Smoking Salmon (or Trout)...A Quick Guide

Have you ever tried to smoke a fish? (I know, it is hard to get them lit!) Anyway, I have here a great recipe for smoking salmon and trout that is simple but very tasty. In a minute, I will give you the recipe but first a little story about how this recipe came about. 

Years ago, my uncle Bob along with his 2 sons and his father-in-law decided they would like to start fishing for the small Kokanee salmon, (commonly called bluebacks), at a couple North Idaho lakes namely Lake Coeur d’Alene and Lake Pend Oreille. My uncle came up with this special bait he figured would catch those fish like crazy so they all decided to give it a try. Back in those days, maybe 30 or more years ago, both these lakes had commercial fishing available on them with limits from 125 to 250 fish a day per person for the small Kokanee salmon. On a good day, a group of four could really bring in the fish. My uncle and his crew all purchased commercial licenses and began fishing with his new discovered bait.

It took only a few hours on their first trip out to discover that my uncle’s bait was indeed amazing and that all of a sudden they had caught a whole slew of fish. When they returned to shore and counted their first bounty, they discovered that they had brought in a total of 650 fish! What were they going to do with all these slimy creatures? Well, they put their minds together and they decided that smoking them would be the best way to not only preserve them for a length of time but also maybe they could make some extra money selling them to the local stores.

So, to make this story readable and not bore you with all the details, they did start a little smoked fish business and began distributing their fish around the local town. Before I give you the recipe for this incredible smoked fish, there are some essentials you must have to get started.

A good quality smoker is needed to begin with. I don’t believe you have to pay $100’s of dollars for one either. I have a small little smoker I purchased from Home Depot for around $75.00 and it does very well. An electric smoker is preferred because you don’t have to tend the fire as often and it cooks much more evenly.

As far as the wood you need I would recommend apple, cherry or hickory wood chunks (not chips if possible). The wood chunks last much longer and burn slower. Slow, cool smoke is what you are after and the wood chips tend to burn too quickly. Before you start your smoking, soak the wood chunks overnight in water so they will burn slow and not catch fire so easily.

Now, here is what you have been waiting for, the recipe.

*1 Cup Non-Iodized Salt (it must be non-iodized).

*1 Cup Brown Sugar

*2 Gallons of Water

*1/8 Cup of Pepper if preferred.

*Soak your fish overnight (12 hours) in the above mixture and take out and leave at room temperature for an hour before putting the fish in the smoker.

That’s It!! I know it looks simple and it is. Many recipes ask for seasonings, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce and other things but this recipe is simple and the very best. 

Your fish should be filleted if possible but not completely necessary as the meat will pull away from the bone easily after smoking. It is important to leave the skin on the filets as it keeps the fish from sticking to the grill. Use good quality salmon or trout when smoking. Fish with white meats do not do well and tend to dry out, as they do not have the oil in the meat like the salmon family does.

Place your wood chips in your smoker and put your fish on the grates. Depending on the temperature outside, it could take a couple of hours to several to smoke your fish. Test the fish after an hour or so to see how the texture looks. You can taste test the salmon as it is getting done to get the required texture you desire. I like my salmon fairly moist but others may like it drier. The choice is up to you.

It may take a time or two until you get this smoking thing down but after you have perfected this recipe, you will be smoking fish on a regular basis.