If you are looking to enjoy a nice thick, juicy, flavorful salmon fillet, this Traeger Smoked Salmon Recipe is for you. Easy to make, full of flavor, and absolutely delicious dry brined salmon will become your go-to salmon recipe.
There are tons of salmon recipes out there. You can cold smoke them, hot smoke them, cure them for lox, grill them, bake them, and on and on. I wanted to treat it like a nice big cut of beef and cook it on my Traeger with the goal of letting the salmon really capture the smoke flavor. Picking a salmon that is fatty and can retain its moisture is important. I always pick wild salmon when cooking because it will have less saturated fat than farm-raised salmon. Sockeye Salmon and Atlantic salmon will be on the fattier side, they work well with this application.
How to brine Salmon with a Dry Brine Mixture
Dry brining prior to smoking salmon is key to a well seasoned and moist smoked salmon fillet. Brining is a way to impart salt, sugar, and flavor into a protein. It is so easy to make dry brined salmon.
Ingredients for the Dry Brine
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup white sugar
- ½ cup kosher salt
Step One: Combine all three ingredients into a small bowl and mix thoroughly. Place your salmon fillet in a cooking sheet or tray and sprinkle the brine mixture over the entire length of it. Be sure to cover both sides with brine.
Step Two: Once the salmon is covered in brine. Leave it skin side down, and cover it with plastic wrap. Let it sit in the refrigerator for thirty minutes to an hour. If you have a small wire rack to let the dry brined salmon sit on in the tray, that will help a little more as you pull that excess liquid from the salmon.
Step Three: Remove salmon from the refrigerator. You will see that a lot of excess moisture has been pulled out of the salmon from being in the brine.
Step Four: Rinse the salmon well under cold water. We want to remove any excess salt so that the salmon is not too salty. Once it is rinsed, pat it dry with a paper towel. Let it sit another ten minutes to air dry a little more.
How to Smoke Salmon
While your salmon is sitting to dry, preheat your smoker. I have a Traeger Pellet Grill that I like to use for salmon and other shorter smokes. The Traeger Smoker is less preparation and clean-up than your traditional charcoal smoker or stick burner. Preheat your smoker to 225°F.
Step One: Once the smoker reaches 225°F, go ahead and place salmon skin side down directly onto the grill grate. Because the salmon fillet is thin, you need to carefully monitor the internal temperature to ensure that you do not overcook it. I recommend using a leave-in meat thermometer that will update you on the changing internal temps as you cook the salmon.
Step Two: You need to determine what level of doneness you like. I prefer a rarer finish to salmon so I cook it to an internal temp of 125°F. I recommend not cooking it over 140°F. Once the temperature gets that high, it can start to feel like a runaway train and it becomes very easy to overcook and dry out your salmon.
Step Three: When the Traeger smoked salmon is done remove it from your smoker and let it rest on a cutting board. Cut the salmon into portions and serve. I like to use my pepper mill and grind some fresh black pepper on it as I serve. It adds a nice subtle compliment of spice to the smoke flavor. You can also drizzle a little maple syrup or make a glaze to add a bit of sweetness to the Traeger salmon.
What to Serve with Traeger Smoked Salmon
Salad: We served this hot-smoked salmon with a simple baby spinach salad. We like to add some thinly sliced red onions and a bit of finely chopped apple along with a light white balsamic dressing.
Sides: Other good choices would be Green Beans, Grilled Broccoli, or Traeger Baked Potatoes.
How to Use Leftover Cooked Salmon
Try using this in our Crispy Salmon Bites. Crispy Salmon Bites are an excellent dinner idea or a fun party snack as well. Easily ready in minutes, these bite-sized appetizers feature savory and healthy snacking ingredients. Tasty for any gathering or evening at home.
Another great choice is a Salmon Ball. This Salmon Ball is an appetizer that will be especially helpful for a crowd and can be assembled rapidly on smaller timelines with minimal preparation. It's both easy to prepare and delicious. You can also spread this in a pie plate and serve as salmon dip instead of a ball.
Why use a Traeger Grill for a Smoked Salmon Recipe
There are several electric smokers out there. When I purchased the Trager it was because of the great features that it has. One of my favorite features of the Trager is the Super Smoke Feature. At temperatures under 225°F, you can use this feature to help increase the amount of smoke being generated. It allows you to produce more smoke in a shorter amount of time so that the proteins that require a shorter smoke, can still acquire great flavor. Using this technique for dry brined salmon makes it so flavorful and juicy.
I already mentioned the ease of setup and clean-up that the pellet grills provide. It makes it easier if you are not setting up to be smoking for several hours. Additionally, I like the choice of wood flavors in the pellet varieties. You can a great choice of wood flavors as you do with wood chips. Some of the pellets come in premade blends or you can create your favorites. For this Traeger smoked salmon, I went with cherry wood pellets for the smoke. You can easily do this with oak, alder, or hickory, or your favorite blend. You will get that delicious smoky flavor with any type of wood.
What type of salmon filet should I use?
You can use any type of fish in this recipe, whether freshwater or saltwater. We've used king salmon and wild coho salmon. You can use farmed Atlantic salmon if that is all you can find.
Make sure to try our Easy Whole Smoked Trout next!
- 1.25 lb salmon
- ½ cup kosher salt
- ¼ cup white sugar
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- Combine salt, white sugar, and brown sugar in a small bowl to use as a dry brine.
- On a rimmed baking sheet or in a large container, cover both sides of the salmon filet with dry brine mixture. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Remove the salmon from the refrigerator and rinse under cold water to remove any excess brine from the fish. Pat dry with a paper towel and let air dry for about 10 minutes.
- In a 225°F preheated smoker, place the salmon skin-side down directly on the grate. Let it cook for about 40 minutes or until the salmon reaches your desired doneness. The salmon should easily flake apart when you pinch it with your fingers or a fork.
- Once it is done, remove it from the smoker and let it rest for a few minutes. You can drizzle it with a maple glaze or fresh lemon juice.
Originally Published December 1, 2021. Revised and Republished December 29, 2022.
I’m looking to cook my wild sockeye salmon in my electric smoker but I can’t have sugar - can I brine the fish without sugar?!
Paul & Taryn
Sure, you can brine it without sugar.
Easiest I’ve ever done and absolutely fabulous! Smoked a 2 1/2 pond fillet cut off 4 steaks and made smoked salmon cakes from the rest.
OK, this is tremendous and I am a critical reviewer of my own food. I considered myself to be pretty good when I hit the kitchen. Loaded with flavor. Smoked on the Traeger with Apple pellets and my smoke tube for 40 minutes. All I need is some almond flour crackers and this fillet and dissapear for an hour. Thank you for this recipe! Going in the books!
I use atlantic salmon, turns out great.
After rinsing off and dry, I put Safeway old fashion pancake syrup and smoke.
Great taste and coloring.
With good quality salmon, there's no better way to prepare it than this - love the smoked texture and the brine creates such wonderful flavor!
Wow, your salmon looks wonderful. Where do you get your salmon? I have a hard time finding wild-caught salmon where I live. The best Salmon I've been able to find is at Costco but it's not wild.