Pellet Smoked Salmon Bellies - Tiffany Haugen

Pellet Smoked Salmon Bellies - Tiffany Haugen


After writing the book, Smoking Salmon & Steelhead, we have dozens of different wet and dry brines that add unique pizazz to smoked fish. As fun as new tastes and flavor combinations can be, sometimes we just want easy. And there is no easier recipe than my dad’s recipe that was passed down to him by his best fishing buddy. There’s one ingredient, two, if you decide to sprinkle on some black pepper. Sometimes a challenge to find in grocery stores, it’s always available online and that one-ingredient cure is Morton Tender Quick, Home Meat Cure. The brine time is 22 minutes. And if you happen to have a pellet grill, you can even skip getting out your smoker. This year I’ve been using Camp Chef’s new Apex 24 Pellet Grill and loving it because it’s so easy to use, offers even cooking, efficient operation and is simple to move around the back porch as needed.

Salmon bellies are worth saving on their own to smoke, rather than splitting them in half with each fillet. Salmon belly meat is thin and can easily be overcooked. When filleted in one piece, however, they will retain all of the rich oils, making them the perfect morsel of a salmon to smoke. The thin subcutaneous lining inside the belly retails heat and oil, and be sure to peal it away after cooking, prior to eating. Rarely do salmon bellies make it far off the smoker at our house before they are gobbled up, warm.

Here’s how to have hot smoked salmon bellies from the water to the table in less than 6 hours. Actual smoke time varies with outside temperatures and thickness of salmon bellies. Know ing when smoked salmon is “done” depends on how you like it. Some people like a softer smoke where the internal temperature of the fish only reaches 125º-130º, others prefer a dryer, chewier product. Keep in mind, the more smoke you put to the salmon, the more smoke flavor it will have up to a point. Too much exposure to smoke may cause the salmon to have a bitter taste. If you prefer your smoked salmon more on the done side, only allow heat after the first 3-4 hours of smoking or finish in a 160º oven or food dehydrator.

This is one of those “sprinkle it on” recipes. The size and amount of your salmon will determine how much Morton Tender Quick to use. Follow these simple steps and give it a try on salmon bellies, salmon steaks, even whole or cut-to-size salmon fillets.



  • Rinse salmon bellies and remove scales if necessary
  • Lay fish in a single layer on a baking sheet or shallow dish.
  • Sprinkle both sides of the fish, fully coating with Morton Tender Quick.
  • Let sit 22 minutes at room temperature.
  • Rinse fish well under cold water.
  • Pat fish dry and place on a drying rack, skin down, sprinkle with pepper if desired.
  • Let fish air dry 30-60 minutes.
  • Preheat pellet grill or smoker to 250º. Use your favorite flavor of smoke chips.
  • Place bellies, skin side down on smoker or grill racks.
  • Smoke 3-4 hours with smoke and begin testing for desired doneness after 4 hours.
  • Enjoy fresh off the grill or refrigerate until ready to eat.
  • Vacuum seal for longer refrigeration/freezer storage.


Note:  For signed copies of Tiffany’s popular book, Cooking Seafood, and other best-selling titles, visit

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