Warm smoked salmon is best if you can self smoke it. But this requires a garden with your neighbors on a large enough distance as not everyone appreciates the smoke. Alternatively, inform your neighbors and share some of the product. Or try to buy it at your fishmonger. This post discusses the self smoking process. Apart from an excellent taste, you can also prevent using nitrites for preservation.

Warm smoked salmon, contrasts with cold smoked salmon in its taste and mouth feel. Cold smoked salmon is slightly cured but still rather raw after smoking. But warm smoked salmon while also slightly cured, is delicately cooked with a wonderful smoky aroma. It can be eaten for dinner or mixed with some sour cream or walnut cream into a wonderful ‘salad’ . That makes for one of the best appetizers on toast or blini, that I know.

the art of making warm smoked salmon

To smoke salmon, one needs a smoker, a smoke generator, some temperature probes and salmon. In this post we do not cover the details of the smoker, which can be purchased or made yourself. Essential is only that the smoker has a vent on top and a vent below, so that air comes in, can produce the smoke and excess smoke can escape.

Also essential is that the fish gets first cured for a while. This will help to extract moist from the fish (quite a bit!), and act as a preservative for the fish. Also it will impair a nice taste.  Since the smoke contains aromatics, fatty fish is more suitable for smoking than lean fish.  We also do not want to use very large lumps of fish, as otherwise salt and smoke penetration to the inside is ineffective. For salmon, 200-250 g pieces are good.  I usually buy atlantic salmon that is cultured, but if you want to splurge, use sockeye salmon.

The curing mixture is a brine that contains salt and sugar with lemon zest and fresh dill herbs. During the warm smoking period the fish is a few times basted with honey or maple syrup. The smoking process usually ends after 4 hours, of which the last hour the fish is kept around 57 C.  If the temperature goes up too quickly, white semi solid proteins will appear on the surface. The fish meat contracts and squeezes these out.  It is better to prevent this.

Special equipment

a smoker with temperature probes

a stainless steel container with holes that contains wood pellets for smoking

flat plastic, stainless steel or glass curing container

basting brush

A refrigerator or cold place with sufficient space for a rack with fish.

warm smoked salmon ©️ Nel Brouwer-van den Bergh

Warm smoked salmon

Prep Time 1 day
Cook Time 4 hours
Total Time 1 day 4 hours
Course Appetizer
Cuisine North European
Servings 15


  • smoker
  • smoking 'capsule'
  • curing container (plastic, stainless steel, glass)
  • refrigerator large enough for a tray of fish


preparing the fish

  • 2.2 lbs (1 kg) salmon fillet
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • zest of one lemon
  • bunch of dille
  • 1.1 quart (1 L) water

smoking the fish

  • 40 g maple syrup or honey
  • hickory and/or apple wood pellets/dust

keeping the fish

  • vacuum bags or plastic wrap


Curing the salmon

  • Prepare the zest from the lemon using a grater; wash the dille
  • Dissolve the sugar and salt in the water and add the lemon zest and dille
  • Cut the fillets in 200-250 g pieces and weigh the total
  • Immerse the salmon pieces in the curing mixture, cover with a lid or wrap and place at the least 14 h in the fridge. Make sure they are fully submersed.
  • After this time rinse the salmon pieces under water, dry them with kitchen paper and the let them dry (no wrap or cover) on a tray low in the fridge for at the least 4 h. A shiny layer (pinnacle) will form on the fish. We measured a weight reduction of 15%. This is mostly due to water extraction from the fish by the brine via the principles of osmotic pressure regulation.

Smoking and storing the salmon

  • Prepare the smoker for smoking. Bring the fish into the smoker, place one temperature probe in the middle piece of salmon and let the temperature very gradually increase, by adjusting the amount of air and/or by adding some apple or hickory wood coals low in the smoker.
  • Bast the fish in the last 3 hours each hour with honey or maple syrup.
  • Ensure the end temperature of between 55-60 C is not exceeded and maintained for at least 40 min to ensure the fish pieces are cooked in the right manner.
  • After 3.5 to 4 h take out the fish pieces from the smoker and let them cool down, away from insects
  • Then place in the fridge to further dry and cool for 4 h.
  • Then vacuum seal or wrap it and store in the fridge or freezer. Vacuum sealing will make the storage time longer, due to the exclusion of oxygen.


Method: warm smoking
Food allergy & intolerance information: none
Keyword cured, salmon, warm smoked


  1. After smoking, let the fish pieces cool down in a place away from flies and then cool them in the fridge uncovered.  After several hours the pieces can be wrapped in plastic wrap or vacuum sealed.
  2. Store in vacuum seal in the fridge for 3 weeks or freeze them for over 3 months.

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