to the small, sealed pouches of smoked salmon you can get at the store.
*Yes, I like to show off with my cooking.  You couldn’t tell?

This recipe works around some common issues with grilling fish.  It’s hard to overcook, because the whole point of grill smoking is to cook the fish until it is well done.  It doesn’t stick to the grill.  You cook it with the skin down the whole time, on a homemade foil tray; easy on, easy off.
Finally, it’s excellent if you make it ahead of time.  Normally I’m not a fan of “leftover” fish – I want it hot off the grill.  This recipe tastes just as good, if not better, if it’s been in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

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Side of grill smoked salmon on a sheet of foil

Grill Smoked Salmon


  • Author: Mike Vrobel
  • Prep Time: 2 hours
  • Cook Time: 90 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
  • Yield: 3 pounds of salmon 1x
Scale

Ingredients

  • 2– to 4-pound piece of salmon (I used a thawed side of frozen wild salmon)
  • 1 teaspoon paprika (preferably smoked Spanish paprika optional)
  • 1 fist-sized chunk smoking wood (oak, alder, apple, cherry, or hickory)

Brine

  • 4 quarts water
  • ½ cup table salt or 1 cup Diamond Crystal kosher salt
  • 2 cups brown sugar

Instructions

  1. Brine the salmon: Combine the brine ingredients in a container large enough to hold your piece of salmon, and stir until dissolved. Add the salmon, and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours. Put your wood chunk in a bowl of water and soak until ready to grill.
  2. Set the grill for Indirect Medium-Low Heat (300°F): Prepare your grill for cooking on indirect medium-low heat. For my Weber kettle, I light a chimney starter half full of charcoal (about 50 coals), wait for it to be covered with ash, then pour it in a tight pile on one corner of the grill.
  3. Dry the salmon and put it on aluminum foil: While the grill is heating, remove the salmon from the brine and pat dry. Make an aluminum foil tray for the salmon, just larger than the piece of salmon itself, and lay the salmon on top, skin side down. Sprinkle the meat side of the salmon with the paprika.
  4. Cook the Salmon: Set the wood chunk on the grill, directly on the coals. Put the salmon (on its foil tray) on the grill, as far away from the coals as possible. Close the lid, and cook with the lid closed as much as possible until the salmon is cooked through and flakes easily when pressed, about 1 to 2 hours. (About one hour of cooking time per inch of salmon at its thickest part.) If you’re cooking for more than an hour, add eight coals after one hour to keep the heat going. 
  5. Serve: Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 48 hours before serving.  For an appetizer, serve the fish whole; use a large spatula to lift the fish off the foil and transfer it to a serving platter. For individual servings, cut the salmon crosswise into 2-inch wide fillets.

Notes

  • The first way to serve this is as a main course.  Hot off the grill, I cut the salmon into 1 to 2″ thick fillets, with a squeeze of lemon and some dijon or brown mustard on the side.
  • The second is as a smoked salmon appetizer.  Serve cold with crackers, diced red onion, capers, and sour cream or horseradish sauce.  For this approach, it can be refrigerated for up to 2 days before serving; it tastes just as good cold as it does hot.
  • I wouldn’t use this for a piece of salmon that weighs less than a pound and a half; the long cooking time would dry out a thinner cut of salmon.  You want a big, thick fillet for this.
  • This is hot smoked salmon, not cold smoked like you will see in those pouches at the grocery store.  Think barbecue (250°F to 300°F), not cold smoked (180°F to 200°) when you are cooking it.  Unlike cold smoked, which cures the salmon, this recipe will only keep for a few days in the refrigerator.

Tools

Keywords: Kettle Grill, Weber Kettle, Smoked Salmon, Grill Smoked Salmon

Side of salmon on a piece of aluminum foil

Brined and on its foil tray, ready for the grill

Ready to cook: fire with smoking wood on one side, salmon on the other

Grill Smoked Salmon

What do you think?

Questions? Comments? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.

Related Posts

Grilled Trout, Herb and Citrus stuffed
Grill Smoked Trout
My Grilling Recipes Index

Adapted from:
Barbecued Hot Smoked Salmon The Cook’s Illustrated Guide To Grilling And Barbecue

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7 Comments

  1. Anonymous says

    I’m not an experienced briner so I can’t advise on the right amounts, but I found that 1 C of salt was too much. The fish after 4 h of brining was good, but next time I’m certainly using less. One of the kids wouldn’t eat it, too salty for him. Looking at various online recipes for brining fish I see they recommend anywhere from 1/3 C to 1 1/2 C of salt for 4 quarts. Good blog, BTW.

  2. @Anonymous:

    I think you’re right – I meant to say 1 cup of KOSHER salt, not table salt. Since I use Diamond Crystal kosher, that would translate to 1/2 cup table salt. I’ve corrected the recipe. Sorry about that, and thank you for letting me know!

  3. I didn’t brine mine at all. I put some soy sauce and peper on the fish, and smoked it on the grill. My son is still raving about the fish.

  4. John K says

    What kind of paprika did you use? Sweet, hot, smoked etc…?

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