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!
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.
- 1 1/2 pounds salmon filet, cut into equal width portions
- 1/2 lemon, sliced into rings
- 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
Preheat the Traeger
Preheat Traeger to 225°F. If your Traeger has the Super Smoke setting, turn it on as well.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Serve the Traeger smoked salmon
Serve the salmon with extra lemon wedges. Enjoy!