Is Smoked Salmon Cooked or Raw?

No seafood enthusiast can resist the occasional smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel or smoked salmon risotto. However, not many home chefs know how to prepare it. Most casual cooks don’t even know whether smoked salmon is cooked.

Fortunately, smoking salmon is not as complicated as you might anticipate, though you’ll want to get the method right. If you’re smoking salmon for the first time, you’ve come to the right place!

Learn the best methods, the right temperature, and the most delectable pairings for smoking salmon.

What is Smoked Salmon?

Smoked salmon involves curing fresh salmon with a mixture of salt, sugar, and other seasonings that are exposed to smoke from burning wood chips or other sources. This method infuses the salmon with a distinct smoky flavor while preserving its natural taste.

Methods Used to Smoke Salmon

Below are a few common methods for smoking salmon:

  • Hot Smoking: In this method, the salmon is exposed to heat and smoke. The fish is typically cured with a salt and sugar mixture, then smoked at temperatures between 120°F and 180°F (49°C to 82°C). The heat cooks the salmon while the smoke infuses it with flavor. Hot smoking results in a fully cooked and flaky texture.
  • Cold Smoking: By comparison, cold smoking techniques use temperatures below 90°F (32°C) for an extended period, often 12 to 24 hours or more. This method imparts a smoky flavor without fully cooking the fish. Cold smoking requires a separate smoke source and a chamber to keep temperatures low. The salmon is typically cured before the smoking process to enhance flavor and preservation.
  • Combination Method: Some recipes use a combination of hot and cold smoking techniques. The salmon may be initially hot smoked to partially cook it and develop flavor, and then finished with a cold smoking process to infuse a more pronounced smoky taste.
  • Wood Chip Varieties: Various smoking wood chips impart unique flavor profiles. Common woods used include oak, alder, hickory, apple, cherry, and maple.

Is Smoked Salmon Cooked or Raw?

Smoked salmon is cooked if using a hot smoking method, as the fish becomes exposed to high temperatures. You’ll know your salmon is cooked when it reaches an internal temperature of 135 to 145 degrees F. Cold-smoked salmon is raw, though it often has a longer shelf life.

Is Smoked Salmon Safe to Eat?

Yes, smoked salmon is generally safe to eat, as the smoking process preserves the fish and reduces the risk of bacterial contamination. However, you should always source smoked salmon from reputable suppliers and properly store and handle the fish. Additionally, individuals with specific dietary restrictions or health conditions should consult with their healthcare provider regarding the consumption of smoked salmon.

Smoked Salmon Nutrition

100 grams/3.5 ounces of smoked salmon:

  • Calories: 117
  • Fat: 4.3 grams
  • Protein: 18.3 grams
  • Calcium: 11 milligrams
  • Iron: 0.85 milligrams
  • Sodium: 672 milligrams
  • Zinc: 0.31 milligrams
  • Selenium: 32.4 milligrams
  • Vitamin B12: 3.26 micrograms
  • Vitamin A, RAE: 26 micrograms
  • Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol): 1.35 milligrams

Smoked Salmon FAQs

How do you store smoked salmon?

To store smoked salmon, refrigerate it in an airtight container or sealed plastic bag, separate from strongly scented foods, and consume it before the use-by date for optimal freshness.

How do you know if smoked salmon has gone bad?

Check for a strong, unpleasant odor and any signs of sliminess or a mushy texture to check if your salmon has gone bad. Look for discoloration or the presence of mold. If the taste is off or unpleasant, it is best to discard the smoked salmon.

What is the best type of salmon for smoking?

The best type of salmon to smoke is sockeye, as it has a high oil content, allowing the meat to absorb wood smoke quickly and seamlessly. Compared to other types of salmon, its flesh is denser, allowing it to remain firm during the smoking process.

What is the best part of salmon to smoke?

The best part of salmon to use in smoking is typically the fillet or loin, particularly the thicker and fattier sections closer to the belly. These parts contain more natural oils and fat, which contribute to a moist and flavorful smoked salmon. The higher fat content helps prevent the fish from drying out during the smoking process and enhances the overall taste and texture.

Should I wash smoked salmon?

No, it is not necessary to wash smoked salmon. Washing it can introduce contaminants to the fish and may affect its texture and flavor. In addition, the water can make it soggy.

Is smoked salmon easy to digest?

Smoked salmon is generally easy to digest, as smoking it partially cooks the fish and breaks down its proteins. The smoking process also helps to preserve the fish and make it more tender, which can contribute to its ease of digestion for many individuals. However, individual digestion capabilities may vary, so it's important to listen to your body and consume smoked salmon in moderation if you have specific dietary concerns or sensitivities.

What should you serve with smoked salmon?

Smoked salmon pairs well with ingredients like cream cheese, dill, red onions, capers, and toasted bagels or crackers, creating a classic and delicious combination. Additionally, fresh lemon wedges and a sprinkle of black pepper can further enhance the flavors of smoked salmon.


If you’ve long wondered whether smoked salmon is cooked, we hope you’ve gotten the answer you’ve been looking for. With the right preparation methods, careful storage and handling, and correct temperatures, you can widen your roster of delicious smoked salmon dishes to share with friends and family.

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