Is Smoked Salmon Cooked or Raw: What You Need to Know

Published Categorized as Fish Or Seafood

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Of the many types of fish cuisine consumed around the globe, salmon is quite possibly a common favorite. It is a part of many various recipes allowing room for creativity and enjoyment! Presently, one of the most widespread methods of consuming this type of fish is through eating smoked salmon. Smoking salmon is a type of cooking method that can add both a unique flavor and texture to the fish, making it an absolute delicacy. But is smoked salmon considered cooked or raw? Here’s what you need to know about smoked salmon before diving into this brilliant dish.

Table of Contents

What is Smoked Salmon?

Smoked salmon is salmon that goes through a curing process and is then smoked. Since salmon is quite an expensive fish, smoked salmon isn’t so cheap either. Despite being dear, smoked salmon happens to be a very popular cuisine in certain parts of Europe and the US.

Is Smoked Salmon Cooked Or Raw: What You Need To Know

Historically, smoked salmon was once a method used during the middle ages to preserve fish. Since smoking eliminates most bacteria, it’s a great way to preserve your fish. One of the most common uses of smoked salmon typically found in the US is in Philadelphia rolls.

Like your favorite peri chicken sauce, smoked salmon is available in a variety of flavors: Honey, mango, lime, barbecue sauce, maple syrup, and black pepper.

How to Cure Salmon?

One of the processes required before smoking salmon is to cure it. Here are three curing methods that can be used to make smoked salmon.

  • Dry Curing
  • Brining
  • Injecting Brine

Dry Curing

Dry curing salmon simply means slathering your sample fillets in an abundance of salt. Some chefs may even choose to add a pinch of sugar for a nice balance, with an addition of herbs for additional flavor. Dry curing is one of the quicker methods to cure salmon. Applying salt to the salmon fillets extracts all the moisture from the flesh of the fish, resulting in less time taken to dry in the smokehouse.


To cure your salmon fillets through brining, you’ll need to drown the fish in some heavily salted water. Much like dry curing, you can add some sugar and herbs into the mix as well to add flavor. The fish should sit in this water or brine for several hours or days.

Injecting Brine

Injecting brine into salmon is quite possibly the least common curing method, though it is a quicker way to cure fish. On the other hand, it will end up damaging the delicate flesh of your salmon fillets.

How to Make Smoked Salmon

The type of smoking method used to make smoked salmon can affect the overall safety of your salmon fillet. The most traditional methods used in making smoked salmon are cold smoking and hot smoking.

Hot Smoked Salmon

Hot smoking is one of the two popular smoking methods for salmon. In this method, the salmon is placed in close proximity to the heat source and smoked at 120°F to 180° for 6 to 12 hours until the interior flesh of the fish reaches a temperature of 135°F to 140°F.

Because of the intense heat and temperature the salmon is exposed to, preparing raw salmon with a light salt and water solution (brine) prior to smoking enhances the flavors, adding some saltiness and preventing the salmon from losing its moisture during the smoking process.

Is Smoked Salmon Cooked Or Raw: What You Need To Know

Before smoking salmon, many smokehouses will add an additional flavourful glaze to the fish. These extra flavors can consist of teriyaki, maple, and black pepper. Due to the high temperatures and hot smoke, the salmon is capable of absorbing all the flavors effectively.

Hot smoke salmon has an appearance that is fairly similar to cooked salmon. It has a flaky texture and a very apparent and delicious smoky flavor compared to cold smoked salmon.

Cold Smoked Salmon

Much like its name implies, cold-smoked salmon is made at lower temperatures, typically smoked at 75°F to 85°F for 12 to 48 hours.

In complete contrast to its hot smoked counterpart, cold smoked salmon requires dry curing to remove excess moisture from the flesh of the fish. This process can take up to a day before cold smoking.

Dry-curing the fish with lots of salt will extract all the moisture from the fish, ensuring a smoother smoking process and prolonged shelf life. Once the curing process is complete, the salmon can then be covered in additional seasonings and spices that’ll suit your preference.

While cold smoked salmon doesn’t provide that intense smoky flavor as hot smoked salmon, it does have much better consistency with a silky smooth texture and a raw appearance.

Is Smoked Salmon Cooked or Raw?

Now for the real question burning everyone’s mind: Is smoked salmon cooked or raw? Well, typically, the answer will rely on the type of salmon we’re talking about.

Since hot-smoked salmon is smoked at 120°F to 180°F for a minimum of 6 hours, the direct heat will have cooked the salmon thoroughly.

On the other hand, cold smoked salmon is considered raw fish since the low temperatures used while smoking won’t have much effect on raising the internal temperature of the fish.

That being said, both hot and cold smoked salmon can be consumed straight from the package without cooking. They’re best when incorporated into all sorts of recipes, such as:

  • Sandwiches and wraps
  • Bruschette and crostini
  • Salads
  • Pate
  • Dips
  • Sushi
  • Soups
  • Pasta and rice dishes

Other foods include scrambled eggs, eggs benedict, avocado, and fresh vegetables like asparagus, butter, and baked potatoes are also great combinations to have with smoked salmon.

Is Raw Salmon Safe to Eat?

Raw salmon is completely safe to consume as long as it had been flash frozen to at least -31°F regardless of whether it had been thoroughly cured and cold smoked or not.

However, consuming raw fish always comes with its own risks.

Flash freezing the salmon can essentially kill all the parasites that may have populated the fish; however, bacteria can end up growing on the thawing flesh of salmon as well, so it’s not recommended to attempt the flash-freezing process on your own unless you’re equipped with the appropriate equipment. Though if you trust that the process has been followed perfectly, then you can consume raw salmon safely.

When smoking or cooking salmon at home, take care when handling the fish, and use different utensils when preparing raw salmon along with other ingredients. Keep your kitchen shelf clean, and always wash your hands.

Is Smoked Salmon Cooked Or Raw: What You Need To Know

Is Smoked Salmon Safe to Eat?

Generally, it’s completely safe to consume both hot and cold smoked salmon without additional cooking or heating required. You won’t have to toss your cold smoked salmon on the grill or oven before eating, as long as you trust that the preparation was done completely.

Likewise, hot smoked salmon is fully cooked; you won’t find additional risks when consuming it. The hot smoked salmon won’t require reheating as long as it has been stored properly.

Fundamentally, if you choose to eat cold smoked salmon, you’ll have to accept that there may be a minute level of risk, not unlike the risks you could meet from eating certain raw meats. As long as you follow the appropriate precautions, you should be fine!

Which is Better Hot or Cold Smoked Salmon?

When choosing between hot or cold salmon, there are some factors to consider.

Firstly, hot smoking salmon cooks the fish while cold smoking doesn’t. So if you suffer from a sensitive stomach, it may work in your favor to opt for hot smoked salmon.

Secondly, the apparent differences in texture. Cold smoked salmon has a delicate and moist texture akin to raw salmon, while hot smoked salmon makes the salmon firmer.

When choosing between hot or cold smoked salmon, opt for either of them in terms of flavor and how smoky you prefer your fish to be. Hot-smoked salmon has an almost overpowering smoky taste and aroma, as opposed to cold smoked salmon.

Finally, choosing which smoked salmon is better will rely on the type of dish you plan to prepare with it. Because of its flaky texture, hot smoked salmon is great to use in pasta dishes and pairs well with dips.

Whereas cold-smoked salmon is best used in sandwiches and other dishes where the delicate flavors and overall appearance of the salmon is of utter importance.

How to Store Smoked Salmon?

When purchasing smoked salmon, you’ll find that it usually comes in vacuum-sealed packaging. It’s best to read the label before opening the package to learn how to store the salmon once it has been opened.

Once you’ve opened your smoked salmon package, you should store it in the fridge or freezer, completely avoiding room temperature as this is not safe. Wrap your opened smoked salmon in plastic wrap or place it in an airtight container, and it should remain safe for consumption when stored in the fridge for up to 21 days.

Always remove the number of slices you intend to eat before putting the rest back into the fridge. Exposing the fish to any type of temperature shift can cause it to spoil very quickly.

If you wish to extend the shelf life of your smoked salmon, then store it in the freezer. This way, your smoked salmon will remain consumable for up to 3 months. Especially if you’re aware that you won’t be finishing your salmon within 2 to 3 weeks.

You can store your smoked salmon in the freezer in its original packaging or in tight plastic wrap to prevent the fish from adopting a freezer burn and drying out.

When it’s time to use your smoked salmon, then transfer it from the freezer to the fridge, allowing it to thaw as defrosting at room temperatures can increase the potential risk of contamination. If you’re dealing with a slightly larger smoked salmon piece, it can take up to 24 hours to defrost in the fridge.

Storing Smoked Salmon

Take a look at the table below, highlighting the time period of storing smoked salmon, along with the methods of storage:

Smoked Salmon TypeFridgeFreezer
Unopened hot smoked salmon2 weeks or 2-3 days after the use-by date2-3 months (best quality)
Unopened cold smoked salmon1 week or 2-3 days after the use-by date1 month (best quality)
Opened smoked salmon5 to 7 days2-3 months (best quality)

Can You Cook Smoked Salmon?

We all know that you don’t have to cook smoked salmon, but what if you wanted to cook it anyway?

Cold smoked salmon is best enjoyed cold and uncooked, its cold texture is rendered delicate and moist. So trying to cook your cold smoked salmon will ruin its overall texture. You can pair your cold-smoked salmon with ingredients like cream cheese, bread, butter, herbs, fresh vegetables, caviar, and more!

On the other hand, hot smoked salmon can be cooked since it has been exposed to heat once before; heating it again won’t ruin the fish in any way. Moreover, heating hot-smoked salmon can even enhance the flavor of the hot smoked fish.

Wondering what to pair with Salmon? Then use hot smoked fish to make creative breakfasts like omelets and quiches. You can even reheat your smoked salmon in a pan before adding it to your sandwiches.

Can You Make Smoked Salmon at Home?

While it’s possibly plenty safer to purchase smoked salmon from a brand that cures and smokes the salmon in appropriate conditions, you can most definitely try your hand at smoking salmon at home if you like. To do this, you’ll need a smoker and some wood. But since a smoker isn’t a popular piece of equipment to have in your kitchen, you can smoke your salmon without one.

To make smoked salmon without a smoker, you should buy liquid smoke, which is essentially a natural product that emanates from real smoke.

The process of making smoked salmon at home is fairly simple. Start by mixing salt, sugar, and liquid smoke. Slather this mixture all over the fish evenly, then tightly wrap the salmon in some food wrap, place it in an airtight container, and refrigerate the fish for 24 hours.

Once 24 hours are up, trim a small piece off the salmon fillet and give it a taste. If it’s salty enough, then remove the plastic wrap, pat the fillet dry with some paper towels, then transfer it into an airtight container, storing it in the fridge for later.

You’ll need a single drop of liquid smoke for four ounces of salmon fillet, followed by a 1 1/2 tablespoon of salt and an equal amount of sugar.

Bundle - 2 Items: Colgin Gourmet Liquid Smoke - Natural Mesquite and Natural Hickory Flavors (4 oz each)

Benefits of Eating Smoked Salmon

As well as being a popular fish, many of us have recognized the fact that fresh salmon is quite nutritious, so it won’t come as a surprise that smoked salmon is considered healthy too. Even following the curing and smoking process, the salmon remains entirely nutritious.

Smoked salmon is a great source of protein, B vitamins, vitamin A, and another variety of minerals, especially the important omega-3 fatty acids!

Aside from all these benefits, it’s worth recalling that smoked salmon is cured with salt, making it very high in sodium, so 100 grams of smoked salmon may contain around 670mg of sodium. With that in mind, aim to consume smoked salmon in moderation.

Nutritional Benefits of Smoked Salmon

Of course, salmon is loaded with nutritional benefits that are not eliminated when smoked. Essentially, it’s a fatty fish that provides you with your daily oil requirement, contributing to around 5 to 7 teaspoons.

Here is a breakdown of smoked salmon nutrition:


Smoked salmon is an incredible source of dietary protein, ensuring that your body tissues remain strong and healthy. Without protein, your body will break down your muscle tissues, using them as an alternative to receive amino acids. Smoked salmon has enough protein to distribute amino acids to the appropriate cells. If you were to consume 3 ounces of smoked salmon, you would have achieved a 16g boost, translating to 25% of the average person’s daily protein requirement.


A 3-ounce smoked salmon contains 4g of good fats, also including 0.5g of omega-3 fatty acids, which prevent memory loss, dementia, and depression.


Consuming smoked salmon allows for the distribution of key minerals to your body, like iron. This is a necessary mineral for your body, as it enables your blood cells to supply tissues with oxygen. This will ensure that you remain fresh and energized, with a stable metabolism.

Bottom Line

When it comes to the question of whether smoked salmon is cooked, it’ll depend on the method used for smoking, i.e. hot or cold smoking. Hot smoking uses intense and direct heat to smoke the salmon thoroughly, whilst cold smoking involves lower temperatures to smoke the fish, meaning that it’ll emerge with a raw-like texture. Despite this, it is still safe for consumption, as long as you don’t suffer from a sensitive stomach.


Can u Eat Smoked Salmon Raw?

Smoked salmon isn’t cooked; instead, it is cured using smoke (cured salmon). Like other forms of raw salmon, it is safe to consume when kept refrigerated and vacuum sealed.

Why is Smoked Salmon Considered Raw?

The majority of smoked salmon is dry-cured in a large quantity of salt for a few days, which pulls out its moisture. Then it’s smoked at temperatures below 80°F. The cold smoke doesn’t actually cook the fish, so it’s left with an almost raw texture.

Is Smoked Salmon Safe to Cook?

Smoked salmon is already cooked, so it doesn’t require further cooking. Though its texture may feel a little raw, cold smoking salmon is a form of cooking the fish without heat as you would for hot smoked fish, for instance.

Is Smoked Fish Raw?

Using the cold smoking method for fish other than salmon is considered raw and unsafe to consume without cooking.

Does Smoked Salmon Mean Ready to Eat?

Smoked salmon is already considered cooked, so it wouldn’t require further cooking, simply pair it with your favorite herbs, bread, wine, or other foods.