Servings4
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time1.5 Hours
Skill Leveleasy

There are hundreds of dry brined smoked salmon recipes on the internet, but none of them hold a candle to this garlic and dijon Traeger smoked salmon. This will be the most flavorful, tender smoked salmon you’ve ever eaten. Oh, and it’s keto-friendly!

Ingredients

Main

  • 1 1/2 pounds salmon filet, cut into equal width portions
  • 1/2 lemon, sliced into rings

Herb Butter

  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

Helpful Tools

Steps

  1. Preheat the Traeger

    Preheat Traeger to 225°F. If your Traeger has the Super Smoke setting, turn it on as well.

  2. Make the butter herb mixture

    In a small bowl, combine all of the herb butter ingredients. It's best to soften the butter and not completely melt it to ensure a solid coating and more even distribution of the ingredients on the salmon.

  3. Prepare the salmon

    Slice the salmon into even portions, if purchased whole. Using a spatula or spoon, generously slather the herb mixture evenly over each of the salmon slices. Place a lemon slice on top of the mixture on each piece of salmon.

  4. Smoke the salmon on the Traeger

    Place the salmon directly on the grill grates of your Traeger and smoke for 1.5-2 hours (time can vary depending on the size) until the internal temperature reaches 140°F (see the notes section on wild-caught vs farm-raised salmon and cooking temperatures for more info on final temp).

  5. Rest the Traeger smoked salmon

    Remove the smoked salmon from the Traeger, tent loosely with aluminum foil, and rest for 10-20 minutes before serving.

  6. Serve the Traeger smoked salmon

    Serve the salmon with extra lemon wedges. Enjoy!

Notes

What Temperature Should I Smoke Salmon To?

As mentioned in the wild-caught vs. farm-raised note below, salmon doneness temperature can vary based on many factors. When grilling salmon on high-heat, I usually cook to a final temp of 120-125°F depending on the type of salmon, but personally like the texture better at 140°F if farm-raised and 130°F if wild-caught when smoking at lower heat - you may like it cooked more or less though. Also, there is less carryover when smoking at a lower temperature, so pulling at 125°F when grilling on high heat, for example, will raise another 5-7 degrees as it rests. I always cook to temperature and not an amount of time by using a leave-in meat probe or instant read thermometer. Every grill is different and could result in overcooked or undercooked salmon. Always use a thermometer to ensure perfect doneness. You can find the exact thermometers I use here.

How to Choose a Good Salmon Filet

Salmon has many varieties, so it can be a bit tricky to know which type to choose. There are three main differences between filets: oil content, color, and size. King salmon is generally the largest-sized filet and the most expensive, with the highest oil content and beautiful pink color. Sockeye, coho, and Atlantic salmon are all mid-sized filets, vary in color, and have a decent oil content. These are good options if you don’t want to spend too much. Finally, there are chum and pink salmon, but these are typically canned or sold in a pouch.

Wild-Caught Versus Farm-Raised Salmon

The identifiers like “Pacific” or “Alaskan” tell you where salmon was caught, but nothing about how it was raised. For that information, look to “wild-caught” or “farm-raised.” Wild-caught will always be preferable for taste and nutrition makeup, and for something truly special, look for salmon labeled “troll-caught” or “line-caught,” indicating the salmon was fished with a rod instead of a net. Farm-raised salmon is unavoidable for most mainstream grocery stores, but it is possible to shop for sustainably raised salmon for better environmental impact and nutritional makeup.

Cooking time also varies between Wild-Caught and Farm-Raised salmon. This is because it has less fat, and the muscles fibers are already a little bit firmer. For the most part, you'll want to smoke wild-caught salmon to a lower temperature - approximately 120-130 degrees Fahrenheit - to avoid drying out. Farm-raised salmon can be cooked to higher temperature while still remaining moist.

Cold-Smoked Versus Hot-Smoked Salmon

Both of these types of salmon are smoked, but as the name indicated, one with heat and one without much heat. Cold-smoked salmon is typically dry-cured in salt and then smoked at a very low temperature, and is popular as deli-style meat, such as topping for a bagel and cream cheese. It has a very soft and silky texture. Hot-smoked salmon is typically brined and then smoked at a higher heat, but still pretty low (e.g. 225°F). Usually thicker filets are smoked, resulting in a very flaky texture, and it is often glazed with sauces like maple or teriyaki sauce. Using a Traeger to hot-smoke the salmon will produce very good results, as salmon responds well to hot-smoking thanks to its high fat content.

Brining (or Wet-Cure) Versus Dry-Brining (or Dry-Cure)

The terms brine and cure are sometimes used interchangeably and refer to the preparation of cuts of meat or seafood before cooking or smoking. Brining or wet-curing a cut of meat is when the meat is placed into a solution of water and salt, and sometimes other ingredients like juice, spices, or herbs. Dry-brining or dry-curing is when the meat is rubbed with salt or a salt mixture before resting. Sometimes with dry-curing, a fan is used to help dry the outside of the meat off before cooking or smoking. Some recipes, such as this Traeger smoked salmon recipe, skip the curing process altogether for faster results, and a spice or butter rub on the meat or seafood provides tons of flavor.

What Color Should the Salmon Be When Cooked?

Salmon will lighten in color when cooked, but overcooked salmon will turn an opaque pinky-white color. Ideally, salmon will retain some pink, and be opaque pink on the outside and slightly translucent pink on the inside. It will also flake when pressed gently. 

How Can I Tell When The Salmon is Done Smoking?

The color should be an indicator, as the outside of the salmon will begin to turn an opaque pink color and lighten a bit, but ideally, you should use a thermometer and cook to temperature. Medium-rare is anywhere from 125 to 140 degrees F, and will result in a slightly translucent pink center with a wonderful flaky texture. Taking the temperature over 140 F will result in overcooked salmon, and it will be opaque throughout with a dry crumbly texture. Below 110 F, the salmon is considered raw and could result in food poisoning.

Why Is Smoked Salmon Good for a Keto Diet?

Salmon is one of the best proteins to eat on the Keto Diet. Salmon is extremely high in omega-3 fatty acids, meaning it has a high content of good fats. Good fats help fuel your body throughout the day, are essential to the keto diet, and are amazing for your brain and heart. 

Comments

  1. Mike Steiner
    October 17th, 2022
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    Brand new to smoking and got a Traeger 855. After ‘seasoning’ my smoker, I let it cool down to 225. I had an almost 3 lb salmon filet (from Aldi’s grocery store and I couldn’t determine if wild or farm-raised). Anyway, I doubled the recipe and cut the salmon into individual portions and seasoned them up accordingly. I placed them on the smoker and stuck in the probe in the thickest filet (note, I did not remove the bottom layer of skin which I probably should have). Anyway, the probe said 130 degrees after about 40 minutes. Being a newbie and considering that the recipe said 1.5-2 hours, I thought it was a mistake and moved the probe into another filet and it was nearly the same so I’m thinking that maybe the probe isn’t working so I kept on cooking. By the time the probe reached 140, it had cooked another 15 minutes. I cut into one of the filets and it seemed done so I removed them all.

    First, the filets were probably a tiny bit over cooked but still really good, so kudos Allan! However, can you or someone explain to me what I may have done wrong? I realize the timing of recipes can fluxuate but this was pretty significant. Not sure if it was because of the skin still on the fish or something else but would appreciate any feedback.

    Thanks,
    Mike

    1. Allan Kiezel
      October 17th, 2022
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      Hey Mike, first of all thanks for trying the recipe – I’m glad you enjoyed it! Your comment is the main reason I always say cook until temp and not time. There are many factors in terms of why something would cook much quicker including size at the thickest part of the salmon, outside wind & temps, wild-caught or farm-raised, where inside the smoker you place the meat (smokers have hot spots), etc. If you make the recipe again and some of the factors mentioned change, the time will definitely vary. Hope that helps! 🙂

  2. Courtney
    August 22nd, 2022
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    Very tasty, but even at 200 mine was done in 45 minutes

    1. Allan Kiezel
      August 24th, 2022
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      Glad you liked it Courtney! It definitely depends on how cold it is to start and how thick of a cut you’re using. I appreciate the feedback!

  3. Holly
    May 8th, 2022
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    What flavor of pellets are used for salmon?

    1. Allan Kiezel
      May 9th, 2022
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      Hey Holly! Most people recommend using Alder for lighter taste. Apple and cherry are pretty solid too if looking for a single flavor. Personally I like a signature type blend of hickory, cherry, and maple to give it a bit more smoker flavor.

  4. Pete
    April 27th, 2022
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    My new favorite way to make salmon. Soooo tasty! Thank you Allan 🙂

  5. Sara B.
    March 9th, 2022
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    Love this salmon recipe! Delicious and simple. Can’t wait to make it again!

  6. Art S
    January 13th, 2022
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    2 words… freaking delicious!

  7. RICH V
    January 12th, 2022
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    First time using butter on salmon and definitely not the last!!!!

  8. Reggie
    January 12th, 2022
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    Now you’ve got me eating healthy! What’s next? Man this was delicious though!

  9. Alex Tamken
    January 10th, 2022
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    This is LEGIT! Always did it the brown sugar brine method but this is wayyy better! I’ll be using this recipe from now on.

  10. Marty
    January 9th, 2022
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    I was honestly a bit skeptical because it’s different, but boy was this good! Saving this one!!!

  11. Felix
    January 2nd, 2022
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    This was amazing Allan!!

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