Salmon is one of the most popular fish for smoking, and it will indeed taste delicious if you smoke it properly using suitable wood chips. Salmon is also a name commonly used to refer to various species of fish. The trout, grayling, whitefish, and char are some of the fish in the salmon family. Yet, some of the best salmons for smoking include the chinook, pink, Atlantic, Pacific, chum, sockeye, and coho salmons. So, if this is your first time smoking a salmon, it will help to know the salmon type you need to buy to ensure you end up with a deliciously smoked salmon.
At the onset, it will be best to choose which kind of salmon you will smoke because salmon’s firmness and texture differ from one type to another. Chinook salmon, for example, is one of the largest. Its flesh is deep red and is very flavorful. Its meat is also rich, buttery, and delicate. Moreover, it comes with high oil content. Pink salmon, on the other hand, has low oil content in its flesh. Thus, it is light tasting and tender.
Types of Wood Perfect for Smoking Salmon
It will be good to remember that salmon’s smoking result will depend on the wood chips you use to smoke it. There are myriads of wood chips you can choose from for smoking salmon. Yet, you need to select the suitable wood that complements well the texture and flavor of salmon. If you choose the wrong wood chips to smoke salmon, you may end up with a bitter-tasting smoked fish. So, it will help learn the different characteristics of wood chips and the following most suitable wood chips for smoking salmon:
1) Alder Wood Chips
Since salmon has a distinctive taste, flavor, and texture that you want to maintain and preserve, you need to choose a wood chip like the GrillPro 00250 Alder Wood Chips. Alder, of course, is a hardwood that is gentle and not overpowering. It adds a delicate flavor to the salmon without overpowering the salmon’s natural flavor.
Some Chefs, however, maintain that alder is relatively weak for smoking salmon. Yet, if you cold-smoke salmon, the smoking process may last for a day. You can slow coat salmon using alder wood chips sans turning it sour or overwhelming its flavor.
Alder, thus, can provide the salmon with a subtle flavor. Seasoned salmon smokers favor the alder because of this subtle effect on salmon. Alder, of course, is weak for red meat, too strong for poultry, and is ideal for salmon.
Moreover, it renders the salmon a brown glaze that makes it appear very delicious and appetizing. Some experienced smokers, however, have a diverse view of the alder. Some smokers, for example, find the subtle effect of alder a bit muted. So, they mix the alder with other wood chips to provide it with a stronger kick.
One good example of alder wood chips is the GrillPro 00250 Alder Wood Chips. These wood chips feature a reusable bag that is sealed to keep the chips fresh for a longer time. These wood chips, however, tend to burn quickly to produce more smoke.
Thus, you need to attend to the smoking process with care. One tip, however, is to keep the smoker at a low temperature to ensure that the salmon will get the right smoke amount. If you’re a beginner, this one is a perfect choice for you.
2) Cherry Wood
Another excellent wood chip option is cherry wood chips. Cherry comes with a fruity flavor. It brings in a sweet and delicious taste to your salmon. Moreover, it is the favorite of many smokers when smoking poultry and fish. It leaves a mild sweet taste as a versatile wood that lets the salmon retain its natural flavor.
Besides, it renders the fish a delightful mahogany hue that is quite appetizing to look at. You can pair the cherry wood with pecan, alder, or oak. In this way, you can create that distinctive smoky nuance with a rich profile. Since cherry produces nuts as a tree, it gives the salmon a fruitier flavor.
So, if you are still undecided as to which wood to use for smoking salmon, you should check out the cherry wood chips for smokers. One cherry wood product in the market today is the Cherry Wood Chips for Smokers. You should check this product out if you wish to use cherry wood for smoking salmon.
3) Apple Wood
Another wood that complements salmon well is applewood. The applewood produces that fruity and sweet smoke that mix well with the salmon flesh. The applewood, of course, is a bit stronger than that of beech and alder. Yet, it delivers a slight citrus flavor to the smoked salmon. Moreover, this flavor isn’t that overwhelming. It also creates a delicious crust for your salmon that you would love to feast on.
One perfect example of an applewood product in the market today is the Mr. Bar B Q 05012X Apple Wood Chips. It is one-hundred percent made of applewood and comes with no added chemicals. You can use this product with any heat source like gas, electric, charcoal, and smokers.
3) Beech Wood
A light but long-lasting flavor is best for smoked salmon, and one better way to achieve such flavor is by using beech wood. The beech wood is not overpowering nor strong. If it is your first time smoking salmon, you might as well consider beech wood.
Beechwood generates a clean and cool smoke that is light on your fish. It gives the fish a nutty flavor that you would surely love. When selecting beech wood products, you should go for products that don’t come with additives, for these additives may affect the overall taste and flavor of the salmon.
Beechwood is known for quickly burning, and it burns slowly. Moreover, it is perfect for gas-powered and electric smokers. It will be best to soak the wood chips first in water for thirty minutes. In this way, they will produce more smoke and will not burn quickly.
The oak is a bit heavier than cherry and apple, but it is lighter than mesquite and hickory. As such, you can expect the oak to be in the mid-range flavor. Oak produces a distinctly rich flavor that works well with salmon and other similar fish.
Oak, of course, is slow-burning. So, it is ideal for cold-smoking your salmon. If you want to hot smoke using the oak, it will be best to choose smaller oak wood chips to control the temperature more closely. In this way, you can infuse the amount of smoke for your fish.
Oak as a wood chip for smoking fish is not the favorite of most smokers. Some find it a little rich and tannic. Hence, they usually smoke using oak wood chips with apple or combine them with other fruitwoods to lighten up the smoke.
To add an extra zest to the taste of your smoked fish, you can soak the oak chips in bourbon or whiskey to create that distinct taste. Oak works well with any type of grill and smoker. But one downside of its use is its more pronounced denseness and heaviness, which requires more heat to produce smoke. You can use the oak dry or you can presoak it before smoking.
5) Maple Wood
Maple is another excellent option when it comes to smoking salmon. It brings in a delicate sweet flavor to your smoked fish. Moreover, it is a bit mild and is not overpowering the natural salmon flavor. Thus, it provides the fish with a subtle sweetness that you will surely love.
I got several maple trees in my backyard, and I used every maple variety I got to smoke fish and pork. I must admit that it’s a bit light for my palate. So, I don’t use it for beef. Sometimes, I mix cherry or apple with maple to add more flavor to my smoked fish.
Maple wood, of course, is ideal for smoking and cooking, and it depends on which tastes and level of smokiness you would like to achieve that matter when you use maple.
6) Pecan Wood
Pecan is a hickory species that is native to Northern Mexico and the Southern United States. It is cultivated more for its edible seeds, but it is also ideal for smoking meat. It offers a nutty and sweet flavor as compared to other fruitwoods.
If you are a beginner at smoking salmon, it will help if you are careful with pecan wood chips. One wrong move and you produce a pungent and bitter-tasting salmon.
As a wood, pecan is cool-burning and must be seldom used. You can use it with salmon sparingly to provide your salmon with a warm and delicate taste. You can blend it with other lighter wood like alder and beech.
Woods To Avoid For Smoking Salmon
As mentioned above, some woods don’t complement the salmon well. These woods may make the salmon less edible and even not fit to eat. Hickory and mesquite, for example, can burn too quickly and produce more heat. So, it is difficult to use for smoking salmon wherein you would like to stay low and slow when smoking. Moreover, these two kinds of wood are too overwhelming and strong for salmon.
Another wood that you should not use for smoking salmon is cedar. Cedar doesn’t burn in a smoker. Although its planks are used for cooking fish, it is not ideal for use in smokers.
You should also steer away from using softwoods like pines and conifers. These woods produce resinous substances and carry a large amount of sap. They could make your salmon taste bad and can cause sickness. Below is a rundown of other woods you should avoid using for smoking salmon:
You can use mesquite for smoking meat, but with salmon, you should not use it. Mesquite has a strong flavor that can be overpowering for salmon. You can try it, however, if you want to experiment with it. If you’re going to try it, mix it with some milder woods.
You should not use conifers and pines, for they also contain too much sap and resin. The sap of these wood would make the salmon taste weird and can also make your guests sick.
Hickory is perfect for smoking poultry and game meat. But you should refrain from using it with salmon because it renders a robust taste to salmon. Yet, if you enjoy a heavily flavored smoked salmon, go ahead and try the hickory.
If you would like to try hickory, be very careful, for it can render your salmon bitter and inedible. It can also bring in an earthy and sharp taste to your salmon.
It will be best to note that if you expose your salmon for an hour to the smoke of hickory, the hickory smoke can overpower the natural flavor of salmon. So, if you’re a beginner, you might as well steer away from using hickory.
4) Cedar Wood
Cedar doesn’t burn well in the smoker. Of course, you can use cedarwood to smoke salmon. In fact, it can provide the salmon with a delicious taste. You can solve the age-old issue of fish quickly falling apart while grilling with the use of cedarwood. But the only problem with cedar is that it doesn’t burn quickly and well in a smoker.
What Wood Shape and Size are Suited for Smoking Salmon
Wood chips come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes. Your choice, however, will depend on several factors. First, you need to ask yourself whether you will cold smoke or hot smoke the salmon. You also need to know your heat source. Moreover, you need to consider whether you will use an electric, gas, or solid fuel.
Wood chips, of course, can get the job of smoking salmon done because they could produce smoke with ease. They also burn fast. However, if you are engaged in cold smoking, you can use chunks and logs if you are using an offset smoker. You can also use wood dust when you want instant smoke. You can use wood dust for smoking a small salmon fillet.
If you’re new to the smoking process of salmon, it will be best to start with alder because it is not that strong. It is also just enough to provide your salmon with flavor to satisfy your palate. Afterward, you can transition to stronger and more flavorful woods.
Of course, you got plenty of options when it comes to wood for smoking salmon. Yet, it will all boil down to what flavor you would like to achieve, how you would smoke the salmon, and how long you would smoke the salmon.
The use of applewood would be very impressive, especially if you mix it with a bit of hickory. You can likewise experiment with different combinations of woods to achieve the best-smoked salmon.