Cold Smoking Salmon - Wish me luck

First time cold smoking salmon. I’ve hot smoked salmon many times but decided to experiment this time for the meat course of our weekly charcuterie dinner.

I made my standard cure of salt and brown sugar but kept it on for three days because the salmon theoretically will never be cooked so the cure is the preservation. I pulled it out this morning, rinsed and dried it and it has a real nice pellicle which is what I think I want. My wood is alder chips which are really small, perfect for this application. The only issue is that my electric smoker can only get down to 100 degrees F which is a bit too high for cold smoking but ambient is only about 20 degrees so that may help. My big question is how long to leave it on. I’ve heard anywhere from 8 to 24 hours and since I’m not “cooking” it, I can’t go but internal temp.

I just started so any suggestions during the process will be greatly appreciated.

I have not done the whole curing method for this, so my experience is different for cold-smoking salmon. In an electric skillet, I lightly steam the salmon for a few minutes prior to smoking. It’s lightly cooked and warm when I put it on the smoker, skin side up.

I have one of those barrel-type charcoal smokers, not electric: lowest level is a pan with charcoals and smoke-wood, next level is a pan for water, then a couple levels for the grates holding the food. I use minimal charcoals - just enough to generate a lot of smoldering without producing flame (I use apple, cherry, or other fruit woods that I collect for free from nearby orchards when they are done with their winter pruning, or commercially available mesquite or other if I run out of the fruitwood.) I also soak the wood chunks for a while in water - it generates a lot of smoke and steam in there without igniting (and raising the temp). I keep an eye on things to ensure things are smoking, but not burning (spray bottle nearby in case).

I let it smoke for 3-4 hours depending on the thickness of the fish. It should not get too hot in there, yet the fish will finish cooking while absorbing the smoke flavor. After lifting it off the smoker carefully, it gets covered and goes in the fridge to cool, and it comes out flaky, moist, fishy, and smoky - perfect for bagels or tossed in a creamy pasta dish.

I’m thinking 4 hours too then turning off the smoker, closing the vent and letting it cool down before taking the fish out, We get top quality salmon. I panfry it to that rare, just a little raw in the middle, level and it is perfect so considering the higher temperature I think it will work out fine. And if not, it’s an experiment and I could probably salvage it.

Pulled it off after 4 hours. The electric smoker did cook it a little but the skin and grey fat came of so easily. And it looks like it has some of that creaminess associated with cold-smoked. I did not test it but I wrapped it up tight in plastic wrap, put it in the fridge and we are having it tomorrow with our charcuterie. I’ll wrap up this thread after that with our verdict and next steps.

The 6 Best Smoke Tubes for Grilling of 2022 (

I use one of these for cold smoking everything- fish, cheese, butter, sugar, chocolate, etc. The pellets just smolder and make smoke, no heat at all.

Final verdict
Pretty close to cold smoked texture but not perfect
Too salty by a bit. Cure for 1 or at most 2 days
Sweetness. Sprinkle some brown sugar on top when smoking
Smoke. 4 hours of alder was perfect. Maybe 3 but definitely not 5.

Sounds like a good first run. Maybe a little tweaking and you’ll have it down. What did you serve it with?

It was our charcuterie dinner. A couple of fancy cheeses with good sausages, crackers and jam.