Best Wood for Smoking Salmon

There are many kinds of meat that can be smoked to provide ideal flavors. Salmon is one of the most popular fish to smoke all over the United States. When it comes to smoking any type of meat, the wood you use has a huge impact on flavor. These are some of the best woods to use when you smoke your salmon.

Type of WoodFlavorLevel of Smokiness
#1. AlderSweetLow
#2. Apple
FruityMedium
#3. Hickory

Bacon-yStrong

The Best Woods for Smoking Salmon

#1. Alder

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Alder is one of the more mild woods you can use. As such, it’s good if you want to infuse milder flavors. It’s also a good choice if you want to smoke your salmon for several hours, as the lighter smoke won’t become bitter.

For many experienced smokers, alder is the first choice when you’re smoking salmon. It can also be used for any kind of fish. Smokers recommend it for poultry as well. Because the flavors are so mild, though, smokers don’t recommend it for heavier meats.


#2. Apple

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Apple is a popular type of fruit wood with a medium smokiness. If alder is too light for your tastes, but hickory is a little too dense, apple might give you the perfect balance of flavor. Many smokers use apple as a go-too wood for all kinds of smoking needs. It’s good for seafood, lamb, pork, and poultry.

Many smokers recommend mixing apple with a slightly stronger wood to offset the fruity flavor. You can combine oak and apple wood to get the dense smokiness of the wood with the lighter sweetness of the apple. Mesquite is another good choice to blend with apple, as it’s often too strong on its own.


#3. Hickory

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Hickory is the best choice for smoking salmon if you want a strongly flavored wood. This southern barbecue staple has such a strong association with bacon that some people will taste bacon flavors in hickory-smoked food.

Hickory is one of the most popular woods for any kind of smoking, and it’s particularly good for salmon. The smoke tends to be pungent and strong, infusing meat with smoky and sweet flavors.

It is important to be careful when you use hickory smoke, though. If you smoke your salmon for too long, or you use too much hickory wood, you’ll end up with bitter and aggressive flavors.


Other Good Woods for Smoking Salmon

#1. Maple

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Maple is one of the more mild wood options. It’s a good choice if you’re going to be smoking your salmon for a long time, as the lighter smoke won’t imbue your salmon with bitterness.

Maple wood will give your salmon a sweet and mild flavor. It’s most commonly used to smoke cheese, vegetables, and poultry, but it can also be a good choice for fish. Maple smoke will darken the appearance of the meat.

One popular choice is to combine maple wood with alder, apple, or oak.


#2. Cherry

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Cherry is considered an all-purpose wood that can benefit all types of meat and fish. It imbues meat with a mild, sweet flavor. Though cherry is most popular with pork or beef, you can also use it to smoke your salmon. The smoke will turn the meat into a mahogany hue.

This is a wood that’s commonly paired with alder, pecan, oak, or hickory wood.


#3. Oak

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Oak tends to be stronger than the wood from fruit trees. However, it’s lighter than heavy woods like hickory or mesquite. Oak tends to burn at very hot temperatures, so it’s a versatile blending wood.

Oak wood will give your salmon a moderate smoky flavor. It doesn’t have the same sweetness or fruity tones that many other woods do, so it’s a good choice if you want your salmon to taste smoky alone.


#4. Peach and Pear

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Pear and peach woods tend to be very similar to each other, similar enough that many smokers use them interchangeably. They have light, fruity flavors that imbue your meat and fish with a subtlety that’s difficult to achieve with other wood.

It’s not easy to find pear or peach wood. They’re most popularly used with poultry and pork, but your salmon can also benefit from their flavors. You’ll have the best results if you mix them with a more smoky-flavored wood, like oak.


#5. Pecan

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Pecan wood is one of the stronger woods available. It’s a part of the hickory wood family that’s a little less strong than hickory, but stronger than fruit woods. You have to be careful with the use of pecan wood because it can make your salmon bitter and pungent if you use too much.

This is a cool-burning wood that, when used correctly, gives meat and fish a delicate flavor. You just have to take care to make sure you don’t overuse it.


#6. Walnut

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Walnut tends to be used in conjunction with other woods. It has an incredibly strong flavor and can make your meat bitter if used in excess. Most people prefer to use it for red meats, but you can use it with salmon if you’re careful.


Final Thoughts

When you’re looking for a flavorful smoked salmon, there are multiple hard woods that can do the job. It all depends on how strong you want your flavor to be and how long you want to smoke your salmon.

Alder is a great choice for mild flavors, so it’s ideal for any kind of fish. Hickory, meanwhile, is a strong staple that will give your salmon a bacon-y flavor. Many experienced smokers prefer to use a combination of alder and hickory wood for the best possible flavoring.

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