Demystifying Smoked Salmon: Is It Cooked or Raw?

Is smoked salmon cooked?

Smoked salmon is a delicacy known for its smoky flavor and slight saltiness. It is a popular choice among seafood lovers, but many people wonder whether smoked salmon is cooked or raw. In this article, we will explore the process of making smoked salmon, the different smoking techniques, and whether it is safe to eat without further cooking.

What is smoked salmon?

Smoked salmon is a type of salmon that undergoes a curing and smoking process. It is first cured with salt, which preserves the fish and enhances its flavor. After curing, the salmon is exposed to smoke, which imparts a distinct smoky flavor and aroma. Smoked salmon is available in a variety of flavors including honey, mango, lime, barbecue sauce, maple syrup and black pepper.

Smoking Techniques: Hot vs. Cold Smoking

There are two main smoking techniques used to prepare smoked salmon: hot smoking and cold smoking.

Hot Smoking

Hot smoking involves exposing the cured salmon to higher temperatures, typically around 120°F. The high temperature “cooks” the salmon, resulting in a flakier texture and a more intense smoky flavor. Hot smoked salmon is considered cooked and can be enjoyed without further cooking. It can be used in a variety of dishes such as salads, pasta and dips.

Cold Smoking

Cold smoking uses lower temperatures, typically between 90-99°F. This smoking technique imparts a milder smoky flavor while keeping the fish raw. Cold smoked salmon has a tender and slightly moist texture similar to raw salmon. It is often used in sandwiches, canapés and other dishes where the delicacy of the salmon is emphasized.

Is smoked salmon safe to eat?

When it comes to the safety of eating smoked salmon, there are several factors to consider. Commercially produced smoked salmon has a minimal risk of causing illness because it is prepared under strict standards. However, homemade smoked salmon may pose some risks if not handled and stored properly.

Curing and Smoking

The curing and smoking processes help kill bacteria and preserve the fish. As long as the salmon has been properly cured, smoked and stored, it is generally safe to eat. However, it’s important to note that the smoking process does not eliminate all potential pathogens, so proper handling and storage are critical.


Smoked salmon is usually packaged in vacuum-sealed packaging, which helps extend its shelf life. Once opened, the package should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer. Smoked salmon can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 21 days, but it is important to remove only the slices you intend to eat to avoid temperature fluctuations. Freezing smoked salmon can extend its shelf life up to 3 months. When defrosting frozen smoked salmon, it should be transferred to the refrigerator to prevent contamination.

Using Smoked Salmon in Cooking

Smoked salmon is a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes. Its unique smoky flavor pairs well with a variety of ingredients, allowing for creative culinary combinations. Here are some ideas for incorporating smoked salmon into your meals:

Sandwiches and Wraps

Smoked salmon adds a delicious and luxurious touch to sandwiches and wraps. Pair it with cream cheese, fresh vegetables and herbs for a flavorful combination.

Bruschette and Crostini

Toasted slices of bread are topped with smoked salmon, cream cheese and herbs for an elegant appetizer.


Add smoked salmon to salads for an extra burst of flavor. It pairs well with greens, citrus, avocado and a variety of dressings.


Combine smoked salmon with cream cheese, lemon juice and herbs to make a delicious salmon pâté. Serve with crackers or bread.


Make a creamy and flavorful dip by combining smoked salmon with Greek yogurt, dill, lemon zest and spices. It’s perfect for dipping vegetables or crackers.


Use smoked salmon as a filling for sushi rolls to add a unique twist to traditional sushi flavors.

Pies and Quiches

Add smoked salmon to tart or quiche fillings along with ingredients like eggs, cheese and vegetables for a tasty and satisfying dish.


Smoked salmon can enhance the flavor of creamy soups such as chowders and bisques. Simply add it at the end of the cooking process.

Pasta and rice dishes

Toss smoked salmon into pasta or rice dishes for a burst of smoky goodness. It complements flavors such as lemon, dill, cream sauce and peas.

Benefits of eating smoked salmon

In addition to providing a unique taste experience, smoked salmon offers several health benefits. Here are some of the nutritional benefits of adding smoked salmon to your diet:


Smoked salmon is a good source of high-quality protein, which is essential for building and repairing tissues in the body.

B Vitamins

It contains several B vitamins, including B12, which play a critical role in energy production, brain function, and red blood cell formation.

Vitamin A

Smoked salmon is rich in vitamin A, which supports eye health, immune function, and cell growth.

Omega-3 fatty acids

One of the most important nutritional benefits of smoked salmon is its high content of omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy fats have been linked to numerous health benefits, including reducing inflammation, improving heart health, and supporting brain function.

Bottom line

Smoked salmon is a tasty and versatile seafood option that can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. Whether hot smoked or cold smoked, smoked salmon offers a unique flavor experience that can enhance your meals. It is important to ensure that smoked salmon is properly cured, smoked and stored to maintain its safety and quality. By following proper handling and storage guidelines, you can safely enjoy the delicate flavors and nutritional benefits of smoked salmon in your favorite dishes.


Is Smoked Salmon Cooked or Raw?

Smoked salmon can be either cooked or raw, depending on the smoking technique used. Hot smoking cooks the salmon, while cold smoking leaves it raw.

Can I eat smoked salmon raw?

Yes, you can safely eat both hot and cold smoked salmon without further cooking. However, it is important to ensure that it has been properly cured, smoked and stored.

How long can I keep smoked salmon?

Smoked salmon can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 21 days if handled properly. If you plan to store it for a longer period, freezing it can extend its shelf life to up to 3 months.

Is homemade smoked salmon safe to eat?

Homemade smoked salmon can be safe to eat if proper hygiene and storage practices are followed. It is important to ensure that the salmon is properly cured, smoked at the correct temperature and stored at the correct temperature to reduce the risk of bacterial contamination.

What are the health benefits of eating smoked salmon?

Smoked salmon is a good source of protein, B vitamins, vitamin A, and omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients support several aspects of health, including tissue repair, energy production, eye health, and cardiovascular function.

How can I use smoked salmon in the kitchen?

Smoked salmon is a versatile ingredient that can be used in sandwiches, wraps, salads, pies, dips, sushi, pies, quiches, soups, pasta dishes, and more. Its distinctive smoky flavor pairs well with a variety of ingredients and adds a luxurious touch to many recipes.