Is Smoked Salmon Cooked Or Raw?

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By: Christian Chereau


It is easy to be confused about the term “smoked salmon,” as it can lead people to assume that it is either cooked or raw. However, when you take a deeper look into this unique seafood item, you’ll find that there is much more to the method of making smoked salmon than just adding in cooking processes. 

Bear with us and we will explore the answer to “is smoked salmon cooked?” and discuss all aspects of smoking fish – from brining and drying processes, to traditional methods used by native cultures around the world.


What Is Smoked Salmon?

Is Smoked Salmon Cooked Or Raw

Smoked salmon is a type of fish, usually wild caught and ocean-farmed, which has been treated with smoke as part of the curing or seasoning process. The smoke treatment can range from light to heavy; depending on preferences, tastes and desired textures. 

The smoking process involves bringing the fish (in water and salt) for up to 24 hours, then drying it with cold smoke over a period of several days. The fish can be cold-smoked (temperatures ranging from 70°F to 90°F) or hot-smoked (90°F and above). This smoking process gives smoked salmon its unique flavor, texture and appearance. 

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Why Did People Smoke Salmon In The First Place?

Is Smoked Salmon Cooked Or Raw

Traditionally, Native Americans and other cultures around the world would smoke salmon as a way to preserve it. By smoking the fish, they were able to stop spoilage by inhibiting the growth of bacteria in fresh fish. This allowed them to store and transport their catch over long distances without having to worry about it going bad. 

The smoking process was also utilized to enhance the flavor of the fish. The traditional smoking method involves slow-cooking the salmon over low heat for several hours, allowing the smoke to permeate the flesh. This process penetrated the fish with a distinctive smoky flavor, which is still enjoyed by millions of people worldwide, making smoked salmon a delicacy today. 

What Types Of Salmon Are Normally Used For Smoking?

Mostly, it is wild-caught salmon from cold-water ocean habitats that are used for smoking. However, farm-raised fish can also be smoked, though this will affect the flavor and texture of the final product in comparison to wild caught fish. The most popular varieties are Chinook, Sockeye, and Coho salmon. 

  • Chinook salmon, also known as King salmon, is the largest and has a rich, buttery flavor. 
  • Sockeye salmon is known for its deep red color and strong, savory taste. 
  • Coho salmon, also called Silver salmon, has a milder flavor and softer texture. 

When selecting salmon for smoking, it’s important to choose high-quality, fresh fish that are properly handled and stored to ensure the best flavor and texture.

Nutrition Advantages Of Smoked Salmon

Most people think that smoked salmon is just a delicious delicacy, but it also has some nutrition advantages. 

  1. Firstly, it is a rich source of high-quality protein which helps to build and repair muscle tissue. 
  2. Secondly, it is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce inflammation and lower the risk of heart disease. 
  3. Additionally, smoked salmon is low in calories and saturated fats, making it a healthy choice for weight management. 
  4. Finally, it is also a good source of vitamins B12 and D, both of which are important for a healthy immune system and strong bones.

Overall, incorporating smoked salmon into your diet can provide numerous health benefits while also adding a delicious flavor to your meals.

Two Common Types Of Smoked Salmon

Smoked salmon is a delicious and nutritious food that can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. The two main types of smoked salmon are hot-smoked and cold-smoked. 

Hot-Smoked Salmon

The process of hot-smoking involves curing the salmon and then smoking it at a high temperature. This results in a rich and smoky flavor, with a firm texture that is perfect for sandwiches or salads. Hot-smoked salmon can be served cold or heated, making it a great option for a variety of meals. 

It is also a healthy alternative to other meat options, as it is high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Try layering it on top of bagels or toast, adding it to pasta dishes, or simply enjoying it on its own.

Cold-Smoked Salmon

Unlike hot-smoked salmon, which is cooked through, cold-smoked salmon is cured and smoked at a low temperature, which gives it a unique, complex flavor. To achieve this delicacy, the salmon is first rubbed with salt and sugar, along with other spices or herbs. It is then smoked in a specialized chamber, which allows the smoke to circulate without heating the salmon, for several hours or even days. 

The result is a rich, flavorful fish that is perfect for topping bagels or serving as a standalone dish. 

Is Smoked Salmon Cooked Or Raw?

Most types of smoked salmon are not cooked, as the process of curing and smoking is enough to preserve the fish and make it safe to eat. However, hot-smoked salmon is cooked through during the smoking process, resulting in a firm texture. Cold-smoked salmon is typically served raw or lightly seared, allowing you to enjoy the unique flavor of the fish. 

This means that smoked salmon is not raw, but it is not fully cooked either. It is considered a “semi-cooked” or “semi-raw” food, which means that it is safe to eat without further cooking, but it may not be suitable for people with compromised immune systems or pregnant women.

How To Store Smoked Salmon Properly?

Once you have bought or made your smoked salmon, it’s important to store it correctly in order to ensure that it stays fresh and safe to eat. The best way to store smoked salmon is by wrapping it tightly in plastic wrap, aluminum foil, or wax paper, and then placing it in an air-tight container. This will help to maintain the flavor and texture of the salmon for several days

For longer storage, you can freeze smoked salmon for up to three months. To do this, wrap it tightly in a freezer-safe container or bag and place it in the coldest part of your freezer. For best results, consume frozen smoked salmon within one month. When ready to eat, thaw the salmon in the refrigerator before serving. 

However, if it has an unpleasant odor or slimy texture then this is a sign that the fish is no longer safe to eat. 

Some Recipes To Go With Smoked Salmon

Smoked salmon can be enjoyed in a variety of dishes, from light salads to hearty mains. Here are some delicious recipes that you can try with smoked salmon: 

Smoked Salmon and Egg Toast – A simple yet filling breakfast option made with toasted sourdough bread topped with smoked salmon, poached eggs, and a sprinkle of dill. 

Smoked Salmon Pizza – Make your own wood-fired pizza at home with a simple smoked salmon, cream cheese, and dill topping. 

Smoked Salmon Dip – For a light appetizer or snack, try mixing together smoked salmon, cream cheese, lemon juice, and capers to make a delicious dip. Serve it with crackers or crostini for the perfect bite. 

Smoked Salmon Pasta – A comforting dish made with linguine pasta, smoked salmon, and a creamy sauce. Add some fresh herbs for a bit of color and flavor. 


How To Thaw Smoked Salmon?

Smoked salmon should be thawed in the refrigerator overnight, or you can use the defrost setting on your microwave and heat it for a few minutes until it is just soft. The salmon should be cooked immediately after thawing. 

Does Sashimi Use Smoked Salmon?

No, sashimi is typically made with raw fish, not smoked salmon. If you’re looking to enjoy the taste of smoked salmon in a sushi dish, try creating your own maki rolls or nigiri with hot-smoked salmon instead. 

How Do You If Smoked Salmon’s Gone Bad?

Signs of spoilage in smoked salmon may include a slimy or sticky texture and an off smell. If the salmon has an unpleasant odor, white or yellowish spots, it’s best to discard it. Be sure to check for any signs of mold as well. 

Does Smoked Salmon Contain Parasites?

There is a risk of parasites in fish that has not been frozen or cooked. Since smoking does not involve heat, smoked salmon may still contain parasites. To reduce the risk of getting ill from any type of raw fish, it is best to cook your fish thoroughly before consuming it. 

Is Smoked Salmon A Healthy Snack?

Yes, smoked salmon is a healthy snack. It is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and protein, and contains fewer calories than many other types of fish. However, it can be high in sodium depending on how it is processed. 

Is Lox Salmon Similar To Smoked Salmon?

Lox and smoked salmon are similar, but not the same. Lox is traditionally cured in a salty brine or sugar-salt mixture and cold smoked. On the other hand, smoked salmon can be hot-smoked or cold-smoked, and it may also be flavored with different spices and seasonings. 

Is Cold Smoked Salmon Safe?

Cold-smoked salmon is safe to eat when it has been properly processed and cured. It is important to make sure that the fish comes from a reliable source, as improper curing or storage can lead to bacterial contamination. 


Briefly, smoked salmon is a favorite item in many kitchens, and it can be consumed either cooked or raw. Each smoking method imparts flavors that can enhance your dish. Allowing the taste of this delicacy to come through clearly is essential for ensuring that each bite you take is truly fulfilling. 
Ultimately, it’s up to you decide how you want to bring out the best of your smoked salmon. So if you’re looking for an adventure in taste, grab a pack and give it a try!

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Christian Chereau

Christian Chéreau is a fourth generation French Pastry Chef born in France on December 20th, 1951. Chéreau cultivated his passion for the art of Pastry as a child in his grandfather’s acclaimed pastry shop, “Chéreau” in Sandillon, France

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