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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. 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
We served this with a simple baby spinach salad. Other good choices would be Green Beans, Grilled Broccoli, or Traeger Baked Potatoes. And for dessert, you have to try our Rasberry White Chocolate Cookies.
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 or hickory or your favorite blend.
Make sure to try our Easy Whole Smoked Trout next!