How to Grill Salmon Perfectly
Grilling is a skill every salmon aficionado should master. A perfectly grilled salmon is the perfect vessel for a delicious sauce and pairs well with dozens of refreshing sides. However, grilling isn’t always straightforward, and getting it right is the best way to ensure you serve a perfectly cooked fish.
Learn how to grill a salmon the right way every time.
Choosing the Right Salmon for Grilling
When choosing salmon for grilling, choose fresh fillets with a mild, ocean-like smell and firm flesh, avoiding those with a strong fishy odor or soft texture. Popular choices for grilling include Chinook, Sockeye, and Coho salmon due to their rich flavor and firm texture. Decide whether you prefer skin-on or skinless fillets, with skin-on providing added stability during grilling. Aim for consistent fillet thickness to ensure even cooking.
Seasoning and Marinating the SalmonWhile marinating a salmon isn’t necessary for grilling it, it can provide additional moisture and flavor. Ten minutes of letting your salmon sit in a marinade will typically do—just choose any fat and acid in a 3:1 ratio, seasoning your salmon with salt.
Related: 7 Best Salmon Marinades
Preparing the Grill for Salmon
Naturally, your grill should be clean. Use a grill-specific cleaner after brushing off any food residue. Bunch up a paper towel with your grill cleaner or some olive oil, using a pair of tongs to wipe the oil onto the grates. Avoid using too much oil, as this can cause flare-ups when cooking.
Separate your grill into two zones—a hot zone for searing and a low zone for bringing your salmon’s temperature down. You can easily control temperatures with a gas-controlled grill, but if you’re using charcoal, simply push most of the coal onto one side.
Grilling the Salmon
Always place the salmon skin-side down on the hot portion of the grill. Remember, your grill has to be hot—about 450 to 500F. Allow your salmon to sit between 6 and 8 minutes, depending on the thickness.
Then, check if your salmon is ready to flip onto the low-heat side by gently pushing it to its side with a fish spatula. If the salmon is sticky, allow it to sit for another minute or two.
Once on the low-heat side, allow the salmon to cook for another 2 to 4 minutes.
How Long to Grill Salmon
Salmon cooks fairly quickly on a grill. Typically, it should take no more than 12 minutes. You can check whether your salmon is perfectly cooked using a fish thermometer. Stick the thermometer into the thickest portion of the salmon.
You should remove the salmon from the grill once the thermometer reads 120F. Allow the salmon to rest for a few minutes. Once the thermometer reads 145F, you’ll know your salmon is perfectly cooked.
Get an in-depth look of how to check salmon temperature in our guide.
Kyle's Tips for a Perfectly Grilled Salmon
- Always measure your salmon’s thickness to determine how long to cook it. As a rule of thumb, one inch of thickness typically equates to 3 to 4 minutes of grilling per side.
- You can tell a salmon is perfectly cooked once the skin becomes opaque and it flakes off easily when you push it with a fork.
- Avoid over-oiling your grill to prevent flare-ups and excess smoke. If you’d rather not oil your grill, oil your salmon instead.
- Preheat your grill the same way you’d preheat an oven. This process should take about 10 minutes.
- Use all-natural briquettes that burn at a higher temperature and don’t contain questionable fillers.
Troubleshooting Common Salmon Grilling Issues
If you’re new to grilling, you may encounter a mishap or two. Don’t worry, grilling issues are common and easy to alleviate. Consider the following circumstances:
If your fish is sticking to the grill, it may be because:
- Your grill isn’t clean enough and may require a wipe-down.
- Your grill isn’t hot enough.
- Your fish isn’t done cooking.
If your fish is falling apart, it may be because:
- You’ve cut your fish too thinly.
- You’re moving your fish around too much.
If your fish is overcooked, it may be because:
- You’ve let the fish sit for too long.
- Your grill isn’t hot enough.
- You didn’t oil your fish.
A perfectly grilled salmon makes for a delicious go-to lunch or dinner meal. Once you’ve mastered the art of cleaning your grill, preparing your salmon, and experimenting with various grilling methods, you can expect a perfectly charred fish every time.
Don’t forget—grilled salmon is the perfect blank canvas for something more flavorful. Take your grilled salmon up with one of our delicious simple sauces.
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