How is Smoked Salmon Made? Different Methods of Smoking Salmon

Smoked salmon has been enjoyed for centuries. When cured and smoked, high-quality salmon is considered a delicacy. The process of preparing this healthy and delicious fish is what makes smoked salmon a savory favorite. 

What are the Origins of Smoked Salmon?

For centuries, people have been smoking fish as a way to prolong its shelf-life (before refrigeration as we know it). In fact, smoked salmon dates all the way back to ancient Greek and Roman times. 

In the late 1800s, Jewish immigrants from Poland and Russia brought over their technique of smoking salmon to the United Kingdom. They initially imported salmon from the Baltic, but soon began using the more accessible Scottish salmon. This style of smoking combined with the salmon from Scotland grew into today’s popular smoked salmon. By the 1930s, smoked salmon was being served across the U.K. as a luxury item. 

But the concept of smoking fish was not exclusive to Europe. In Alaska and across the Pacific Northwest, indigenous peoples practiced a unique cold-smoking method to preserve their fish, resulting in more of a jerky. Smoked salmon was also a staple of Northwestern American tribes and Canadian First Nation people.

Smoking Salmon: How to Prepare

Smoking is a preparation method that involves curing and partially dehydrating the meat or fish. This process is done to prevent bacterial activity and microorganism spoilage. Another benefit of smoking? It’s super tasty! Salmon can be smoked in two ways–cold or hot.

Cold Smoked Salmon

Salmon is commonly cold smoked at a temperature of around 99 °F (37 °C). A cold smoke will not cook the fish, but rather preserve its fresh taste and silky texture. A light curing will also help to bring out the salmon’s natural flavors. While spices and seasoning (often including dill) may be added during the curing stage, a simple flavor profile is suggested. Cold smoked salmon works wonderfully on bagels, as part of an appetizer, or eaten as-is. We’ll take a look at some popular preparations later!

Hot Smoked Salmon 

Hot smoking is similar to cold smoking, except that it is done at a temperature of at least 120 °F (49 °C). This will adequately cook the fish while simultaneously smoking it, resulting in a flaky, baked texture. Hot smoked salmon has a much smokier taste than cold smoked salmon. Rubs and glazes are usually added to hot smoked salmon after the curing process (popularly, maple teriyaki and black pepper). Hot smoked salmon works well for warm dishes, such as pastas, tarts, and scrambled eggs. Like cold smoked salmon, hot smoked salmon can be enjoyed whole. 

The Most Popular Types of Smoked Salmon

Scotch Smoked Salmon 

Scotch smoked salmon is known for being the most sought-after, and is a true gourmet experience. Sourced from the icy waters of the Scottish Sea, Norwegian Sea, and Faroe Islands, this prized fish has a naturally orangey-pink color and a buttery taste. The scotch smoking method uses chips from oak barrels (classically recycled whiskey barrels). It is dry-cured and cold smoked. Kolikof Caviar and Gourmet carries a kosher Scottish salmon that is served in many of the world’s finest restaurants.

Norwegian Smoked Salmon

A close second in popularity, Norwegian smoked salmon has a denser, smokier flavor and a stronger aroma than its Scottish counterpart. Hailing from the cool waters of Norway, Norwegian salmon has more of a peachy-pink color and a smooth, slightly oily texture. This type of salmon is quite lean, making it an especially healthy choice. Like scotch salmon, it is dry-cured and cold smoked.

Nova Smoked Salmon

Nova salmon is named after its place of origin–Nova Scotia. Usually cold smoked, nova salmon is sliced thin and served on bagels along with cream cheese, or with red onion, lemon, and capers. You may recognize this kind of salmon from your local brunch menu. However, nova salmon is not to be confused with lox. Though similarly served, lox is cured but not smoked, and has a much saltier flavor than nova. 

Alaskan Smoked Salmon

Also known as “king salmon”, Alaskan salmon comes from the cool waters off–you guessed it–Alaska. Due to its sustainable populations, this type of salmon is widely available, and usually hot-smoked and cured using traditional indigenous techniques. Taste and texture depends on the specific brining process.  

What to Pair with Smoked Salmon

Whether cold smoked or hot smoked, one of the great things about smoked salmon is that it is easy to prepare. Cooked or raw, smoked salmon can be enjoyed directly out of the package. However, its smoky and savory flavors make it a wonderful addition to appetizers and meals alike! 

Salmon Board

Instead of a cheese board, try smoked salmon for a fancier party platter. This fast and fun hors d'oeuvre is sure to be a hit at the next gathering you host. Serve alongside sliced cucumber, cherry tomatoes, cream cheese, capers, dill, and anything else you can think of! Arrange some crackers, crostini, or bagel bites to complete the spread. 


Gravlax is a Nordic dish in which the salmon is cured in a mixture of salt and sugar, and often spiced with dill or spruce twigs, making for a delicious appetizer. Gravlax can be served with brown mustard on bread, soft pretzels, or any other hearty warm grain. It can also be sliced and served alongside boiled potatoes. Kolikof carries a delicious gravlax with lemon pepper. 


Pâté is a spreadable meat-filled paste, pie, or loaf. Traditionally made from pork, smoked salmon pâté is simple to make and delicious to serve. All you need is salmon, cream cheese (use a chive variation for extra zest), fresh parsley, chopped bell pepper, and seasoning. Throw everything into a food processor and stir in capers, dill, and lemon juice. Spread on crackers or brioche buns.


Adding smoked salmon to your scrambled eggs is a quick way to increase the protein in your breakfast. Simply dice up a few pieces of salmon and add it to your frying pan just before the eggs have fully cooked. Chives or other caramelized onions will perfectly accentuate this scramble. We recommend using a heavy whipping cream instead of regular milk for some extra richness. 

You can also add smoked salmon and capers for a savory spin on a classic egg salad. Either cold smoked or hot smoked will work. 

Bagel Brunch

Smoked salmon and fresh baked bagels are the perfect pair. Add capers and your cream cheese of choice and you will have a very satisfying meal. Kolikof carries a convenient smoked salmon brunch box that includes Scottish smoked salmon, ready-bake bagels, and all the accoutrements. You can even add caviar!


Use smoked salmon as a salad topper for a hearty, healthy lunch. Some lightly tossed greens with lemon dressing and cracked black pepper will make the perfect bed for your filet. Or, use smaller pieces of smoked salmon and sprinkle throughout as you would with bacon bits. 


Spaghetti and smoked salmon pair wonderfully together, especially in a creamy sauce. And since it's already cooked, hot smoked salmon makes for an easy last-minute addition. Consider adding capers or pine nuts to bring out the savory elements of the smoked salmon. Vegetables recommended to accompany this dish include spinach, artichokes, and sun-dried tomatoes. Feel free to add any other favorite ingredients–there’s plenty of room for improvisation!


Due to its creamy nature, risotto is another great base for smoked salmon. Just like with pasta, hot smoked salmon is recommended for this dish, as it tends to be meatier and juicer. Cook with a dry white wine and your favorite broth. You can even add some gouda cheese for a little extra smokiness! 


If you’re a fan of fish tacos, you’ll find that smoked salmon makes for a flavorful choice. The great thing about smoked salmon is that its savory taste can withstand a wide array of salsa styles. Spicey, tangy, and even sweet–there’s room to play during your next Taco Tuesday!

Is Smoked Salmon Good for You?

Like most fish, salmon itself is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to reduce inflammation and support brain health.

Salmon is also chock-full of B vitamins, especially B12, which is essential for regulating the central nervous system and producing red blood cells. 

Lastly, it is rich in selenium, a key nutrient in thyroid hormone metabolism, reproductive health, and DNA synthesis. These are just a few of the plentiful health benefits you can get from eating salmon. 

One thing to be mindful of, though, is that smoked salmon can be high in sodium as a result of the brining and curing process. The added salt is necessary to keep the fish moist and to prevent the growth of microorganisms. If you are concerned about your sodium intake, however, smoked salmon and other smoked products should be consumed in moderation. 

When purchasing smoked salmon, always look at the label, as some carriers use sugars and extra salts for preservatives, or add artificial flavoring. Kolikof Caviar and Gourmet carries a wide selection of smoked salmon and never relies on added sugar or hormones. Kolikof salmon is always shipped fresh and never frozen.