This honey smoked salmon will take your dinner standards to a whole new level. To develop the dish’s signature hickory smokiness and sweet-heat coating, the salmon is first bathed in a flavored brine for hours. Then it meets the grates of a grill that’s filled with hickory smoke. It smokes for just under an hour, then your delectable salmon is ready for the dining table.
Brining meat (yes, even seafood!) is our favorite way to prep meat for the grill. It ensures tender, juicy results every time. This hearty caramelized salmon is no exception. Just add a side of veggies and grain of choice, and you can customize this meal for all your menu rotations.
How to Buy Salmon at the Grocery Store
The best types of salmon to use in this recipe—and for smoking in general—are sockeye, king and coho. Make sure you’re familiar with how to buy salmon so you’re selecting a fresh fish. Keep in mind our tips on how to tell if a fish is bad based on the smell, texture and appearance.
Ingredients for Honey Smoked Salmon
- Brown sugar: Brown sugar sweetens the salmon brine and provides extra browning power for the salmon’s skin.
- Salt: Salt is used in the brine to denature the salmon’s proteins and lock in moisture.
- Gingerroot: Freshly minced gingerroot adds a pleasant zippiness to the salmon’s flavor.
- Allspice: Allspice brings notes of warm cinnamon, spicy clove and aromatic nutmeg.
- Salmon: Don’t be intimidated by cooking with salmon! We’ll walk you through how to cook salmon with the hot-smoked method so you can become a salmon-cooking pro.
- Honey: Honey creates a sweet glaze on the salmon that pairs beautifully with smoked hickory.
- Peppercorns: Crushed peppercorns add a sharp, piney flavor to brighten the salmon.
- Hickory wood chips: The best wood for smoking salmon is hickory, but you could also use alder, apple or oak. Hickory wood chips produce a rich, pungent flavor and impart a deep color to foods.
Step 1: Create the brine
In a small saucepan, combine the brown sugar, water, salt, gingerroot, bay leaves and allspice. Bring the mixture to a boil. Cook, stirring, until the brown sugar and salt are dissolved. Remove from heat. Add the cold water to cool the brine to room temperature.
Step 2: Brine the salmon
Place the salmon in a large resealable plastic bag. Carefully pour the cooled brine into the bag. Squeeze out as much air as possible, and seal the bag. Turn the bag to coat the salmon in the brine. Refrigerate for four hours, turning occasionally.
Step 3: Remove the salmon from the brine
Drain and discard the brine. Rinse the salmon, and pat it dry. Spread the honey over the fillet, and sprinkle with the crushed peppercorns.
Editor’s Tip: If you have the time, air-dry the salmon before grilling it. Meats that are air-dried before cooking will crisp up and caramelize better than if they still had some moisture on their surface. Learn more in our guide on how to brine practically any meat. To air-dry your salmon, after you rinse and pat dry the salmon, place it, uncovered, in the fridge for 12 to 24 hours. This isn’t necessary, but we love the outcome.
Step 4: Smoke the salmon
Add the hickory wood chips to the grill according to manufacturer’s directions. Place the salmon on a greased grill rack, skin side down. Grill, covered, over indirect medium heat until the fish flakes easily with a fork, 45 to 50 minutes.
Editor’s Tip: Salmon is a tender and delicate fish, which means that grilling it can be a fussy process. Learn how to grill salmon to avoid a crumbly mess and hours spent cleaning the grill.
Honey Smoked Salmon Variations
- Swap out the honey: No honey on hand? Save a trip to the store, and use maple syrup or brown sugar instead.
- Boost the brine: If you love a flavorful brine, add additional seed spices like coriander, fennel, celery and caraway seeds.
- Smoke with another wood: Instead of hickory chips, smoke your salmon with fruity alder, sweet apple or smoky oak.
How to Store Honey Smoked Salmon
To store, allow the honey smoked salmon to cool to room temperature. Place the salmon in an airtight container, and store in the fridge for up to three days.
Honey Smoked Salmon Tips
How do you serve honey smoked salmon?
Serve honey smoked salmon plain as an entree alongside rosemary roasted potatoes and asparagus or a rainbow of herb-buttered baby carrots. Or flake the salmon, and use it in a comforting dish like our Northwest salmon chowder or creamy salmon linguine. For fresher salmon recipes, try using this honey smoked salmon in our salmon burgers with tangy slaw.
Can I serve this honey smoked salmon on a charcuterie board?
No, we do not recommend you serve this honey smoked salmon on a charcuterie board. Since this is hot-smoked salmon, the salmon will have a flaky texture that’s better suited for warm meals. For charcuterie boards, your best bet is cold-smoked salmon or cured salmon like lox, which has a silky-smooth texture perfect for layering with soft cheeses, pickles and red onion slices.