Smoked Salmon Recipe Using Barbecue Grill

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Category : Appetizers, Breakfast, October, Recipes, Snacks, Whatcom Locavore Basics

Smoked SalmonI’d read you could smoke salmon in a charcoal barbecue grill using a hot smoking technique, so I decided to try it with some fresh chum fillets I’d just cleaned. Chums make good fish for hot smoking because they are a fattier salmon and so stay moister during smoking. The fish I had was caught the previous day by local reefnet fishermen here on Lummi Island.

I made the brine/marinade shown below and soaked a couple of fillets overnight in the refrigerator. The next day, I took the fillets out to drain and dry slightly. I also put a couple big handfuls of alder chips (purchased at Yaeger’s Sporting Goods, 3101 Northwest Ave., Bellingham) in a bowl of water to soak for a few minutes.

While the fish drained, I lit 16 charcoal briquets using a “chimney.” I don’t like the fumes and gases from self-starting briquets, and ditto for lighter fluid. The chimney allows me to light plain charcoal with paper.

When the charcoal was ready, I drained the water off the alder chips. I put half the charcoal on each side in the bottom of the barbecue. The fillets were placed skin down on the center of the grill rack about six inches above the barbecue bottom. Last, I put a small amount of alder chips on each pile of charcoal to make the smoke, and put the lid on the barbecue.  The goal is to maintain a low temperature–ideally about 160 degrees F. (I wasn’t able to do that, and my temperatures went over 200 degrees F.) Every 20 minutes I took the lid off, letting heat escape, checked the salmon, and added more alder chips before replacing the lid.

Smoked salmon is done when it will flake, or when it tastes how you want it to taste. After about two hours, mine was ready. We served it on biscuits with homemade paneer cheese.

What food experience could be more classic Pacific Northwest than fresh smoked salmon, a pint of caviar, and salmon fillets in the freezer for winter? And it all came from one very beautiful fish and fishermen who use sustainable techniques. I feel grateful to both fish and fisherman. We are so blessed to be living here.

Smoked Salmon Marinade
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
What says Pacific Northwest more than fresh smoked salmon? Here's a recipe you can use to smoke salmon in your charcoal barbecue grill.
Recipe type: Appetizer, Breakfast, Snacks
Cuisine: Pacific Northwest Locavore
Serves: 1 quart
  • 1 qt. water
  • ¼ cup kosher or pickling salt (iodine-free pure salt--can be purchased at Yaeger's Sporting Goods, Bellingham)
  • ¼ cup honey (Red Barn Lavender, Ferndale)
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar (BelleWood Acres, Lynden)
  • 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped (home garden, Lummi Island)
  • 2 heads fresh dill (Boxx Berry Farm, Ferndale)
  1. Mix all ingredients in a plastic container until salt and honey are dissolved. Place salmon fillets in mixture, skin side up. Salmon should be completely covered with marinade. Cover container, and place in refrigerator to marinate overnight.
  2. (See full article for instructions for smoking fish in your grill.)


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