How do experts smoke salmon on their Traeger grills? Well, I found out and based on what I learned; I created my own recipe for smoked salmon using a pellet grill that you can use on your Traeger, Pit Boss or Z Grills.
Here’s how experts smoke their salmon and how I smoke mine. How do you cook your salmon? We’d love to know!
Meet the Pros
After long hours reading recipes and watching videos of people smoking salmon on the grill, I found two reliable and authoritative YouTube videos that take salmon cooking to another level. One from Malcolm Reed, from HowtoBBQRight and one from Chris from White Bulls BBQ.
The two seasoned pros show how to smoke and glaze a salmon filet, and they have vastly different approaches. The results, though, are lovely in both cases. Let’s talk about how the two Grill Masters cook their salmon and let’s see what we can learn from each. Remember, there’s more than one way to skin a cat, or in this case, to smoke salmon.
Overview of Malcolm Reed’s Traeger Smoked Salmon
Malcolm Reed’s approach to smoked salmon is quick and easy. Concisely, Malcolm cooks salmon at high temperatures for faster results. Malcolm gets bonus points for grilling some asparagus to complement his salmon, so you’re getting a whole meal, all done in 30 minutes.
So, how does Malcolm Reed smokes salmon on a Traeger Ironwood? It all starts with two salmon filets portioned in 4-6oz pieces, and he leaves the skin on. This is important. Malcolm also glazes and seasons the salmon before cooking and even allows the fish to marinate for 30 minutes in the fridge.
As for the glaze, Mr. Reed use molasses, soy sauce, white cooking wine and a pinch of red pepper flakes for this one. The glaze also helps the seasoning stick on the salmon. Talking about the seasonings, Malcolm uses his very own Pastrami rub, basically black pepper, salt, turbinado sugar, garlic, onion, coriander and mustard.
The secret here is glazing the salmon, seasoning it and letting it rest in the fridge while you light up the grill. The temperature matters, so the pro turns up the temperature to 325°F. He also recommends using pecan pellets and light woods, like alder, ash or apple.
After fifteen minutes on the grill, the salmon already reaches 115°F. Five more minutes, and the salmon is ready with an internal temperature of 130°F.
The result? A flaky salmon that slides off the skin with a glossy and sticky crust. The asparagus are tossed with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and garlic are they are ready at the same time as the salmon.
- Fast and easy.
- The fish is already portioned.
- You get to cook asparagus at the same time.
- The salmon is not particularly smoky.
- Pastrami seasoning, really?
- Cooking Temp: 325°F
- Seasoning: Pastrami rub
- Glaze: Molasses, soy sauce glaze and white wine
- Cooking time: 20 minutes
- Internal temp: 130°F
- The secret: Glazing, seasoning and marinating before smoking.
Overview of Chris from White Bull BBQ Smoked Salmon on a Traeger
Chris, from White Bull BBQ, has an entirely different approach to smoking salmon in a Traeger Pro 780. He’s all about low-and-slow cookin’, and the result is as beautiful as the one described above.
Chef Chris doesn’t cook any veggies or sides, but his salmon filet is so pretty you don’t even need them. How do the folks at White Bull BBQ smoke salmon? It all starts with a large, boneless, skinless filet. In this case, we’re cooking it whole.
Another interesting difference is that we’re rubbing the salmon with spices, but we’re not glazing it until later.
The spices for this one are the brand’s own Rack City for Ribs Seasoning and Pulled Hog for Pork Spices. Basically, dehydrated onion and garlic, brown sugar, paprika, salt, pepper and mesquite smoke flavor. Rub the salmon and let it dry brine for ten minutes.
As for the temperature, Chris goes for a low 225°F, aiming for an internal temperature of 145°F. This takes two hours, so you can immediately see this is a whole other cooking method. After one hour, Chris glazes the salmon and finishes it for one more hour until the salmon is done.
The glaze includes honey, maple syrup and Traeger ‘Que Sauce, which is smoky and sticky. The result is a large filet with an even crust that’s more caramelized than sticky. The flesh is tender but not as flaky, and the smoke flavor is more even and intense.
- Traditionally smoked low and slow.
- Not rushing the glaze seems like a good idea.
- It takes two long hours.
- Are you sure you should season salmon with pork spices?
- No side dish, Chris?
- Cooking Temp: 225°F
- Seasoning: Pork ribs and pulled hog spices
- Glaze: Honey, maple syrup and Traeger ‘Que Sauce
- Cooking time: 2 hours
- Internal temp: 145°F
- The secret: Season first but glaze after one hour in the smoker.
Traeger Smoked Salmon Recipe
Based on what I learned from these two grill masters with two unique ways of smoking salmon, here’s my take on the delightful dish. How do I smoke salmon on a pellet grill? Here it is.
- 1 whole salmon filet, boneless, with skin
For the rub:
- 2 tbsp freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
For the glaze:
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- Combine the spices for the rub: black pepper, garlic, onion and oregano (I don’t use salt since we’re using soy sauce on the glaze).
- Mix the honey and soy sauce in a mixing bowl and set aside.
- Heat the pellet grill to 275°F with light smoking wood of your choice.
- Spray the grill with cooking oil and place the filet on the grill.
- Cook for 45-50 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 130°F.
- Glaze the salmon and cook for 10 more minutes, aiming at 130-145°F.
- Serve and Enjoy!
Traeger Smoked Salmon Filet
- Traeger Pellet Grill
- 1 Whole Salmon Filet Skin On
- Dry Rub
- 2 tbsp Black Pepper
- 1 tsp Garlic Powder
- 1 tsp Onion Powder
- 1 tsp Dried Oregano
- Salmon Glaze
- 1/2 cup Honey
- 1/2 cup Soy Sauce
- Heat your Traeger grill to 275°F with light smoking wood of your choice.
- Mix the dry rub ingredients and combine well.
- Stir the honey and soy sauce together to combine for the glaze.
- Season the flesh side of the salmon filet with the dry rub.
- Place the seasoned salmon, skin side down, on the smoker and cook for 45-50 minutes until an internal temperature of 130F is reached.
- Baste the meat side of the salmon filet with the glaze.
- Cook the salmon for 10-15 more minutes until an internal temperature of 140-145F is reached.
- Remove the salmon from the grill, serve and enjoy!