There’s a reason we’re constantly on the lookout for salmon recipes: It’s one of the most versatile and delicious fish, not to mention healthy. But instead of grilling it this weekend, try smoking it! Smoking salmon takes a bit more time and effort than grilling, but it’s worth it for the incredible flavor.
Smoking salmon is also a great choice if you’re cooking for a crowd because you can smoke several fillets at once. Plus, since the cooking happens in an enclosed space and you don’t need to turn the fillets during cooking, there’s no risk of your fish falling apart on the grill.
Here are 10 reasons why smoking salmon is better than grilling it:
1. More time to enjoy your guests
A smoked salmon can take anywhere from 3-5 hours to cook, which gives you plenty of time to mingle with your guests. If you’re the type of person who loves entertaining others but never has enough time to really enjoy yourself, then smoking might be right for you!
2. It’s easy to learn
Smoking salmon is a relatively easy way to cook, especially when compared with more complex styles like sous vide. Once you learn how to smoke salmon properly, you can apply the same methods to other foods like chicken, pork and even beef. Whether you’re cooking for yourself or for a large party, smoked salmon will come out great every time.
3. It requires less prep and cleanup time
Grilling requires more prep work than smoking. You have to heat the grill up and oil it down before you even start cooking, which makes for more work before and after cooking. Smoke doesn’t leave behind the same residue that charred fish does, so there’s less scrubbing involved in cleaning up after yourself when you smoke rather than grill your fish.
4. You don’t need fancy equipment to do it
Just set up your grill for indirect cooking and place some wood chips in an aluminum foil tray over the coals. Then put on your favorite tunes, pour yourself a cocktail and enjoy some low-key summertime goodness as the fish cooks away.
The smoked salmon will be moist, tender and full of flavor. But if you want to get really clever, you can also use it later in other recipes.
5. Salmon tastes amazing cold or hot
My favorite way to eat smoked salmon is straight from the smoker, when it’s still warm and moist inside with a crispy crust on the outside. But it’s equally good served cold as part of salads or sandwiches or on bagels with cream cheese and capers. You can also dice it up and use it in pasta dishes or chowders — just about anything where you’d normally use canned salmon works great with this stuff instead.
6. You can smoke salmon year-round no matter the weather.
It’s easy to take advantage of the warm weather and fire up the grill for delicious foods like salmon, but what if you want to eat grilled fish in the winter? Smoking lets you enjoy smoked fish no matter what season it is or what the weather is like. You can even smoke fish indoors in your oven or kitchen range with little fuss.
7. Smoky flavor
Its smoky flavor goes well with a lot of other foods, like salads and pastas. You can prepare your salmon in advance and then just heat it up if you’re having guests over for dinner. If you’re looking for a recipe that includes smoked salmon, try this pasta salad with smoked salmon and peas.
8. Longer shelf life
One of the biggest benefits of smoking fish over grilling it is that smoked fish has the potential to last up to three months in storage, whereas grilled fish is only good for up to two days.
If you plan on eating your smoked fish within two days, you don’t have to store it at all if you don’t want to — but if you’re preparing the salmon in advance of a party or special event, or if you simply want to keep it around for later use, you can easily do so by freezing or refrigerating it.
This means that you can prepare a large amount of salmon once and save the rest for another day rather than preparing individual servings each time you want some salmon.
9. It tastes great on pizza!
Salmon is a flavor that goes well with many different toppings, and some people prefer to add it to their favorite pizza recipes. The smoky taste that comes from smoking salmon can enhance the flavor of the other ingredients in your pizza.
10. Smoking salmon instead of grilling is less labor intensive – no flipping!
When you smoke salmon, you don’t have to worry about flipping it half-way through the cooking process. With grilling, many cooks flip their fish halfway through the cooking time to make sure they cook evenly on all sides. Not only does this require effort, but it also risks damaging the fillets if they tear when you flip them over. If you smoke your salmon instead of grilling it, there is no need to flip the fish at all.