Is Smoked Salmon Cooked Or Raw?

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By: Tom Valenti


Smoked salmon is a delicacy that has been savored for centuries and enjoyed by people around the world. The process of smoking salmon gives it a distinctive flavor and texture that can’t be found in other types of fish.

But the question remains: Is smoked salmon cooked or raw? The answer to this question depends on the methods for making it.

In this blog post, we’ll look at the differences between raw and cooked smoked salmon, so that you can decide which type is right for your culinary needs.


What is Smoked Salmon?

Smoked salmon is a type of cured fish that has been smoked in order to preserve it, as well as flavor it. The smoking process involves curing the fish with a mixture of salt, sugar and spices before it is placed in a smoker for up to 24 hours. This process gives the fish its signature smoky flavor and also helps to keep it fresh for longer.

Methods for Smoked Salmon

Methods for Smoked Salmon

There are some methods for smoked salmon, however, the two most popular methods are hot smoking and cold smoking.

Hot Smoking

Hot smoking is the process of subjecting fish to smoke in a smoldering fire at temperatures ranging from 120°F to 225°F (49°C to 107°C) for six to twelve hours or until the fish internally reaches 135°F to 140°F (57°C to 60 °C).

Initially, hot smoked salmon is cured in a salt-sugar solution to add moisture to the fish and stop it from drying out during the smoking process. This also gives the salmon a long shelf life and eliminates the need for refrigeration.

This method cooks the salmon totally, resulting in a soft texture and clearly natural flavor. 

Cold smoking

Cold smoking is the process of exposing the fish to smoke from smoke at temperatures between 80°F to 90°F (27°C to 32°C) for 2-3 days.

Cold smoking requires a different process from hot smoking called dry curing. This involves salting and drying the salmon before it is placed in a smokehouse to absorb the flavor from the smoke over a longer period of time.

This method cooks the fish only partially, resulting in a firmer texture and stronger smoky flavor than hot smoking. Therefore, you need to freeze cold-smoked salmon to prevent it from harmful bacteria, as well as for longer shelf life, and cook it before eating.

Is Smoked Salmon Cooked or Raw?

So, is smoked Salmon cooked or raw?  The answer depends on the method of smoking used. Hot smoked salmon is considered cooked, while cold smoked salmon is partially cooked.

What are the Differences Between Cooked Smoked Salmon and Raw Smoked Salmon?

What are the Differences Between Cooked Smoked Salmon

The main difference between cooked and raw smoked salmon is the texture. Cooked smoked salmon (hot smoked salmon) has a soft, flaky texture, while raw smoked salmon (cold smoked salmon) has a firmer texture. There is also a significant difference in flavor – hot smoked salmon has a mild smoky flavor, while cold smoked salmon has a stronger smoky flavor.

What are the Nutritional Benefits of Smoked Salmon?

According to the USDA,  smoked salmon is a good source of protein and contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for brain health. It is also low in saturated fat and cholesterol, making it a healthy choice for many diets. On average,  one ounce serving of smoked salmon contains about 7g protein, 2.4g fat, and 0.2g carbohydrates.

Smoked salmon is also an excellent source of vitamins A, B, D, and E, as well as minerals such as selenium and magnesium. These nutrients can help to reduce inflammation, improve immunity and enhance energy levels.

Is Smoked Salmon Safe to Eat?

Yes, as long as it is prepared and stored correctly. Hot smoked salmon is safe to eat right out of the package since it has been cooked already. Cold smoked salmon should be cooked before consumption to kill any harmful bacteria. It is also important to store smoked salmon in the refrigerator or freezer and use it within a few days of purchase for optimal freshness.

How to Know If Smoked Salmon Go Bad?

Salmon that has been smoked has a lengthy shelf life and can keep for up to two weeks in the refrigerator. To know whether your smoked salmon has gone bad, there are a few signs you should watch out for.

First of all, you can check the date on the package; if it has out of date, your smoked salmon likely has gone bad. Additionally, you should smell the fish; fresh smoked salmon has a moderate smoke and salt aroma, but rotten smoked salmon has a sour or decaying aroma.

The fish’s appearance is also important; if it is gray, drab in color, discolored or has dark blotches, or feels crumbly or mushy to the touch, it should be thrown out right away.

It is important to use smoked salmon within a few days of purchase for optimal freshness, and if it has been stored in temperatures higher than 40°F (4°C) for more than two hours, it should not be eaten.

If you doubt whether smoked salmon is still safe to consume, you should err on the side of caution and toss it.

What to Serve With Smoked Salmon?

If you are looking for a delicious way to enjoy smoked salmon, there are many options available.

Hot smoked salmon can be served with some lemon and butter on top or added to pasta dishes and salads. For a healthy lunch option, try making a smoked salmon sandwich with whole wheat bread, avocado, and greens.

Cold smoked salmon is also great when served as an appetizer with cream cheese and crackers. It can also be used in sandwiches or wraps, as well as added to egg dishes such as omelets or scrambled eggs.

What Wine Can Pair  With Smoked Salmon?

Smoked salmon can be paired with a variety of wines, depending on the flavor profile of the dish.

For hot smoked salmon, pairing it with a light-bodied and crisp white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay is recommended. For cold smoked salmon dishes, try pairing it with an oaked Chardonnay or Pinot Noir for a fuller-bodied experience.

If you’re looking for something different to pair your smoked salmon with, try adding some bubbles! Light sparkling wines such as Prosecco or Cava will bring out the smoky flavors in the fish and make for a delightful experience.

Avoid pairing smoked salmon with heavily flavored wines such as an oaked Cabernet Sauvignon, as this can overpower the delicate flavors of the fish.

FAQs About Smoked Salmon

Can Smoked Salmon be Eaten Raw?

Raw salmon is safe to eat as long as it has been properly handled and stored. It can also be safely consumed if it has been frozen for a minimum of two days at temperatures of -4°F (-20°C) or lower, in order to kill any harmful bacteria. 

Should I Wash Smoked Salmon?

No, you should not wash smoked salmon as this can cause it to become soggy and lose its flavor. Instead, check the package for any dirt or debris that may have stuck to the fish before consuming.

Does Smoked Salmon Contain Parasites?

Smoked salmon is usually safe to eat as the smoking process kills any parasites in the fish. However, if you are unsure it is best to cook smoked salmon thoroughly before eating it.

Is it Easy to Digest Smoked Salmon?

Yes, smoked salmon is easy to digest due to its smoking process, which breaks down the fish’s muscles and tissues, thus facilitating easier digestion by your body.

What Salmon Can be Used for Smoking?

The most commonly used type of salmon for smoking is Atlantic or Pacific Salmon. Other types of salmon that can be smoked include steelhead, brown trout, and pink salmon.

What is the Best Part of Salmon to Smoke?

The best part to smoke is the fatty belly of the salmon, as this contains the most flavorful oil. This part can be found on the underside of the fish and should have a dark pinkish-red color.

Is Smoked Salmon Healthy?

Yes, smoked salmon is a healthy food option because it is high in omega-3 fatty acids which are essential to brain health and contain beneficial vitamins and minerals. However, it should be enjoyed in moderation as it contains higher levels of sodium than other types of fish.

Can I Make Smoked Salmon at Home?

Yes, it is possible to make smoked salmon at home. You will need a smoker or BBQ with a lid, as well as the proper supplies such as wood chips, fish brine, and spices.

Final Thought

All in all, smoked salmon is an incredible delicacy that can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. So, is smoked salmon cooked or raw? The answer is both.  Cold smoked salmon is usually still raw, while hot smoked salmon is cooked through the smoking process. As long as it’s prepared properly, smoked salmon is a healthy and delicious food that can pair nicely with a variety of wines or be enjoyed on its own.

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Tom Valenti

Chef/Owner of both Ouest and ‘Cesca, and the Executive Chef of Le Cirque, Alison on Dominick, and Butterfield 81.

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