Can You Eat Smoked Salmon Raw?

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Most people assume that all forms of smoked salmon are raw. But in truth, salmon that has been smoked hot is cooked all the way through.

Fresh Raw Smoked Salmon

But if we speak of cold-smoked salmon, then that is definitely raw. 

And yes! You can eat smoked salmon raw.

This is because the process of smoking salmon rids it of any harmful bacteria. Salmon that is smoked hot doesn’t even need to be reheated.

This process is referred to as the curing of salmon using smoke, rather than cooking. This is done to prevent spoilage of salmon and ultimately ends up making it good to eat without the need to cook it.

Since the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reassures that smoked salmon can be eaten raw if it’s refrigerated or stored the right way, you know that you’re not doing anything wrong!

How is Smoked Salmon Made?

Smoking salmon can be done in two different ways – one, using cold smoking for it, and two, using hot smoking. 

These two methods of preparing or curing salmon are not only different in their procedural details, but in their health concerns too. In easier terms, cold-smoked salmon is considered to be less safe by some experts.

Cold-Smoked Salmon

Cold smoking is done at a rather low temperature of about 80 to 90 degrees fahrenheit. This itself suggests that this temperature is riskier to be left to deal with destroying pathogens alone.

Cold-smoked salmon is unpasteurized salmon that is dried in salt, in order to draw out almost all of its moisture.

This drying up of salmon is usually done overnight, after which the fish is smoked at low temperatures. However, since it is unpasteurized, it’s only recommended to individuals with a good health history.

So if you’re a person with a compromised immune system, or are elderly, or might be serving salmon to a person as such, you should avoid taking it at all.

It’s also important to remember that cold-smoked salmon has a short shelf life. It can last up to a month in a freezer, but only a week or two in a refrigerator.

This is because there is always the risk of Listeria bacteria growing back on salmon that has only been cold-smoked and is essentially raw. 

Hot-Smoked Salmon

Hot-smoked salmon, as the name itself suggests, is smoked at high temperatures as compared to cold-smoked salmon. 

When the salmon is meant to be hot-smoked, it is left in salty water or wet brine overnight. Later, it is smoked at a temperature of about 120 to 225 degrees fahrenheit, or even higher!

Of course, at such high temperatures, the risk of any alive harmful pathogens is essentially none. And this temperature also ensures that the salmon is not raw, rather cooked thoroughly. 

Such hot-smoked salmon also has a higher shelf life. In fact, you don’t even need to refrigerate it to preserve it. As long as it’s sealed, there is no danger of it being spoiled.

Since it’s cooked, it can be consumed by anyone.

Do You Need to Cook Smoked Salmon?

So again, is smoked salmon raw?

Well, cold-smoked salmon is raw, but hot-smoked salmon is cured enough to be cooked.

Therefore, you must be thinking if smoked salmon then needs to be further cooked or not.

The answer is no! Regardless of whether you want to eat cold-smoked salmon or hot-smoked one, you don’t need to cook it, or even reheat it.

Why is Smoked Salmon Safe to Eat?

Even when salmon is essentially raw, it has been cured enough to be consumed without any health concerns. 

Smoking, whether done at a high temperature or a low temperature, cures the salmon to rid it of any harmful pathogens, making it safe to eat.

Still, it is recommended by most experts that cold-smoked salmon is not consumed during pregnancies, at old age, or with a compromised immune system. No such cautions are to be taken when eating hot-smoked salmon.

It’s also important to remember that commercially prepared salmon goes through a detailed procedure that ensures the destruction of all and any pathogens, and hence even when it comes to cold-smoked salmon, it has been made safe to a great extent.

How to Eat Smoked Salmon?

Whether it is cold-smoked or hot-smoked, it is best to eat salmon without trying to cook it or reheating it.

Such direct heat to the salmon can ruin its natural taste. It can also dry it up further, ruining its taste and texture even more.

You should always read the instructions that come with commercially packaged foods to check if your salmon brands recommend anything.

Benefits of Eating Smoked Salmon

The USDA not only considers raw smoked salmon safe to eat, but also as one of the best protein foods. It has great nutritional value.

  • Protein – Salmon contains all the amino acids that our bodies require. It is a source of 25% of our daily protein requirement. 
  • Fat – It contains beneficial fats such as omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon’s fat contribution is around 41% in females and 28% in males.
  • Iron – Salmon covers 9% of a male’s total iron requirement, and 4% of a female’s.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can You Get Parasites From Smoker Salmon?

No.

Smoked salmon is considered safe to eat regardless of whether it is hot-smoked or cold-smoked.

Because of the high smoking temperature, hot-smoked salmon is a cooked form of salmon and hence has any and all parasites destroyed in the curing process.

Whereas in cold-smoked salmon, there is always a risk of growing parasites. But as long as it is consumed within the stated period, the parasites either don’t grow, or don’t grow enough to be harmful.

Is Cold-Smoked Salmon Fully Cooked?

No.

Cold-smoking is done at a low temperature and hence only cures the fish and does not cook it.

Wrapping it Up

It’s fair to say that both cold-smoked and hot-smoked salmon are safe to eat.

Raw salmon cannot harm you as long as it’s taken within a specific period with necessary precautions to prevent spoilage.

Happy eating!

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TYLER LACHANCE

Tyler Lachance is a cookout professional. His expertise on cooking grilled food, creating marinades, formulating sauces and matching his food with the perfect drink is unrivaled.

Born and raised in a family that has a long history of cookout, he has treated this activity as a part of his culture and who he is.