Smoking meat has always been my favorite, so I started smoking salmon; it has been a game-changer.
One of the first troubles I encountered was the type of wood I should use to smoke salmon. Salmon is a delicate type of meat that does not do well with any random wood for smoking.
Smoking salmon is a delicate process like the fish meat itself, where you allow just enough heat to get to the salmon and then let the smoke incorporate itself into the salmon, which usually takes hours.
That is why it is important to know the best wood for smoking salmon to balance smoke and low temperature as the salmon slowly cooks.
Since I have been trying out so many types of wood for smoking salmon, I have found the best types you can use or mix & match with each other to create beautiful aromas.
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Here are my top picks on which wood to use for smoking salmon. Read on as we will also look into the other types of fish you can smoke with these types of wood.
How To Choose The Right Wood For Smoking Salmon
Smoking salmon is not the same as smoking other cuts of meat. You need something mild and something that will not easily overpower the flavor of the fish.
No matter the urge, please do not use hickory when smoking salmon for the first time. It can put a strong smoky flavor into the salmon; unless you like that, you must avoid it.
Here are some factors to look for when choosing wood for smoking salmon.
- Heat consistency – the type of wood should be able to maintain the temperature it is set in as the smoking process will take a long time.
- Flavor and aroma – as much as possible, look for the type of wood that emits either a fruity or sweet flavor instead of wood that has strong smoky flavors.
- Kiln-dried – the wood should be kiln-dried so it provides just enough flavor and can be easily controlled in terms of heat.
- Heat control – make sure that you can control the temperature of the wood that you use, as smoking salmon does not need too much heat.
|Type Of Wood||Seafood||Poultry||Pork||Beef||Lamb|
Best Wood For Smoking Salmon
Alder is perhaps the perfect wood for smoking salmon. It has a nice balance when producing heat and smoke that perfectly induces into the salmon.
It is a gentle hardwood that provides a delicate smoke flavor, perfect for softer meat like salmon. Alder is sometimes considered too weak for smoking meat.
However, since smoking salmon usually takes a day to finish, alder’s mild and “weak” flavor is perfect for inducing just enough smoke flavor into the delicate salmon meat.
- Comes with a mild flavor, perfect for salmon and even poultry.
- Works with different types of cooking equipment, including grills.
- Provides the perfect flavor for people looking for a subtle smoke flavor.
- A great type of wood for beginners.
Recommended Alder Wood: Cameron’s Products Alder Wood Smoker Chips
You will start to see a pattern where the wood I am recommending has a subtle flavor. The same goes for applewood since it is a type of fruitwood that is also hardwood.
Like alder, apple has a subtle flavor that makes it popular for smoking poultry and pork. It releases a mildly fruity and sweet flavor that goes well with delicate types of meat like salmon.
Applewood also mixes with other types of wood well, so if you want that fruity and smoky flavor, you can mix your apple wood chips with other types of wood.
- Provides a nice crust on the salmon or meat being smoked.
- Works on all types of smokers and grills.
- Great for beginners.
- Mixes well with other types of wood.
- Has a mild and sweet flavor – perfect for delicate cuts of meat like salmon.
Recommended Apple Wood: Western 28065 Apple Flavored Smoking Chips
A mild and fruity addition to your salmon, cherry has one of the most distinguishable flavors on any wood. It has a sweet flavor that combines well with pungent flavors.
Although cherry is commonly used for pork and beef, it also does well with salmon and poultry, giving the meat a slightly deep red color on the crust.
It is a popular choice for smoking meat because of its sweet fruity flavor and the fact that it also provides a really good flavor when mixed with stronger types of wood.
- Fruity and sweet flavor for more delicate cuts of meat like salmon.
- Mild flavor mixes well with stronger, more pungent flavors.
- Creates a nice crust on the meat.
- Great for smoking poultry as well.
Recommended Cherry Wood: Weber Cherry Chunks
Pecan is one of the best wood types for smoking almost any cut of meat. It falls under the hickory types of wood but has a milder flavor than actual hickory.
It has a stronger flavor than fruitwood, providing just enough smokiness to salmon. It also has a nutty flavor which counteracts the slightly stronger smoky flavor.
Pecan is a cool-burning wood which means that it can deliver enough smoke flavors to delicate cuts of meat but be careful not to overuse it, or it will easily overpower the salmon.
- Cool-burning wood gives a fish-like salmon a delicate taste.
- It has a nutty flavor that perfectly complements the smoky flavor.
- It provides a decent smoky flavor without overpowering the salmon.
Recommended Pecan Wood: Weber Stephen Products Wood Pecan Chips
Hardwood can be strong for smoking salmon, and even though Maple is one of the more popular hardwoods out there, it provides aroma and flavor on the milder side.
It has a delicately sweet and mild flavor that you do not risk overpowering the umami flavors of the salmon you are smoking.
Since maple is usually used for smoking poultry and vegetables, it is undoubtedly good with other delicate cuts of meat like salmon and cheese.
- Mild sweet flavor with hints of smoky flavors that are not strong.
- It can smoke delicate cuts of meat like poultry, fish, and even cheese.
- It lasts long, which makes it perfect for smoking salmon the whole day.
Recommended Maple Wood: Western Premium BBQ Products Maple BBQ Smoking Chips
What Wood To Avoid When Smoking Salmon?
As much as I like hickory when smoking, I do not recommend it for smoking salmon as it can overpower the flavors of the fish.
Here are other types of wood that you should avoid when you are smoking salmon and other delicate cuts of meat:
- Cedar does not burn well inside a smoker, which means it does not provide the flavors the fish needs to develop.
- Mesquite – I would not say you should avoid mesquite but try mixing it with milder wood so it does not overpower the flavor of the salmon.
- Conifers – This applies to when smoking other cuts of meat as well. Conifers and pines contain a lot of resin and sap, which is not good for salmon or any cut of meat.
What Is The Best Wood For Cold Smoking Fish?
Cold-smoking fish is simply a preservation process; you are not cooking the fish. For this, you need wood that has a mild flavor, so it does not overpower the fish flavors.
When you cold smoke a fish, it can take up to 24 hours, which means that strong flavors from the smoke can easily overpower the delicate fish flavor.
That is why applewood, cherry, and maple are the best types of wood that you can use when cold smoking any type of fish, whether it is salmon, trout, etc.
Fruitwoods have a delicate flavor. During the long cold smoking process, you do not need anything strong from the smoke so as not to cover the fish with thick smoky flavors.
Best Wood For Hot Smoking Fish
Hot smoking, or simply smoking fish, aims to cook the fish in the smoker. That is why it takes up a shorter period of time to hot smoke a fish compared to when it is cold smoked.
That said, you need wood like pecan, oak, or alder. Since the process is a lot faster than cold-smoking, the wood needs to have a little stronger flavor than fruitwood.
This ensures that within a short amount of time that the fish is being smoked, it gets just enough smoky flavor from the wood used.
Best Wood For Smoking Trout
Trout has a slightly tough skin but goes well with wood like cherry and alder. These types of wood provide distinct flavors that complement the trout and its umami flavors.
I prefer that alder puts a little bit more of the smoky flavor I like, so I usually smoke trout with alder instead of cherry.
If, however, you want something with a more fruity flavor with just a hint of smokiness, then cherry is your best choice for smoking trout.
The Best Wood To Smoke Black Cod
Any mild wood will do when you smoke a black cod. My favorites are beech, maple, or apple when it comes to smoking black cod because of the crust that these woods provide.
Maple gives it a slightly deep red color, as well as cherry, which makes the pearly white meat of the black cod more depth and sweet flavor that makes its umami flavors pop out.
The Best Wood To Cold Smoke Sablefish
Cold-smoking sablefish is pretty easy as long as you have a type of wood that can hold its temperature at a consistent reading and can last a long time.
Alder and oak are two of your best options for cold-smoking sablefish. I prefer leaving the skin on the filet of sablefish to protect the meat a little bit in case the smoky flavor is too strong.
After a day of cold smoking, the sablefish should have a mild smoky flavor from the alder or oak, giving it a delicious overall taste with its slightly sweet seafood flavor.
It is important to ensure that the wood you use matches the flavor of the meat you are smoking. Salmon has a savory flavor, and meat that sometimes easily becomes dry and flaky.
That is why when it comes to smoking salmon, you need a type of wood that is mild, preferably fruity or sweet, and can last for a long time with as few temperature jumps as possible.
Hardwood and fruitwoods are your best bet for smoking salmon since they can provide a mild flavor for long hours of smoking while also lasting longer than other types of wood.
Remember, salmon is a delicate type of meat, so you do not need a type of wood that is too strong. Make sure to stick with fruitwood or other milder options.
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