Lemon Pepper Salmon is not only melt-in-your-mouth delicious, but it’s a healthy fish dinner too! Make a simple, tangy rub for smoked salmon to really elevate the dish. Our flavorful lemon pepper salmon recipe is perfect for an easy main dish or appetizer, and your family will love it!
There are two methods for smoking fish: hot smoking and cold smoking.
Personally, I prefer both the flavor and texture of hot smoked salmon. It’s nice and flaky, with an extra layer of flavor.
Cold smoked fish is firmer and is more often served as an appetizer with crackers and spreads.
Lemon Pepper Salmon
After mixing up a quick salmon rub for smoking, the fish only takes 90 minutes to cook. It’s one of many reasons why I love this lemon pepper salmon recipe so much!
If you’re short on time, or don’t own a smoker, I do have a recipe for air fryer salmon with a honey mustard glaze.
While it doesn’t have the delicious smoky flavor of hot smoked lemon pepper salmon, it will be ready to eat in just 10 minutes!
Keep reading to learn how to cook salmon in a smoker, plus the difference between hot and cold smoking salmon!
Lemon Pepper Salmon Rub for Smoking
- Kosher salt – It’s important to use kosher or sea salt, as regular table salt is iodized and can add an unpleasant metallic flavor to the fish.
- Lemon pepper seasoning – I keep things easy and buy a lemon pepper seasoning blend.
If you’d like to make your own lemon pepper, or even a completely different rub for smoked salmon, you certainly can!
- Dijon mustard – I prefer Dijon, but whole grain mustard, yellow mustard, or even honey mustard would be good too.
If you aren’t a fan of this lemon pepper rub for smoked salmon, check out my tutorial on how to cook salmon in a smoker. I use a simple spice blend for that recipe!
Tips for How to Cook Salmon in a Smoker
- Prevent fish from sticking.
Be sure to lightly oil the smoker grates so you can remove the cooked filet without it tearing.
Or, follow my lead — place the filet on a sheet of aluminum foil before applying the salmon rub for smoking.
You can transfer it directly to the hot smoker, plus it’s easy to remove when the fish is done!
- Monitor the wood chips and water level.
It’s important to maintain a high level of moisture inside the smoker, so check it periodically and fill it with more water as needed.
The same goes for the wood chips or pellets. Depending on the size of the wood chamber, you may need to add more.
- Let the fish rest!
Rest the hot smoked filet for 10 minutes or so before slicing.
This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the fish, creating perfectly flaky and scrumptious bites of lemon pepper salmon!
It’s also delicious on salads or a bed of buttery pasta — even cacio e pepe would be tasty!
As an appetizer, pair this lemon pepper salmon recipe with cream cheese on crackers or pumpernickel bread!
Lemon Pepper Salmon Recipe FAQ
Fruit woods like cherry and apple tend to pair really nicely with fish, but each variety lends its own unique flavor.
Avoid heavy flavors like mesquite, as they can easily overpower the flavor of salmon.
As you might guess from the name, the primary difference between hot and cold smoking is the temperature the food is cooked at!
Hot smoked salmon is cooked on a smoker to a temperature above 120°F. This creates a flaky texture with a noticeable smoky flavor.
In comparison, cold smoking can be done indoors. Also, cold smoked fish is typically cooked toward the rare side (below 115°F), for a smoother, silkier texture with a fresh, less smoky flavor.
How to Store Hot Smoked Salmon
If you have leftovers, allow them to cool, then wrap the filet in plastic wrap. Store it in the refrigerator and enjoy it again within 7 to 10 days.
That being said, it will easily last up to 3 weeks if it’s vacuum-packed. You can also freeze smoked fish for up to a year, then thaw it in the refrigerator before serving.
With love, from our simple kitchen to yours.
Other Smoker Recipes
Lemon Pepper Salmon (Hot Smoked Salmon Recipe)
- wood chips or pellets (whichever your smoker uses), soaked in water
- 3 pounds salmon filet, leave skin on
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons lemon pepper seasoning
- Prepare your wood chips by soaking them in water for at least 30 minutes prior to smoking.
- Check the filet to ensure all of the pin bones have been removed. If you notice any, use a pair of tweezers or small needle nose pliers to pull them out.
- Rinse the filet to remove any debris, if necessary, then pat the salmon dry with clean paper toweling.
- Using a basting brush, apply mustard to the flesh side of the salmon; sprinkle salt and lemon pepper seasoning evenly over the mustard.
- When the salmon is ready, put a light coating of oil on the salmon skin, or spray the grates with cooking spray, to prevent it from sticking to the grates. Alternatively, place the salmon on a sheet of aluminum foil (I do this so I can just grab the foil to remove the filet from the smoker without worry of tearing the fish)
- Smoke the salmon at 225°F for 90 minutes, or until the salmon reaches an internal temperature of 140°F.
- When it is fully cooked, carefully remove the hot smoked salmon from the smoker. Allow the fish to rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.
All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe’s nutritional value will vary depending on the ingredients used, measuring methods, and portion sizes.
Originally published October 2021, updated and republished July 2023
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