There’s something about grilling salmon that makes it more flavorful, especially with the right mix of herbs and spices that complement the smoky flavor from the grill. Time to put away the baking sheet, break out the grill, and upgrade your grilling skills with this popular fish. Are you ready to learn how to grill salmon? Get ready to impress your friends and family at the next backyard BBQ gathering.
For the best taste, always buy the freshest salmon with no pungent, fishy odor. When pressed, the skin or flesh should spring back rather than retaining an indentation. For whole fish, eyes should be bright, bulging, and moist. Under the dorsal fins, gills should be rich red or pink. Unless frozen, fish has a short shelf life and should be cooked within two days.
Top quality frozen fish should be vacuum sealed to prevent loss of flavor and moisture. They should be brightly colored, just like fresh salmon in the butcher’s department. Look for letters FAS (Frozen at Sea) on the packaging. This fish is flash-frozen at extremely low temperatures onboard a fishing vessel within seconds of being caught.
Salmon has a flavor all its own that’s intensified on the grill. Tossing on a few herbs and spices makes it even better. Just like most meats, grilled salmon gets even more flavorful with a little black pepper and salt added to both sides. Minced fresh ginger and garlic are also delicious choices depending on your recipe.
Other herbs and spices to consider -lemon pepper, mustard powder, dill, sea salt thyme, rosemary, basil, marjoram, lemon zest
Light and buttery sauce is usually best for salmon. Elevating it just enough for a delicious flavor without outshining the salmon. Unsalted butter mixed with a little minced garlic, or a sweet brown sugar and honey sauce drizzled over your salmon steaks. Honey mustard drizzle, lemon butter sauce, or a spicy lime chipotle sauce are also perfect choices for grilled salmon.
There are plenty of recipe ideas for marinated salmon. Try an Asian-inspired recipe with soy sauce and brown sugar, a savory garlic and herb marinade, or a spicy recipe with cayenne pepper, chili sauce, and your favorite hot sauce. A marinade can make your salmon even more flavorful and help it crisp up on the grill.
Clean, lightly oiled grill grates are especially important when grilling fish. Rub the grates with a thin layer of oil to prevent sticking. Heat the grill to medium-high, 400° to 450°F. A properly heated grill helps keep the fish from sticking to the grate and falling apart while cooking. Wait for your grill to preheat all the way to your target temperature before loading your salmon.
Doneness is determined by the meat’s internal temperature. For salmon, that temperature is 145°F. Cook times will vary depending on the size and thickness of the fish. Grill salmon for 3 to 4 minutes on each side per half inch of thickness, about 15 to 20 minutes for most 1-inch-thick cuts.
To avoid overcooking salmon, cook until the internal temperature reaches 125 to 130°F on an instant-read thermometer; then remove from heat and let it rest for 5 minutes. The internal temperature continues to rise while it rests. Salmon is done when it separates easily along the white lines when pressed gently with your finger or a fork. Your salmon should be moist and flaky when finished.
Kabobs: Cut salmon into 1-inch to 1 ½ inch cubes and marinate for at least 30 minutes. Thread marinated salmon and veggies onto skewers and arrange salmon kabobs on hot grill grates. Close the lid and cook for three to four minutes per side until they’re opaque, flaky and tender.
Cedar Plank: Insulates delicate fish from the direct heat of the grill, allowing it to steam gently in the heat, staying incredibly tender and moist. It picks up smoky flavors from the grill and woodsy flavors from the cedar, along with the liquid you soak the planks in.
Grilling Basket: Keep salmon from falling through the cracks with a non-stick grilling basket that has a locking lid. Place salmon in the basket and set the basket on top of the grates. When it’s time to flip, you can flip the grilling basket with worrying about your fish falling apart.
Foil Packet: Place the fish in the center of a sheet of foil and add seasoning. Fold the foil over the top and mold the foil into a sealed packet. Set it on the grill grates and cook over indirect heat for 10-12 minutes. After letting it rest for five minutes, open carefully to avoid hot steam as it escapes the packet.
Now that you know how to grill salmon, you can cook flavorful, restaurant-quality salmon on the grill every time!
Planked Salmon with Gremolata
1 skin-on, center-cut salmon fillet, 1 1/2–2 pounds and 3/4–1-inch thick, pin bones removed
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
for gremolata sauce:
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
finely grated zest of 1 orange (about 1 tablespoon)
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
for spice rub:
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed between your fingertips
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Submerge the cedar plank in water and let soak for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day. This step is important, as it prevents the wood from catching on fire. Use a medium bowl filled with water or a couple of cans of beer to weight the plank down.
For the sauce, whisk together the oil, orange zest, and orange juice in a small bowl. Stir in the cilantro, capers, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine all the rub ingredients and mix well.
Place the salmon on a work surface, skin side down. Coat the salmon flesh with the oil and season evenly with the rub.
Prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium-high heat (400°–450°F). Brush the cooking grates clean. Drain the cedar plank. Place it over direct heat and close the lid. When the plank begins to smoke and toast, after 3–10 minutes, use long-handled tongs to turn it over. Slide the salmon, skin side down, onto the toasted side of the plank.
Grill over direct medium-high heat, with the lid closed, until the salmon is cooked to your desired doneness, 15–30 minutes (depending on the thickness) for medium-rare (125°–130°F on an instant-read thermometer).
To serve, transfer the fillet from the plank to a heatproof surface. Cut crosswise into four portions and serve with the sauce.