Discover the Best Wood for Smoking Salmon

Ah, the art of smoking salmon – a culinary technique that not only preserves the fish but also imparts unique flavors and aromas that are simply irresistible. But did you know that the type of wood you use can make all the difference in the world? In this blog post, we’ll explore the best wood for smoking salmon, share tips on achieving the perfect smoked salmon, and even touch on sustainability. So let’s dive in and discover the smoky world of salmon!

Key Takeaways

  • Discover the best wood for smoking salmon, including Alder, Apple, Cherry, Maple and Oak.
  • Avoid Cedar, Hickory and Mesquite when smoking salmon as they can overpower its natural flavor.
  • Mix woods together to customize your smoked salmon’s flavor & use a meat probe to monitor temperature for perfect results!

Top 7 Woods for Smoking Salmon

A picture of salmon being smoked over wood

Unlocking mouthwatering flavors in smoked salmon begins with the right wood selection. The best woods to use are hardwoods from fruit or nut trees, as they provide a consistent smoke, and enhance the natural taste of the delicate fish.

The top 7 woods for smoking salmon are:

  1. Alder
  2. Apple
  3. Cherry
  4. Maple
  5. Oak
  6. Beech
  7. Pecan

Each of these woods brings a unique flavor profile to your smoked salmon, ranging from mild and sweet to strong and smoky.

Here is an in-depth analysis of each of these woods.

Alder Wood

Alder wood is a delicate hardwood that offers a mild, subtly sweet flavor, making it the go-to choice for seasoned pitmasters when it comes to smoking salmon and other smoked fish. This wood’s gentle smokiness allows the natural taste of the salmon to shine through without being overpowered.

Alder wood pairs well with fish and poultry, so feel free to use it when cooking other types of delicate meats as well.

Apple Wood

If you’re looking for a sweet and refreshing flavor that complements salmon, apple wood is a fantastic choice. Apple wood imparts a sweet and fruity flavor that enhances the delicate texture of salmon, making it an excellent choice for smoking fatty fish.

Apple wood’s mild citrus flavor makes it perfect for smoking salmon without overwhelming its natural taste. To create an award-winning salmon, try combining apple wood with a hint of hickory for a robust smokiness.

Cherry Wood

Cherry wood is a versatile option that adds a mild, sweet taste and a rich, fruity flavor to smoked salmon. Its unique flavor profile pairs well with other woods like oak or alder, allowing you to create a customized smokiness for your salmon.

Cherry wood chips, ranging from 0.3 to 0.8 inches in size, burn slowly and provide a consistent smoke, ensuring your salmon gets that delectable zingy flavor without burning too quickly.

Maple Wood

Maple wood is another excellent choice for smoking salmon. It adds a subtle sweetness and a mild smokiness that complements the salmon perfectly. Maple wood is hard to overdo and burns steadily, providing a long-lasting, sweet aroma without overpowering the natural flavor of the salmon.

Commonly used for smoking cheese and poultry, maple wood’s sweet notes and mild smokiness make it a well-rounded choice for enhancing the flavors of your smoked salmon.

Oak Wood

Oak wood is a versatile hardwood that provides a pleasant, medium-strength smoky flavor without overpowering the taste of the salmon. Its deep-colored smoke adds a nice smokiness and complexity to the salmon, allowing its natural flavor to shine through.

Oak wood is perfect for cold smoking salmon due to its slow-burning nature. However, it is quite heavy and dense, requiring a good amount of heat before it starts producing smoke.

Beech Wood

Beech wood is a mild and nutty option that’s perfect for beginners. This versatile wood is compatible with various smoker types and can deliver intense smokiness if pre-soaked. Its mild, nutty flavor works well with all sorts of smokers and is great for smoking salmon without overpowering its natural taste.

To enhance the intensity of the beech wood flavor, try pre-soaking the beech wood chips for around 30 minutes, allowing them to produce more intense smoke and burn for longer.

Pecan Wood

Pecan wood has a powerful, fruity, and smoky flavor but should be used sparingly or mixed with lighter woods to avoid bitterness. This hardwood imparts an amazing flavor to smoked salmon when used in moderation or combined with milder woods like beech or alder.

However, using too much pecan wood can result in an overpowering and bitter taste, so it’s essential to find the right balance to achieve the perfect smoky flavor for your salmon.

Woods to Avoid When Smoking Salmon

While there are many great options for wood when smoking salmon, some woods should be avoided due to their overpowering flavors or potential health risks. Cedar, hickory, and mesquite are examples of such woods.

These woods have strong flavors that can easily overpower the delicate taste of salmon, so it’s best to stick to milder options like:

  • alder
  • cedar
  • maple
  • apple
  • cherry

For a more enjoyable hot smoked salmon experience, try our delicious smoke salmon.


Cedar wood is a type of softwood often used for smoking salmon. However, it has a strong, resinous flavor that may not be suitable for all palates. For a milder alternative, consider using fruit wood instead.

Cedar wood is often combined with other types of wood to create a more balanced flavor profile, but it’s important to weigh the pros and cons before deciding if cedar wood is the right choice for your smoked salmon.


An image of a salmon fillet being smoked on a grill using Hickory, the best wood for smoking salmon.

Hickory wood is a hardwood known for its strength and durability. While it has a unique flavor that can bring out the taste of smoked salmon, hickory’s strong flavor can easily overpower the subtle taste of salmon if used excessively.

It’s essential to be mindful when using hickory wood for smoking salmon and consider mixing it with milder woods to achieve a more balanced flavor profile.


Mesquite wood is another strong hardwood that can make salmon taste bitter if used excessively. While it has a unique flavor and aroma that some people enjoy, mesquite wood can be challenging to work with and may produce high smoke levels. It’s best to use mesquite wood sparingly or mix it with lighter woods to avoid overpowering the natural taste of the salmon.

Using mesquite wood in moderation is the key to getting the most out of its unique flavor

Tips for Perfect Smoked Salmon

A picture of different types of wood used for smoking salmon

Achieving the perfect smoked salmon is an art form that requires attention to detail and an understanding of the many factors that can influence the final result. By following tips on mixing woods, controlling temperature, and experimenting with different techniques, you can unlock the true potential of your smoked salmon and impress your friends and family with your culinary prowess.

Here are these tips explained in more detail.

Mixing Woods

Mixing woods can create unique and customized flavor profiles for your smoked salmon. By combining different types of wood, such as alder and apple or cherry and maple, you can achieve a smokiness that appeals to your taste preferences.

Remember to consider the flavor profiles of each type of wood and the size and shape of the wood, as these factors can impact the overall flavor of your smoked salmon.

Temperature Control

Achieving the desired smokiness and texture in your smoked salmon hinges on proper temperature control while cooking fish. Gradually bringing up the temperature helps avoid white albumin, an unappetizing side effect of overcooking.

Use a meat probe to monitor the internal temperature of the fish and smoke it until it reaches 145°F. After 30 minutes, test the temperature and adjust the smoking time accordingly, depending on the thickness of the salmon, until it reaches the desired internal temperature, typically around 135°F.


Experimenting with different woods, temperatures, and smoking times can help you find the perfect combination for your taste preferences. Don’t be afraid to try new things and make notes on what works and what doesn’t.

This way, you can refine your smoking process and discover new flavor nuances, elevating your smoked salmon to new heights.

Cold Smoking vs. Hot Smoking Salmon

A picture of a salmon being cold smoked

Both cold smoking and hot smoking are popular methods for preparing smoked salmon, but they differ in various aspects such as temperature, flavor, and texture. Understanding these differences can help you choose the best method for your smoked salmon, as well as the most suitable woods for each technique.

Examining the differences between cold smoking and hot smoking salmon can provide valuable insights.

Cold Smoking

Cold smoking involves a gentle process that results in a tender texture and even smoky flavor, using traditional woods like beech, oak, apple, and cherry. This method smokes the salmon at a low temperature for a longer period of time, giving it a fresher, less smoky flavor than hot smoking.

Cold smoking, also known as the cold smoke method, is ideal for those who prefer a mild flavor, offering a more delicate smoked salmon experience.

Hot Smoking

On the other hand, hot smoking allows for stronger wood flavors to be imparted into the salmon and can be enjoyed either warm or cold. This method involves smoking the salmon at a higher temperature, which also cooks the fish during the process. Some popular woods for hot smoking salmon include walnut, lemon, and pecan.

The choice between cold smoking and hot smoking ultimately depends on your personal taste preferences and the type of flavors you wish to achieve.

Wood Shapes and Sizes for Smoking Salmon

A picture of different shapes and sizes of wood used for smoking salmon

Different wood shapes and sizes can be used for smoking salmon depending on various factors like the smoking method, heat source, and smoker type. From wood chips to logs and chunks, each shape and size has its advantages and best uses.

The suitability of various wood shapes and sizes for smoking salmon deserves a detailed examination.

Wood Chips

Wood chips are the most commonly used shape for smoking salmon and work well with various smoker types. They provide a clean smoke and can be easily adjusted to achieve the desired smokiness.

To get the best results, use dry wood chips and soak them in water for at least 30 minutes before use. This will help you get a clean smoke and prevent the chips from burning too quickly.

Logs and Chunks

Logs and chunks are ideal for cold smoking or longer burns, providing a consistent and slow release of smoke. These larger wood shapes burn slowly and steadily, making them perfect for smoking salmon at a lower temperature for an extended period of time.

Whether you’re using logs or chunks, it’s essential to choose the right wood type to ensure the best flavor and smokiness for your salmon.

Sustainability and Smoked Salmon

Choosing salmon for smoking fish should also factor in sustainability, as with any culinary choice. Farmed fish can be a sustainable option if sourced correctly, such as sustainably farmed salmon from indoor recirculating tanks that feed the fish sustainably and treat the wastewater.

When purchasing salmon, don’t hesitate to ask your fishmonger about the origin of the fish to ensure you’re making an environmentally conscious choice.


In conclusion, smoking salmon is an art form that can be mastered by selecting the right wood, controlling temperature, and experimenting with various techniques. By choosing from the best woods such as alder, apple, cherry, maple, oak, beech, and pecan, you can unlock a world of unique flavors that will impress your friends and family. Remember to avoid woods with overpowering flavors or potential health risks and always consider sustainability when choosing your salmon. So go ahead, explore the world of smoked salmon, and create a culinary masterpiece that will leave everyone asking for seconds!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best wood to smoke fish with?

For the best flavour when smoking fish, experiment with cedar wood, alder wood, apple wood, hickory wood, and mesquite wood. Each one brings its own unique profile to the dish and can create a signature smoked fish you’ll want to make again and again.

What type of smoking is used for smoked salmon?

When it comes to smoked salmon, Alder wood chips are the most popular choice for achieving a mild flavor profile that complements the delicate flavor of the fish. For a stronger smoky taste, hickory or other options such as apple, cherry, pecan or maple can be used.

What kind of wood do they use to smoke salmon in Alaska?

Alder wood is commonly used in Alaska to smoke salmon, as it adds a fragrant flavor to the traditional smoked salmon. You can purchase Alder chips to recreate this flavor at home.

How much wood chips to smoke salmon?

To smoke a 1-2lb salmon fillet, you will need about 1 cup of wood chips, soaked in water for 30 minutes.

What’s the difference between cold smoking and hot smoking salmon?

Cold smoking salmon results in a fresher, less smoky flavor, while hot smoking gives it a stronger smoky flavor.

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