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Is Smoked Salmon Ready to Eat? Facts on The Safety of Smoked Salmon, The Curing Process, and The Difference Between Hot and Cold Smoked Salmon

Is Smoked Salmon Ready to Eat? Facts on The Safety of Smoked Salmon, The Curing Process, and The Difference Between Hot and Cold Smoked Salmon

Growing up I had smoked salmon almost weekly. We were a big bagel house, which can lead to lots of cream cheese and smoked salmon. I had a friend over once who saw me open up a packet of cold smoked salmon, pick out a few pieces, throw them on my bagel, and go to town.

He wasn’t from a “bagel house” and he looked at me like I had three eyes. He asked me if the way I was eating the food was safe. We’ve found this to be a pretty common question here at HeNeedsFood. So, let’s ask it. Is smoked salmon ready to eat?

Yes, it is. Smoked salmon is ready to eat whether it was hot smoked or cold smoked, as the fish is cured prior to the smoking process. Both options are completely safe and delicious!

We will discuss what the curing process is, how the smoking process works, and plenty more in this article to help answer the question at hand.

We cover the following items in this post:

Is Smoked Salmon Ready to Eat?

Smoked salmon on a plate. Is smoked salmon ready to eat?

Yes, it is.

Whether the salmon is hot smoked or cold smoked, it is safe to eat.

  • Hot smoked salmon is fully cooked in the smoker at temperatures between 126 – 176 °F (52 – 80 °C).
  • Cold smoked salmon is not fully cooked, but it is cured prior to smoking the fish. Smoking temperatures are generally between 68 – 86 °F (or 20 – 30 °C). (We cover more on curing and eating raw cold-smoked salmon below.)

Both are very popular options in the US, and I personally enjoy both very much.

Is Cold Smoked Salmon Safe to Eat Raw?

Smoked salmon on a bagel. Is smoked salmon ready to eat?

Yes, it is. The fish is cured, and then cold-smoked. By following this process, it is safe to eat raw, cold smoked salmon.

The Curing Process

Although cold smoked salmon is considered raw, it is safe to eat due to the fact the fish has gone through the curing process. Curing is the process of preserving meat through the addition of an agent (usually salt, sugar, or nitrates and nitrites). The salt helps remove moisture from the protein, which makes it harder for bacteria growth and the overall decomposition of the fish.

Curing salmon assists in:

  • Preserving the taste and texture of the fish
  • Preventing the growth of bacteria
  • Maintaining the overall fish quality for a longer duration of time

The Cold Smoking Process

Multiple salmon in a smoker. Is smoked salmon ready to eat?

Once the salmon is cured, the cold-smoking process begins. This process allows food to obtain a smoky flavor and retain its moisture while persisting in a “raw” state. As we stated above, cold-smoking fish doesn’t cook the meat, but it does allow for flavor enhancement.

Can I Eat Cold-Smoke Salmon Right Out of The Packaging?

Yes! People can sometimes be afraid to eat cold smoked salmon, especially if they haven’t had it before. The idea of raw, packaged fish can be a bit concerning if you’re not familiar with how it was preserved.

But, fear not! I’ve been eating it for 30+ years, often right out of its packaging. I take it from the package, put it on a bagel with some cream cheese, and enjoy.

How To Serve Smoked Salmon as An Appetizer: Some Recommended Recipes

Smoked salmon on a platter. Is smoked salmon ready to eat?

Smoked salmon is so versatile and can be served in many ways. Below are some of our favorites:

  • A smoked salmon platter. Grab some creamy dill spread, some cucumbers, capers, small cuts of toast, crackers, and whatever else you may prefer. You can customize a platter so quickly.
  • Stuffed salmon wraps. Mix some horseradish and cream cheese together, then spread these on the slices of salmon, and roll the smoked salmon. This can then be sprinkled with lemon juice and ground black pepper. If you want to add some crunch, think about some cucumbers or even asparagus.
  • A bagel spread. This is my personal favorite. You can get some bagels ready, smoked salmon, cream cheese, cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, capers, and any other toppings you like. Mix and match and enjoy one of the best combinations in the world.

You can be so creative with smoked salmon. Feel free to investigate some alternatives at home and recommend them!

Final Thoughts: Is Smoked Salmon Ready to Eat?

Smoked salmon is most definitely ready to eat. Whether it was hot or cold smoked, the fish has been prepared safely for consumption.

The difference between the two comes down to preference. I enjoy hot smoked salmon with dinner, complimented by some potatoes or rice. I like cold smoked salmon more around breakfast or lunch with a bagel and some cream cheese. I’ve had both numerous times, and recommend them equally.

If you’re ever unsure how to pick the best fish, you can use this resource from the FDA to help in selecting and serving fresh seafood.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What Sauce Goes with Smoked Salmon?

Smoked salmon goes well with a variety of sauces, but it is usually served with either a creamy dill sauce, a hollandaise sauce, or cream cheese (we know it’s not technically a sauce, but it works so well!). They all pair nicely with the fish as they balance the salty smoked salmon flavor well.

If you’d prefer a different flavor combination, it’s worth experimenting, because smoked salmon works so well with so many different foods.

Can You Eat Smoked Salmon Without Cooking It?

Yes, you can.

How Do You Serve Ready-to-Eat Smoked Salmon?

Ready-to-eat smoked salmon is often served as an appetizer with cream cheese or horseradish. It is sometimes incorporated into full meals, but it is more commonly served alongside other foods so that its flavor and texture can be fully appreciated.

You can serve it hot or cold, but be aware that if you cook it, or reheat it, it’s likely to start turning flaky and it may fall apart.