The Smoker Prepares Hot Smoked Salmon

SmokerCough, cough, splutter, cough…….. Wheeeze, cough, cough, wheeeeezzeeee. Yes. That was me every morning. I used to be a very heavy smoker. Not that I have ever been ‘very heavy’ in the weighing scales sense. Nor in the deep thinking department either. That would have made me a very heavy, smoker. In plain language, I used to smoke a lot. An awful lot…

When I was in secondary school, we 5th and 6th years (16 to 18 year olds) had our own smoking room. At break time, we would cram ourselves into the small unfurnished chamber and drag the guts out of a couple of Major or Rothmans before returning to our youthful education. After school and college, in my early days in the advertising workforce, I was a 60 a day man.

I quit a number of times but was dragged back (pun intended) almost as often as I stubbed out the habit (that one too). I eventually got sense and gave them up for good. The day after my last cigarette, I sat on my bed and cried. I wept like a baby for “just one more”.  Strangely, that gave me the inner strength to finally decide that I would never, ever smoke again.

That was over a quarter of a century ago and I am now about to break that tearful, youthful resolution.

“Don’t do it” I hear you cry. But, I’m not that daft, really. I am going to smoke. But, I am going to prepare Hot Smoked Salmon in my new smoker, just arrived after internet ordering from the comfort of the couch. I got the impetus to order the smoker from Stefan over at Stefan Gourmet, following our excellent visit to Stefan in Amsterdam earlier this year.

Hot Smoked Salmon

The ingredients are all in the picture. As is my brand new smoker.

The first thing to do is to chop the onion and garlic.

Hot Smoked Salmon

I got to do this outside on the first lovely day of the year.

Next I made my brine. I used a few spoons of salt in the water, stirring it in until it would not dissolve any more.

Pouring salt

If you like this pouring shot, you will love one further down…

Then I added a few spoons of muscovado sugar.

Plenty of sugar needed to balance the salt.

Plenty of sugar needed to balance the salt.

When most of the sugar was stirred in, I poured it into a non-metallic dish. You will forgive me using two pouring shots here, I know.


This one qualifies as pouring porn.


The brine is a nice dark brown colour.

Next we add the onion, bay leaf, garlic and black pepper. Then we gently immerse the salmon in the mixture.

Hot Smoked Salmon

Lovely salmon, swimming just below the surface. Well, floating, actually.

I left the salmon in the brine for six hours. I took it out and pated it dry. Then I placed it on a rack in the oven and turned on the fan. I left it in there for two hours, air drying without heat. This allows a sheen called a pellicle to form on the fish. This is essential for flavour.

Hot Smoked Salmon

I added the wood dust to the smoker.

Then the salmon was added and the burners were lit.

Hot Smoked Salmon

The smoking needs to be done outdoors. The beechwood has a strong flavour.

Twenty five minutes in the smoker and we ended up with this beautiful salmon.

My first experiment in hot smoking. It worked very well indeed.

My first experiment in hot smoking. It worked very well indeed.

I served it with some salad ingredients including the potato and chive salad made with my thrice beaten mayonaise.

Absolutely delicious while still warm. Significantly better when cold.

Absolutely delicious while still warm. Significantly better when cold.

More smoked treats to follow as I get the hang of different ingredients. This must be the first time that a family was happy to see one taking up smoking.

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Latest comments
  • Great pictures! Really fabulous! I’ve got one of those smokers!

    • Thanks Rosemary, I got lucky on the pouring shot! Dig out the smoker and you, Stefan and I could have an international smoke off.

  • I haven’t used mine in ages …. You’ve inspired me to dig it out!

    • Do dig it out. Perhaps I can get some interest in my smoke-off idea.

  • I bet that was delicious, I like the look of the potato salad with it too… Now I have the munchies!

    • The thrice beaten mayo really was very good. As long as you discount the three attempts, the washing up and the waste of eggs.

  • Great blog again Conor! I have to try this smoking lark…

    • You have to Brian. You have the mackerel jumping out of the water at you down there. I plan to spin for them when the season arrives and smoke / photo / blog from the beach. That could be fun.

  • Very nice! Was it difficult keeping the salmon lit — after being out of practice for 25 years?

    • No problem at all. Though I don’t want to think what it must be like to go back on the ciggies after that length of time.

  • ah, using your smoking skills for good, not evil. looks delicous.

    • Thank you! I cooked a side for the team in the office a couple of weeks after doing this. It was really good. More to follow, I promise.

  • That looks delicious, I love smoked salmon but I have never tried smoking it myself. You make it look easy 🙂

    • It is really simple to do. The smoker set me back €50 or so and was delivered to the office. Everything else was just a matter of timing.

  • Love the pouring shots. Baby Lady is going to have to sharpen her game if she’s going to keep up with you. 😀 Love the technique and the final product looks absolutely delicious. All of my smoking I do outside. If I got one of those stovetop smokers 1) I would set the kitchen on fire; and 2) drive my neighbors nuts with the fire alarm constantly going off. 😮 In law school I got up to 1-1/2 packs/day. I quit when my namesake, as a toddler, asked me if I didn’t love him because I was damaging my health from smoking. 😮 He was cute back then 😉 and that was roughly 25 years ago.

    • Great to be off the demon weed. I was particularly pleased with that first brine pour shot. A stroke of luck as I was also pressing the button on the camera. On a side note, would you be interested in joining an international smoker chalenge / smoke-off, if I were to bring it together? No pressure…

  • Wow. I’m so impressed. Two questions: 1) What kind of smoker is that and 2) What kind of camera are you using to get those incredible pour shots?

    • It is a €50 special bough online from
      The camera is a different story. It’s a Canon 5D Mk11 with a fixed 50 mm. 1.8 lens. I get lucky too as I am not a great photographer by any standard.

      • Ah. The Canon 5D explains it. That’s a great camera! I was thinking of nabbing one of those for myself in the future! Well done!

        • Thanks. I am about as good with the smoker as I am with the camera. A lot to learn about both.

  • Some of the best smoked salmon I’ve ever had was in Ireland, near Galway.

    • There is the Burren Smokehouse in Lisdoonvarna, Co. Clare. Not far from Galway and they do some fantastic hot and cold smoked fish.

      • Yeah, seems like we might’ve been in Co. Clare near the Burren. I remember passing through a town called Kilcolgan. Being a “Colgin”, I had to get out of there fast!

  • Looks amazing! It’s too bad I’m short on space and money to get a smoker myself, but it gives me something to aspire to. 😛 Hope things are well over there! 🙂

    • We have learned to travel optimistically. It is said that is better than to arrive. I wouldn’t mind arriving.

      • Good point, but I definitely hear you on the arriving. One of these days perhaps.

  • Superb result – thoroughly professional looking and, no doubt, tasting. I hadn’t realised these bits of kit existed. I can get hot smoked salmon fresh from the local fish deli, but he tends to overheat it and so becomes a bit dry.

    • You have no excuse now Phil. It is easy to do and really delicious.

  • I can’t believe you smoked 60 a day! I am so glad you have switched to salmon. As my brother-in-law says “It’s a bitch to roll, but once you got it, easy enough to light.” LOL

    • LOL indeed. Very glad to be off them myself.

  • As a longtime fan of pouring-sprinkling-scattering and dropping porn, I approve of your shots. Only two? We don’t have a dedicated smoker, but we do have a Big Green Egg, and we frequently give bluefish or wild salmon the low-and-slow smoky approach. Cough on! Ken

    • Thanks Ken, you should post some of those. I would like to see the results.

      • Take a look on Friday morning. There are usually a couple an any post with detachable ingredients. 🙂 Ken

  • Well done, Conor! That salmon and dish you prepared looks incredibly good. I’ve not seen that kind of smoker with burners. That makes so much more sense than trying to use one in the oven.

    • Hi John,
      They are excellent to use and the result is pretty good too. I am looking forward to doing more with it.

  • You kill me with those pouring shots. Pouring porn! I love it. And I love that you made such a wonderful recipe for your first smoker meal. It seems as though everyone I know is getting a smoker this season; I’m quite jealous. But I’ll just have to live vicariously through you guys. Nice work.

    • Thanks Tommy,
      I did get lucky with that shot. Shooting outdoors is so much easier.

  • Hi Connor, delicious fish & delicious pics. We actually own on of those at home (but I’ve) given up on using it and decided to smoke on the BBQ with foil wrapped chicory chips instead. Your photos make it look so easy, what kind of burner do you use? My lovely bloke insists on trying the mentholated spirits version, but the excessive flames freaked me out! ny advice, greatly appreciated 🙂

    • Hi Alice,
      Mine is methylated spirits too. Do it outside and don’t over-fill it. Then everything will be fine.

  • You scare me for a second with that picking up smoking again thing. The salmon looks perfect! This smoker is certainly a great investment. And you are seriously playing with shutter speed. Beautiful moments in those pouring shots!

    • Thanks Danny. I had a bit of fun with the pouring and a lot of luck.

  • Wow! How impressive is that? You make it look so easy (and tasty), I’m almost running away with the notion I could do it myself!

    • You could easily do it Aoife. I work on the principal that if Conor can do it, anybody can.

  • What a great idea!.. I got a present of Diana Henry’s ‘Salt, Sugar, Smoke’ at Christmas and have been coveting a smoker ever since. Thanks for all the details

    • Hi Catherine, it really is straightforward to do and delicious. Do give it a go.

  • We love our smoker on our grill. Your salmon came out beautifully.

  • Holy salmon! Perhaps you should consider food photography as a side job! You must be so pleased with your new smoker. What a wonderful gift to yourself.

  • Fabulous-looking fish. You’ve inspired me to dig out our hot smoker. International cook-off? Does the UK qualify as international these days? What did you have in mind and can anyone play?

    • Hi Linda,
      Still cogitating the approach and yes, the ‘Mainland’ is definitely considered to be abroad. The smoke off could be fun. I must draft rules and get the invites out.

  • Perfect smoking, though you would have been flogged at my school for smoking in the sixth form 🙂

  • I want that smoking-hot Salmon !
    What a vibrant, cozy, inviting recipe ! Love the way you story-tell and put together the pictures.

    • Thanks Nusrat. I love your friendly comments.

  • What a nice smoker and an even nicer smoked salmon.

  • You are so funny and entertaining. I love the smoker – so quick and easy! I’m going to be needing one of those. And the “pour shots” – very cool – you are a great photographer. The salmon looks delicious!!

    • Thank you! I really got lucky with that one.

  • So glad you kicked that habit Connor! Your salmon looks gorgeous! Looking forward to more of your smokin’ ideas… I believe I can create a smoker with my Weber charcoal BBQ. Can’t wait to give this one a go!

    • I might have to invite you to the looming International Smoke Off, when I get my act together on the rules…

  • I got friends in advertising who smoke like the chimney! And I’m sure the folks at Cooper Price smoke about 120 a day! Whats up with all the advertising folks? Glad you gave that bad old habit a kick. Smoking a fish is something I have never done. I might give it a go. Inspired by you, I did buy a pasta maker which is still in its box – think I should give that a go first! hen smoked salmon carbonara.

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