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17 May

How to Hot Smoke Salmon (Without a Real Smoker)

Hot Smoked SalmonIf you love hot smoked salmon but don’t own a smoker, then this recipe for hot smoked salmon is for you. This method involves rigging up a smoker in your kitchen (on a gas stove) using wood chips, aluminum foil, a round cake rack and a wok. The salmon that emerges has a big, bold smoky flavor with a little bit of a sweet-salty thing going on too.

The texture of salmon hot smoked this way, rather than in a real smoker, is moister and less flakey (expect the middle to look similar to what a fillet of regular cooked salmon looks like). So, it’s not exactly the same thing, but if you love a smoked flavor then you’ll love this salmon in its own right.

While you’ll be tempted to eat it right out of the smoker, hot smoked salmon tastes best when chilled. Served over a bed of greens, it makes a killer salad. The recipe specifies wild salmon, and by now most of you know exactly why: wild salmon has more healthy omega-3 fats and far fewer toxins than farmed salmon.

This method of smoking won’t send smoke billowing through your house; no need to pull the batteries out of the smoke detectors. But it will make your house and wok smell pleasantly smoky in a sitting-around-the-campfire kind of way for the next day or so.

Servings: 4

Time in the Kitchen: 16 to 24 hours for brining and drying, plus about 20 minutes to smoke



  • 1 pound wild salmon, skin on, 1 to 2 inches thick (450 g/2.5cm to 5cm)
  • 1 quart cool water (950 ml)
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt (75 g)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar (75 g)
  • 1/4 cup coconut aminos (optional, for flavor only) (60 ml)


  • A large handful of wood chips. Alder, apple, cherry, oak or maple work fine. Don’t use mesquite, the flavor will overpower the salmon.
  • Wok with a lid
  • Aluminum foil
  • Cooling rack (to dry fish)
  • Round cake rack that fits inside of the wok


Cut salmon fillet into four even pieces. The salmon will cook best if each piece is generally the same thickness all over. In a large bowl combine salt, sugar and coconut aminos with 1 quart of cool water and stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Add the fish to the bowl and brine for 8 to 12 hours.

Take your fish out of the brine and pat it dry.

Put the fillets on a cooling rack set over a baking sheet, skin side down. This step is important to dry out the surface of the salmon before smoking. There are two ways of doing this. One, place the fish in a cool room under a ceiling fan or near a regular fan for 2 to 4 hours. Or, put the rack of fish uncovered in the refrigerator for 8 to 12 hours.

Salmon After Brine

After the fish has completed the drying process, then make your smoker:

Line a wok with two big pieces of foil that hang over the edges by 4 to 6 inches (10 cm to 15 cm).

Add a thin layer of woods chips. Set a small round cake rack over the chips.

DIY Smoker

Place the salmon on the rack, skin side down.

Salmon Skin Side Down

Bring the sides of the foil up over the salmon, pinching the ends closed to form a tent in which the smoke can circulate around the salmon. The tighter the foil is sealed, the less likely that smoke will escape out into your kitchen.

Sealed Wok

Put the lid of the wok on tightly.

It’s a good idea to smoke one fillet alone first, to get a sense of what your ideal smoking time is both for the flavor of fish and the doneness. After you experiment with the first fillet, you can then smoke the remaining three fillets at the same time. As a guideline, use these smoking times and heat levels for salmon with a robust smoky flavor that is cooked all the way through. 1-inch thick fillet: Turn the heat on the gas stove to medium-high for 4 minutes, then down to medium for 12 minutes. 2-inch thick fillet: Turn the heat on a gas stove to medium-high for 4 minutes, then medium for 20 minutes.

Cooking Tips:

You can peak inside to check on the progress, even break off a piece of salmon to try, and then re-seal the foil and keep smoking if it’s not done.

Smoked Salmon

If the flavor of your first fillet turns out too smoky for your taste, then keep the fillets in the wok for a shorter amount of time and finish cooking the salmon in a 200 ºF/93 ºC oven.

Hot smoked salmon is fully cooked. Although regular hot smoked salmon (smoked in a real smoker) keeps longer, when using this specific method to smoke salmon, it’s best to eat it within a few days.

Hot Smoked Salmon 2

You want comments? We got comments:

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  1. This sounds great…I’m definitely going to channel my inner MacGyver and try this!

    Stephen wrote on May 17th, 2014
  2. Wow, I must try this! Looks delicious.
    Anybody have an idea how I could do the drying process with fresh mackerel (the whole fish)? That’s in my fridge right now :)

    Simone wrote on May 17th, 2014
  3. This sounds delicious! Thank you! I love salmon, but have been getting a bit bored with it lately and need to try something new :)

    Lindsay wrote on May 17th, 2014
  4. I would just invest in a smoker–who has a wok with a lid? You can get a decent smoker for about $100.

    I’ve got a standing smoker. When I smoke ribs or a brisket in the bottom I’ll throw salmon on the rack at the top in some tinfoil for 30 minutes–the smoked salmon helps with the 4-hour wait for the meat.

    Ben wrote on May 17th, 2014
  5. Yep. You can get a good smoker for a couple hundred dollars. This idea works great, too, I imagine.

    C L Deards wrote on May 17th, 2014
    • It sure looks yummy! I really miss salmon, I used to eat it 2 or 3 times /week. I just don’t trust the safety anymore. I can’t bring myself to rely on the same folks who have brought us the ‘food pyramid’ to tell me if the radioactive fish is safe. Any thoughts??

      Barefoot girl wrote on May 17th, 2014
      • I really love salmon but also have this concern when purchasing. Any advice for safe, somewhat budget friendly salmon?

        Michele wrote on May 17th, 2014
        • Every few months I order wild salmon directly from Alaska, and it’s shipped (for free!) overnight. It arrives frozen, vacuumed sealed in small portions, so I keep it in the freezer and take out a few pieces each week.

          It generally costs less than Whole Foods (I’m in Boston), about $170 for 10-12 lbs. Not exactly budget-friendly, but I like that I’m purchasing high quality fish, sustainably sourced. Check out:

          jdm wrote on May 20th, 2014
    • Any recommendations?

      Jennifer wrote on June 24th, 2014
  6. Looks like I will try this but may be too much work to make it worth repeating, I guess can’t hurt to try.

    Michele wrote on May 17th, 2014
  7. 2 questions
    1. Is brown sugar primal ? I know it is not paleo
    2. I live in china and don’t have access to wild salmon and can only buy farmed salmon . Is it better to eat farmed salmon than no salmon at all or are the risks of toxins from the farmed version overpowering the benefits ?

    Jo wrote on May 17th, 2014
  8. Let’s not forget the ghetto metal (aluminum) garbage can hacker smoker. Channel youtube!

    Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on May 17th, 2014
  9. Now what about if I have an electric oven? How do I adjust for that?

    Megan wrote on May 18th, 2014
  10. Good article, worth a try for smaller portions. BTW farmed salmon from British Columbia is a very good option, here’s a link on food safety :
    There is quite a lot of outdated and false info out there regarding farmed salmon, it does people a disservice by recommending against it these days

    Pete wrote on May 18th, 2014
  11. Do you think cedar wood chips would work?

    Chantelle wrote on May 19th, 2014
  12. For those concerned about salmon, try steelhead trout – similar look, taste, and fat profile, but they live in lakes up here in Canada. Safer bet anyway.

    Jasmine wrote on May 19th, 2014
  13. Smoked meats is a great way to extend a primal protein palate. Copper River Salmon is only available for a short time. I finally invested in a Bradley smoker so I can enjoy it all year long by doing about 10 lbs at a time. I would emphasize the importance of the drying time. I use a box fan with a disposable furnace filter. I set it on bricks so it blows upwards under the smoking racks set in a large cardboard box. I dry it overnight or until the raw filets have a dry leathery surface. If this step is not complete the end product will sweat the whitish albumen from the meat. It will still taste great but will be drier and not cosmetically appealing.

    With a commercial smoker and a vacuum sealer, the bulk processing of less expensive cuts like lamb shanks, pork shoulder, beef brisket, etc. are endless.

    jack lea mason wrote on May 19th, 2014
  14. Looks like i’ll do this however is also an excessive amount of work to form it price continuance, i suppose can’t hurt to do.

    John Peter wrote on May 20th, 2014
  15. Thank you for the post. I would like to test this menu as soon as possible in my home.

    Rocky wrote on May 20th, 2014
  16. I am a newbie at cooking and smoking. Any possibilities I can see how the “tent” is folded. Thanks!

    Miranda wrote on October 26th, 2014
  17. This sounds great, but I don’t understand how it can be true paleo with all that brown sugar to cure it before smoking.
    Please explain as it doesn’t make sense.

    Cath wrote on November 8th, 2014
  18. This is excellent. We used to live in the Pacific NW and loved the native hot smoked salmon. I have made this twice already, and it is excellent.

    Lisa wrote on January 16th, 2015
  19. Try smoking the salmon in your oven, it’s much simpler than using a wok. Prep the salmon the way you normally would, then follow the directions below.

    Take a two-piece broiling rack and place the salmon on the top rack (the part with the holes) and place the bottom tray underneath the salmon to catch any drippings.

    Place a smoker box with your favorite wood chips in a 200 degree oven and this is the most important part – turn on your oven fan! You can control the amount of smoke inside your oven by covering the burner where the smoke vents to your fan with a lid. Depending on the thickness of the salmon, smoke for 30 minutes (give or take a few) and you’ll have a great piece of hot-smoked salmon, even in the dead of winter.

    Russ wrote on February 21st, 2015
  20. Why is it important to dry the surface of the fish before smoking?

    Mike wrote on August 24th, 2015

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