Ginny is passionate about eating healthy, sustainable foods.
It isn't too often that I get weak in the knees over a recipe, but smoked salmon on a Big Green Egg is one that really does it for me.
I will warn you upfront, this is not one of those "cook an entire feast in 10 minutes" recipes. In fact, it will take the better part of the day, but it is worth every minute of the wait.
I brined the salmon overnight and then smoked it the next day. It was ready in time for a late lunch! It was tempting to take the salmon off early as the filet looked divine! I am very glad we waited, as the final product was nothing short of amazing.
Just in case you think I am being a bit dramatic, I didn't get the salmon inside the house before my son grabbed a fork and started eating straight from the filet. He was darned-near full before dinner even began—that turkey!
Dry Cure Ingredients
- 1/2 cup kosher salt, (don't try to use other types of salt)
- 2 cloves chopped garlic
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp freshly grated ginger
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 2 leaves crumbled bay leaves
Dry Cure / Brine Instructions
- Mix the ingredients in a bowl.
- Spread liberally on both sides of the filet.
- Cover with Saran Wrap and place filet in a glass container in the refrigerator for 8 hours.
- After 8–10 hours, remove the filet and wash off the mixture extremely well with tap water. Note: When you think you are done, wash it again otherwise you may find the filet to be a bit salty.
- Place the filet back in the refrigerator uncovered for another two to three hours. This will give the filet the time it needs to dry off.
- After two to three hours, the salmon should be tacky to the touch. It is ready to be put on the grill.
Brining the Salmon
I thought it was worth calling out the change in the texture of the salmon after brining for about 8 hours. Before the brine, the filet was soft and supple. Afterwards, the filet became stiff.
Also, the brine pulls a lot of the moisture out of the salmon. Look at the amount of liquid in the glass container. After a few hours of air drying, the filet will be ready for the BGE.
Importance of Drying the Filet
After the salmon is finished with the brine and it is washed thoroughly, the filet must dry. After a few hours in the refrigerator, the salmon forms a pellicle. This is the tacky surface of the fish that is created by the proteins in the meat.
For the purposes of smoking, it is the pellicle that captures the smoke. If you put the salmon on the smoker without this important step, it will not develop that delectable flavoring.
Soaking the Wood Chips
I chose applewood for my smoking chips. It gives off a mild flavor, as opposed to some of the stronger flavors like hickory or mesquite. Definitely experiment and see which intensity you prefer.
Regardless of the type of wood, you should soak the chips in water for at least one hour. That helps to regulate the speed at which they smoke once they are placed within the grill. You should keep a few handfuls in reserve in case the smoking takes longer than expected.
Preparing the Grill
Preparing the grill is an art form. I prefer to light the grill, bring it up to a high temperature in order to ensure that the fire is evenly spread throughout the coals and then bring the temperature down to about 180 degrees.
For my grill on a 50-degree day, that meant my bottom and top vents were only open about 1/4". Every grill is different, so adjust yours accordingly.
Once the temperature has dropped back down, I added applewood chips around the perimeter of the inside of the BGE. There wasn't as much heat around the perimeter and I found the chips to smoke more slowly than if I had dumped them in the middle of the coals.
Lastly, I added the plate setter inverted with the grill on top. I added a disposable aluminum pan directly on the plate setter with ice to catch the drippings. For more detailed instructions, read about how to set up your Big Green Egg for hot smoking.
When Is it Ready?
The salmon filet is ready to serve when the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.
That said, I find that I can simply look at the filet and see if it is ready. Expect that it will turn a deep orange/red and the texture will be firm.
The longer you smoke it, the more flavoring it will take on, so don't rush the process.
It typically takes about 4 to 5 hours if I use the plate setter. If you are in a rush, remove the plate setter, but the salmon will not have as rich of a flavor.
The first time I smoked a salmon, I made a few mistakes. Don't get me wrong, the salmon was still mighty tasty, but there were a few areas I wanted to improve.
First, I used Sea Salt instead of Kosher Salt. I am not sure that made a huge difference in the process, but the end result was a bit saltier than I would have cared for. I limited the brining process to 8 hours and made sure I had washed the brine off a lot more thoroughly the second time.
Second, I placed the salmon in a disposable pan on the BGE. While this worked perfectly for stopping any drippings from lighting up the charcoal, it stopped me from getting both sides of the salmon equally smoked. I should have used the tiered rack that first time. With the salmon on the higher rack and a drip pan beneath it, I would have had both sides smoked and still stopped the drippings. I have used the tiered rack since, and it has worked wonderfully!
On the flip side, I was VERY happy using the plate setter. I placed this flat-side down which created indirect heating. The smoke ran up the sides and over the filet. The only drawback to this is if you need to add more wood chips. Either the plate setter needs to be removed or the chips must be carefully placed in the openings.
I smoked my first salmon at 160–180 degrees for about five hours. I had not even brought the filet inside before my family was eating it. Mercy, was that good!
© 2013 Ginny
Adam Boys on June 10, 2019:
Thank you! I followed your recipe to the letter and it’s just incredible. In Scotland (where I am from) this is Braden Rost and it’s as good as I’ve ever tasted. In fact, it’s better. By the way, I used Dark Muscavado brown sugar.
The tip about washing is really key!
A great recipe. Thank you for going to so much trouble to share in detail.
Smokin on December 28, 2018:
I’ve used this method several times. I usually cover the salmon in honey & brown sugar before smoking it- turns out delicious
Ginny (author) from Arlington, VA on February 12, 2018:
INDSK, two things may have occurred. If you used table salt, or a finely chopped salt, the salmon can be too salty. The second thing is that the brine should be thoroughly washed off before it goes on the grill to remove the salt
INDSK on February 11, 2018:
I tried this recipe and sorry to say I failed. The salmon was much to salty for one. I smoked it at 200. It never reached 160 and when I did take it off it was dry and tough. I used the plate setter with a water pan under the salmon. It was cooper river sockeye. Any thoughts on where I went wrong?
NOLA Mike on January 21, 2018:
I have used this recipe many times and without fail, it has come out great! It's easy to prepare and requires few ingredients. I have thought about other recipes but always fall back to this one!
LBinGA on December 28, 2017:
OMG delicious! Thank you for the step by step instructions. We are on our second one today. The first one was eaten so fast, some of the family said it was the best thing they've ever eaten! Here's to another successful smoke today. :)
Thetravellers on November 05, 2017:
Great recipe! Was delicious. Thanks for adding as well the things you improved upon as it helped me a lot!
chris on May 15, 2016:
I've made this now several times, and i'm not sure when it's done. I typically cook until it's 160 deg, but last couple of times the fish is a little soft and squishy inside when we are eating it. should i be cooking it longer to make it firmer and more flaky? First time i made it was perfect, but not sure what might be different now. Any help is appreciated, but the fish is still delicious!
Big Greg Egg on January 15, 2016:
Is soy sauce used at any staged of the game? I've been a hero with this recipe before, but for some reason i remember soy sauce in it.
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on December 20, 2015:
Great recipe, Ginny! I'm dying to try some easy salmon cooking recipes. If you don't have a grill, how else can you smoke it? It looks delicious!
Grant on December 12, 2015:
I've made this several times with atlantic and also sockeye salmon. It always comes out delicious. A True Delicacy! Everyone who tries it raves about it and can't stop eating it. I use a temp controller to ensure I don't get too hot, keeping the egg between 190 and 200 degrees. One thing I do is to make sure the container is covered with saran wrap while brining, not the salmon itself as the recipe implies. You want the salt to pull the excess water out of the filet and if you've wrapped the filet the water can't go anywhere. And I set the salmon on a rack in the container (of some sort) so that its not sitting in a pool of moisture through the brining process. Oh, I like the Wild Caught Sockeye salmon better than the "farm raised" Atlantic (I'm told there is no such thing anymore of Wild Caught Atlantic Salmon). One last tip, I have found that unless the ambient temp is relatively cold less than 50 but preferably less than 40, it is difficult to keep the egg cooler than 200 degrees and still produce enough smoke. So I stock up on sockeye in the late fall/ winter and smoke it on a cold day.
Russ on October 26, 2015:
Do you know what the difference in taste is between Pacific and Atlantic salmon for your smoke recipe. Thx
Jerry on August 22, 2015:
My first time smoking salmon and I'm using this recipe. I'll let you know how it goes. Thanks for posting
al on August 18, 2015:
Tried this recipe twice, first time had some salmon from Lake superior, second time was some farm raised salmon from the store. Fresh from the lake was way better. Since I've heard that farm raised isn't even pinkish orange. They have to dye it that color. If you're going to do all the work, use wild salmon. More expensive than farm raised, but we'll worth it.
Ruth from St. Paul. MN on July 27, 2015:
Your recipe sure sound delicious but I don't outdoor grill. I do, however, cook salmon on the stove and add onions and olive oil for taste though.
peachy from Home Sweet Home on June 25, 2015:
Wow it requires a day of preparing the salmon
joe on December 03, 2014:
I gotta tell you, i've been smoking salmon on the BGE for a couple years now and even my flops were great...but this was probably the first one i've ever done that I think could have held its own with anything I've ever bought or had anywhere anytime! totally professional. It didn't hurt that I had a Digix BBQ guru and was able to keep temp @ 180. I also used cedar chunks. Absolutely PERFECT! THanks!
Annabel from Singapore on June 30, 2014:
your tips are useful and that salmon is looking fresh
Ginny (author) from Arlington, VA on May 07, 2013:
Astlyr, this is a delicious fish! I really enjoy that earthy, smoked flavor that the wood chunks give the fish. I hope you enjoy it!
Astlyr on May 07, 2013:
Great recipe, I love salmon I just eat it with a little butter and some lemon, your recipe is awesome, but I can't cook.
Is to complicated for me, but i'm sure going to try some of your other salmon recipes.
I would love to try this plate though!