If you buy smoked salmon, you can save a lot of money by DIY! I’m going to take you through the process of how to smoke salmon in a Nordic Ware smoker. If you’ve ever considered smoking your own food, maybe now’s the time to try it! Keep reading for information on types of wood chips, forming a pellicle, and other tips to get you hot smoking success!
For me, there are some mornings where nothing beats salmon and cream cheese on a freshly toasted bagel. I’ll take cold or hot-smoked salmon, seasoned with a wide variety of herbs and spices. I’m not particular about it, as long as I get that smoky salmon flavor.
By the way, it’s not quite correct to call smoked salmon “lox.” Lox is traditionally cured but not smoked. However, these days, many refer to Nova-style salmon (salmon that is cured and cold-smoked) as lox.
We’re hot smoking the salmon here, so it’s not really lox by any definition. However, whatever it’s called, it is delicious. And that’s what really matters, right?
The one big downside to smoked salmon is the price. Around here, salmon is pretty expensive, and smoked salmon is even more costly.
For example, Whole Foods currently (June 2020) has fresh sockeye salmon for $19.99 per pound. Not cheap, but their hot smoked sockeye salmon will run you $31.96 per pound ($7.99 per 4 ounces). You will spend less on Atlantic salmon versus sockeye, but smoked will still cost you more.
If you don’t have a smoker, a kettle smoker is one of the least expensive ways to smoke your own foods. IMVHO, the initial investment made to purchase this small appliance has been worth it.
(P.S. This is not a sponsored post. I simply like this product!)
Using a Nordic Ware Smoker
I understand that not everyone has the money right now to invest in a large outdoor smoker. Some of us may not have the outdoor space to set up a smoker either.
As for me, I wasn’t sure how often I was going to be smoking food, so I was not ready to get an expensive setup. My Nordic Ware kettle smoker is fantastic because it has allowed me to try smoking foods and it only cost around $100. Additionally, it takes up very little space and can be used indoors or outdoors.
Since we’re smoking indoors, it is critical to have adequate ventilation available. I have a whole house fan that does a wonderful job of removing smoky air from the house. At minimum, you will want to have a stovetop vent with direct outside access running while you are smoking.
Having some windows open and not hanging over the smoker the entire time it’s on are good ideas too. However, you don’t want to leave the smoker completely unattended either! You will need to keep an eye on the temperature during the entire smoking process.
So, what if smoking food indoors is really not working out for you? Good news- you can use the Nordic Ware smoker outdoors on a grill as well. The versatility of this product played a part in my decision to take a risk and try it out.
The Nordic Ware smoker comes with a book that has a chart giving approximate smoking times for various proteins and veggies. Additionally, the book provides about 10 recipes to get you started.
I feel like this is not nearly enough information for those new to smoking foods! Let me share some things I’ve learned that will help you get started.
Tips for how to smoke salmon using a Nordic Ware smoker
First things first: the cooking times using a Nordic Ware smoker are much shorter than other smokers! Additionally, the smoking temperatures are different.
Please don’t try and apply the recipe here to a Traeger or other brand of smoker. It will likely not work out well. If you are looking for how to smoke salmon in other smokers, here's an excellent meat smoking guide:
The Nordic Ware smoker should be kept at 190-210F for smoking, so the temperatures listed above don’t work for it. On the other hand, the recommendations for wood types definitely apply.
I had hickory and apple chips available and went with the hickory for this recipe. I tend to prefer the strong flavor from hickory chips compared to apple chips. However, I might want to choose alder chips in the future, as they are explicitly recommended for fish.
The Nordic Ware Smoker guide suggests using 1-2 T of wood chips in the full-size smoker (that is the one I have). I’ve found that using 2-3 T of chips is best for an optimal smoky flavor. Don’t skimp on chips!
There are some mildly fussy steps in the recipe below that you may feel the urge to skip. Please don’t omit them if you want the best results.
After brining the fish in a salty solution, you will want to let the surface dry out. We’re going to accomplish this by patting it dry and letting it sit in the fridge for a few hours. This gives the fish time to form a pellicle, a layer that will help smoke flavor to adhere and seal in moisture.
The end result is very similar to hot smoked salmon from a high-end grocery store. I hope that you enjoy it!
And now for the disclaimer…
All recipes on this website may or may not be appropriate for you, depending on your medical needs and personal preferences. Consult with a registered dietitian or your physician if you need help determining the dietary pattern that may be best for you.
The calorie information is an estimate provided as a courtesy. It will differ depending on the specific brands and ingredients that you use. Calorie information on food labels may be wildly inaccurate, so please don’t sweat the numbers too much.
For more information on how the three recipe levels may help with a weight management goal, my overnight oats with yogurt post. Let's get cooking!
How to Smoke Salmon (Nordic Ware Smoker)
- ⅓ cup finely ground sea salt (not iodized salt)
- 4 cups water
- 1 lb salmon fillet(s) (454 grams; with skin, boneless)
- 1 teaspoon dried dill
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon lemon zest
- ¼ teaspoon Colman's mustard powder
- Put the salt and water in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the salt dissolves in the water. Do not boil the solution.
- Put the salmon in a small glass baking dish. Cover it completely with the saltwater brine. Let the salmon rest in the brine in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
- After 24 hours, remove the salmon from the brine, rinse it with cold water, and pat it dry with paper towels.
- Mix the dill, black pepper, lemon zest, and mustard powder together. Rub this mixture all over the skinless side of the salmon.
- Let the seasoned salmon rest in a single layer in the refrigerator for 2-4 hours. This step is important to form the pellicle which will help the smoke flavor to adhere to the fish.
- Set up your full-size Nordic Ware smoker with 2-3 T of shredded wood chips that are meant for smoking food. I used the hickory chips that came with the smoker.
- Put the drip pan and smoking tray in the smoker. Put the salmon skin-side down in a single layer on the smoking tray.
- Put the lid on the smoker. Ensure the thermometer is attached properly and the lid vent is closed. Turn your stovetop vent fan on.
- Put the smoker on a stovetop burner and turn the heat to medium-low. Allow the smoker's thermometer to come to 190°F (88°C).
- Once the temperature comes to 190°F (88°C), turn the stovetop to low, and set a timer to smoke the salmon for 20-30 minutes. I chose to smoke the salmon for 25 minutes. Make sure that the smoker stays in the 190°F-210°F (88°C-99°C) range for the entire smoking period. You may need to adjust the stovetop's heat or open the vent on the lid. Keep a close eye on things!
- If the heat on the smoker is rising too rapidly, you can always quickly lift the lid and peek at your salmon. This is an easy way to help bring the temperature back down.
- After the timed smoking period, turn off the stovetop and remove the salmon from the smoker. Extinguish the spent wood chips by soaking them in water.
- Refrigerate the salmon and serve it chilled. So delicious!
This is a level 1 recipe (may help support fat loss). Regardless of your health goals, salmon is probably going to be a beneficial thing to add to your diet. Like other fatty fish, it is a rich source of the omega-3s DHA and EPA. This smoked salmon is a nice way to get adequate protein in at breakfast (a meal where many of us fall short on protein). I went for a higher calorie breakfast by serving this salmon on a whole wheat bagel with cream cheese, plus fruit on the side. For a low-calorie or low-carb meal, try serving it with a veggie omelet instead. A cup of fresh strawberries would be great for a side dish and would not add much to the calorie or carb count.
Smoking your own salmon can save you money, and you can flavor it however you would like. You can skip the added sugar that is often present in store-bought smoked salmon, include your favorite herbs, and use whatever wood chips you prefer for smoking. The sky is the limit for flavor options when you learn how to smoke salmon!
Do you have a Nordic Ware smoker or another type of smoker? What are some of your favorite foods to smoke? Have you ever tried to smoke salmon? Drop me a comment below and let me know!