Here is a recipe that combines some of my favorite characteristics of tasty food — candied smoked salmon bites are sweet, salty, smoky, and fatty in just the right way!
The traditional way of preparing this dish is to cure the salmon for at least 12 hours and smoke it for a long time at a low temperature. This creates a chewy, jerky-like texture and preserves the salmon bites so they can be enjoyed as a snack at a picnic or a camping trip.
But what if you don’t have that much time?
Maybe you just want to cook something delicious that can be served as a main course or an appetizer at the dinner.
Here is my version of smoked candied salmon that can be prepared in less than 4 hours and you don’t need any fancy equipment to do it — a regular gas or charcoal grill will do just fine.
If you want smokier and chewier salmon candy, I will also explain how to make it happen.
What Do You Need for Cooking Smoked Salmon Candy?
There are many ways to cook candied smoked salmon bites.
This time I was heading to a friend’s house with my portable Weber Go-Anywhere charcoal grill and some accessories in the trunk. I had promised to cook some candied smoked salmon for the dinner, so I picked up a couple of nice salmon fillets and some maple syrup on the way there.
When I arrived we agreed that dinner should be ready in about 4 hours. That’s not enough time to prepare this dish in the traditional way but I decided to give it a try.
Is it even possible to cook smoked candied salmon in such a short time?
Well, you’re about to find out. Because next, I’m going to tell you exactly how I cooked the salmon and how it turned out.
If you have a smoker or a pellet grill that allows easy and precise temperature control, that’s great. But you can very well cook this version of the recipe with an ordinary charcoal grill.
Here is what you need:
- Grill or Smoker: Almost any kind of grill or smoker will do — the important thing is to have a lid.
- Wood Chips or Pellets (+ aluminum foil or a smoker tube if you are using a grill).
- Knife & Cutting Board
- Large Bowl: For mixing the ingredients.
- Container or Ziploc Bag: To brine the salmon.
- Basting Brush
As mentioned earlier, I used a small portable charcoal grill.
Below you can see how I set up the grill:
All of the charcoal is placed on one side. The wood chips are wrapped in aluminum foil with some holes and placed on top of the hot charcoal.
The salmon is then smoked on indirect heat.
So how will the salmon be evenly cooked and have a smoky flavor with this setup?
You need to put a lid on and have an airflow coming from under the charcoal and exiting from the other side of the grill (see the image below).
When using my Weber Go-Anywhere, I just opened the air wents under the charcoal, closed the top damper above the charcoal, and opened the top damper on the opposite side.
With this setup, I was able to generate a nice amount of smoke and have it flow nicely around the salmon bites before exiting through the damper.
Smoking Time and Temperature
I didn’t have a thermometer so there was no way to control the smoking temperature precisely. I just tried to keep the temperature low while generating enough smoke and observed the salmon to see when it was cooked enough.
But if you have a smoker, pellet grill, or even a gas grill, you can choose the temperature for smoking the salmon. Lower cooking temperature means that you need more time and results in smokier and chewier salmon bites.
Here are some estimates for suitable smoking temperatures depending on cook time:
- 2 to 3 hours – about 225°F
- 3 to 4 hours – about 200°F
- 4 to 6 hours – about 180°F
You can try smoking the salmon for even longer than 6 hours for a harder, more candy-like texture and very intense smoky flavor.
If you have an instant-read thermometer, aim for an internal temperature of about 140°F to 160°F for the salmon.
What Kind of Wood Chips to Use
Beech and alder are some of the best wood chips for smoking salmon because they give a nice smoky flavor without overpowering the naturally rich taste of salmon.
You can also try using other options like cherry and applewood or making your own blend with different types of wood chips.
Using a Gas Grill
You can cook this recipe with a gas grill as long as the burners are arranged so that they can be set up for indirect cooking. For example, if you have a gas grill with three burners, use only one of them and place the salmon so that it’s not directly over the burner.
Use either a smoker tube with wood chips or pellets, a smoker box, or simply wrap the wood chips inside an aluminum foil and poke some holes in it.
If you are using a foil pouch, place it on top of the flame tamer of the burner and keep the lid closed as much as possible. You can control the smoking temperature by monitoring the temperature gauge and adjusting the burner flame.
Using a Smoker or a Pellet Grill
Using a dedicated smoker or a pellet grill is probably the easiest option for cooking smoked salmon candy.
They will allow you to control the temperature precisely to that you can choose it according to your desired smoking time.
You don’t really need too many ingredients for cooking this recipe.
List of ingredients:
- 2 lbs of Salmon Fillet (boneless and skinless)
- 6 oz of Maple Syrup (4 oz for the brine and 2 oz for brushing)
- 1/2 cup of Brown Sugar
- 4 tbsp Kosher Salt
The important thing is to have a good quality salmon fillet — preferably boneless and skinless. You would also want to use real 100% pure maple syrup.
Candied Smoked Salmon – Step-by-Step Instructions
Follow these simple instructions and you will get some delicious salmon bites on the table in less than 4 hours.
When prepared this way, the salmon will not be too salty and it will have a nice and moist texture inside and surface that is a bit crunchy. Serve this to someone who has not tried it before, and I guarantee it will make an impression!
If you want the salmon to be more dehydrated, smoky, and jerky-like, smoke it at a low temperature for at least 6 hours. You can also use more salt in the brine.
1. Cut the Salmon
First, cut the salmon into slices about one inch wide.
If the salmon has any skin or bones, make sure to remove them first.
2. Brine the Salmon
Mix 4 ounces of maple syrup, sugar, and salt in a bowl and use it to brine the salmon.
I just placed the salmon on a metal tray and poured the brine on the salmon. Every 10 minutes, I used a spoon to baste the salmon bites with the brine.
My total time to brine the salmon was only about one hour. I feel like this was enough since the salmon slices are quite thin (and I didn’t have any more time.)
Another option is to use a resealable plastic bag and brine the salmon overnight in a refrigerator.
3. Prepare Your Smoker/Grill
While the salmon is in brine, prepare your grill for indirect smoking or set up your smoker. I already explained how to do this earlier in the “Equipment” section.
So basically what I did here was place the charcoal on one end of the grill and light it up with a butane torch. Then I wrapped some beechwood chips in aluminum foil and placed the “smoke bomb” on top of the hot charcoal.
4. Smoke the Salmon Bites
It’s time to start smoking!
Place the salmon bites on the grill/smoker rack and smoke them anywhere between 2 to 6 hours depending on the smoking temperature and desired level of smokiness.
I smoked the salmon for about 3 hours with the lid on as explained earlier. I opened the lid every 30 minutes or so to check on the salmon bites and to brush them with more maple syrup.
I didn’t have a thermometer so I don’t have any idea about the exact smoking temperature or the internal temperature of the salmon.
Everything was based on experience and just feeling out the process.
So how did it turn out?
I served the salmon bites as a warm appetizer before the main course.
The salmon had a nice balance of sweet, salty, and smoky flavors and tasted amazing. Everybody loved it!
Additional Notes and Ideas
These type of salmon bites also make a great main course because they are not too salty or sweet. You can serve them with rice or potatoes and a salad.
One interesting option is to brush the salmon with an additional coating of maple syrup after removing them from the grill or smoker. Then you can use a blow torch to create an extra caramelized layer.
Or why not try and use some other fish like tuna or marlin. However, these types of fish have less fat so you should probably baste the fish with some butter or oil while smoking it.
Candied Smoked Salmon Bites Recipe
- Grill or Smoker
- Wood Chips or Pellets + aluminum foil or a smoker tube if you are using a grill
- Knife & Cutting Board
- Large Bowl for mixing the ingredients
- Container or Ziplog Bag to brine the salmon
- Basting Brush
- 2 lbs Salmon Fillet boneless and skinless
- 6 oz Maple Syrup 4 oz for the brine and 2 oz for brushing
- 1/2 cup Brown Sugar
- 4 tbsp Kosher Salt
- Cut the salmon into slices about one inch wide. If there are any skin or bones, remove them.
- Combine 4 ounces of maple syrup, sugar, and salt in a bowl and brine the salmon for at least one hour.
- Prepare your grill for indirect smoking or set up your smoker. The temperature should be roughly 225°F for a smoking time of about 2 to 3 hours. When cooking with a grill, you will need to put some wood chips in a smoker tube or wrap them in aluminum foil to generate smoke.
- Smoke the salmon bites for about 3 hours with the lid on and baste them with more maple syrup about every 30 minutes.
- Remove the salmon from heat when it looks ready or the internal temperature is about 140°F to 160°F depending on how you like it.
- Serve as an appetizer or as a main course with salad and rice or potatoes.