How is cold smoked salmon made? Trade secrets revealed…

How is cold smoked salmon made? Trade secrets revealed…

Cold smoked salmon is a popular delicacy, adored the world over for its subtle smoky flavour and silky texture.

The cold smoking process involves curing and smoking the fish at lower temperatures than the hot-smoking process; and it is the lower temperature that transforms the cured and air-dried food into the sought-after indulgence we all know and love.

The Smoking Process Origin Story: 

Smoked meat can be traced as far back as the cavemen. It is understood that the early cavemen would hang freshly caught meat in their homes to dry it, and by a fortuitous accident the smoke from their nearby fires gave the meat a different flavour and helped to preserve it even further than the drying process alone!

Jumping forward in history to Medieval England, records show that meat was commonly smoked due to the preservation it offered the meat. Without the modern comforts we benefit from in the present day such as refrigerators, preserving meat was essential to increase its ‘shelf life’, and ensure that valuable fresh catches were not wasted.

Many smallholdings in Medieval England had their own smoke houses where the meat was smoked and stored. The less affluent would hang their cuts of meat high up on the edges of their hearths or fireplaces overnight, placing ash over the embers to extinguish any flames, resulting in an ideal smoky environment to preserve their fish or game.

Smoking meat is one of the oldest food preparation practices in history - and it has stood the test of time! Nowadays, home smokers are available for everyday consumers to purchase and use in their own homes, making that delicious smoky flavour an accessible - and affordable - home comfort!



The Smokin’ Brothers cold-smoking process: 

  1. Filleting: Our master filleters get their hands dirty as they meticulously clean each fish. Our masterful procedure complements the delicacy of our end product.
  2. Curing: Working with small batches for epicurean perfection, each salmon is cured exclusively with fine marine salt for a minimum of 10 hours. By drawing out the moisture we refine each piece for beautifully balanced, uncompromised vibrancy.
  3. Smoking: Smokin’ Masters control the elemental force of fire. Our distinctive Smokin’ blend of beech, oak and juniper steadily unifies with each salmon in our chamber. Only the eye of our Master knows when it is ready. We then cold smoke the salmon for several hours, typically between six to 24 hours depending on the required degree of smokiness.


Key difference between hot and cold smoked salmon: 

When it comes to smoking meats there are two processes available: hot smoking, and cold smoking.

At Smokin’ Brothers we prefer to use the cold smoking method. Here are the key differences in the two processes:

  1. Temperature and smoking time:
    • Hot smoked salmon: Cooked at higher temperatures (typically between 120°F to 180°F or 49°C to 82°C). This smoking process fully cooks the salmon, giving it a firmer texture similar to cooked fish. The smoking time is shorter than the cold smoking process, usually taking just a few hours.
    • Cold smoked salmon: Smoked at much lower temperatures (typically below 90°F or 32°C). The salmon is not cooked during the smoking process, resulting in a silky and tender texture. Cold smoking typically takes much longer than hot smoking, often ranging from six to 24 hours.
  2. Texture:
    • Hot smoked salmon: Has a firmer and flakier texture. The flesh is fully cooked, and often used in salads, pastas, or as a standalone dish.
    • Cold smoked salmon: Has a more delicate texture. It remains closer to its raw state, making it suitable for serving in thin slices, often on bagels, crackers or as an appetiser.
  3. Flavour profile:
    • Hot smoked salmon: Has a smoky flavour combined with a fully cooked fish taste. Smokiness levels tend to be pronounced due to the higher temperatures.
    • Cold smoked salmon: Features a milder and subtler smoky flavour. The emphasis is on the natural taste of the salmon, with the smoke serving as a compliment as opposed to a dominant flavour.
  4. Appearance:
    • Hot smoked salmon: Has a cooked appearance, with a golden-brown colour on the exterior. The flesh is opaque and flaky.
    • Cold smoked salmon: Retains a more vibrant and translucent appearance. The outer layer may have a glossy finish due to the formation of the pellicle during the air-drying process.
  5. Versatility:
    • Hot smoked salmon: Well-suited for warm dishes, such as pastas, casseroles or as a main course. It can be used in a variety of cooked recipes.
    • Cold smoked salmon: Typically served cold or at room temperature and commonly used in appetisers, bagels with cream cheese, or in salads where its delicate texture and subtle smokiness can shine!


One key misconception or misbelief regarding cold-smoked salmon is that the smoking process fully cooks the fish. This is not true: cold-smoked salmon is not fully cooked during the smoking process, meaning it retains a texture similar to raw fish (like sushi).

Here are some key points to address this misbelief: 

  1. Raw Texture: Cold-smoked salmon is prepared using lower temperatures, which are not sufficient to cook the fish. This results in a silky and tender texture that resembles raw fish.
  2. Curing Process: Before smoking, the salmon undergoes a curing process where it is treated with a mixture of salt and sugar. While this process contributes to the flavour and preservation of the salmon, it doesn't fully cook the fish.
  3. Food Safety Concerns: Because cold-smoked salmon is not fully cooked, there is always a risk of foodborne pathogens such as parasites or bacteria being present in the fish. To ensure it is safe to consume, it is crucial to use high-quality fresh fish, follow proper curing procedures, and adhere to recommended storage and handling practices.
  4. Consumption Recommendations: Cold-smoked salmon is safe to eat when prepared correctly: however, certain populations such as pregnant women, young children, the elderly and individuals with compromised immune systems are advised to avoid consuming raw or undercooked seafood due to the potential risks associated with foodborne illnesses.
  5. Labelling and Regulations: In some regions, regulations may require labels on cold-smoked salmon to inform consumers that it is a raw product and should be treated as such. This emphasises the importance of understanding the nature of cold-smoked salmon and handling it appropriately.

To mitigate these risks it is essential to purchase smoked salmon from reputable sources. At Smokin’ Brothers we adhere to the highest standards across the handling, curing and preparation of our salmon products, ensuring you can enjoy this delicacy safely - while also enjoying the most premium flavours, textures and nutritional value possible.

Shop our smoked salmon range here.

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