Smoked Salmon

One of the things I wanted to try cooking differently when I got the Red Egg was salmon. I tried John Setzler’s recipe one time and was hooked. This post is my notes on his recipe.

You can see the full video at


  • 1 large salmon filet cut into 4 or 5 pieces
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup coarse kosher salt <== this is reduced from John’s recipe, it originally calls for 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • Honey to glaze

I mix up the dry brine the night before I plan to cook. It really needs at least 8 hours before you cook to brine. I’ve tried it with less time and it just doesn’t turn out the same.

Dry brine – mix the 2 cups brown sugar, 1/4 cup coarse kosher salt, and 1 tablespoon of black pepper together. Mix well. I usually just put it into a tupperware container and then shake it up.

Cover the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish with it; I usually use a 9×13 Pyrex dish with the rubber lid. Rinse the salmon and put it on top of the brine. Cover the tops of the salmon filets with the rest of the brine. You want good even coverage on top and bottom. Leave it loose in the pan.

Refridgerate for 8-12 hours.

When you’re ready to cook, pull the salmon out of the brine and rinse it off. The brine will have transformed into a brown sugar water, it’s rather quite cool to see.

Don’t forget to rinse, even though the fish may not look like it needs it. Dry it off with paper towel and then place it on the cooking rack you intend to use. I’ve found it much easier to put it on a rack then take the rack out to the grill as one unit, rather than trying to use an indoor rack and transfer to the grill. Coat the rack with Pam or olive oil so it doesn’t stick.

Let the fish sit on the rack for 2 hours at room temperature. The fish will start to sweat and form a film (pellicle). I usually get the grill going about this time.

The instructions call for the grill to be at 150-160. Anyone who’s ever tried to keep their Egg lit while going this low will understand how difficult this is. I have never been able to hold 150-160 degrees and keep the fire lit in the half dozen times I’ve cooked this recipe. I usually end up much higher, somewhere closer to 200, to keep any sort of consistent temp.

I cook the fish to 145 based on a small temperature probe I put into the largest filet. I baste each piece with honey when it reaches 130-135, that usually gives the fish about 20-30 minutes with the honey.

I have tried cherry, applewood, and pecan with the fish. Pecan can be strong so use sparingly. Applewood and cherry you can use a little more, just be careful you don’t overpower the fish. One or two small blocks of wood on either side of the fire usually does the trick, think about one fist sized piece in total. I’ve also had more success with smaller pieces of charcoal vs larger ones.

This is the most commonly requested thing I cook, other than the brisket. End to end the entire cook usually takes about 3 hours give or take so it’s relatively easy to get the timing right for when guests come over, versus something like brisket, than can be a 12+ hour journey that is a bit more tempermental.

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