While salmon is excellent on its own, either baked or pan-seared, smoking woods that pair well with this fish can add an unbeatable, delicious flavor. In fact, before people invented refrigeration systems, smoking salmon was the only way to preserve it. Take a step back into the shoes of our ancestors and learn what all the hype is about. Here’s ButlerWood’s take on the best smoking woods that elevate the flavors of your salmon.
Oak wood provides a rich yet not-too-intense smokey flavor to your salmon. It has a high-temperature range, is lighter than woods like mesquite, and is heavier than apple wood. However, you’ll need to produce lots of heat initially to get this wood to smoke correctly.
Pro-tip: Try soaking your wood with bourbon to infuse more flavors into your smoke.
If oak isn’t your first preference for smoking salmon, apple wood could provide a gentler and sweeter flavor without taking away from the fish's natural taste. Apple isn’t an overpowering flavor; it can create an enticing crust on top of your salmon that’s fun to eat. You might also consider cold smoking with apple wood. This process allows you to incorporate the flavor of the smoke into raw salmon before cooking it in a pan or oven.
One of our favorite woods to smoke salmon with is cherry because of how versatile this wood is. The sweet and fruity flavor is more intense than apple since the wood comes from a tree that also produces nuts and pairs well with other woods on this list. Plus, cherry smoker wood can change the color of your salmon to a vivid red hue. Who knew wood could alter the color of your fish?
Hickory is a smoking wood that pairs well with salmon when you want a stronger flavor that wood from cherry or apple trees can’t offer. Some individuals might find hickory is too intense for fish, but it can strike a perfect balance between smokiness and sweetness. Because this wood is packed full of flavor, you must be mindful when cooking with it—it can quickly overpower the salmon if you’re not careful.
With many kinds of wood on the market that you can cook with, you have multiple options for flavoring your salmon. Whether they like intense smokiness or milder flavors, your family will be impressed when you introduce a new way to eat their favorite fish! Which of these woods will you try smoking your salmon with first?