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How to Grill Salmon

Updated February 7, 2019
There are plenty of ways to cook salmon, but when the weather warms up, the best-tasting salmon is grilled outdoors. The natural oils keep the fish moist, but also create a nice crispiness on the outside. Want to learn how to grill salmon like a pro? It’s easy!
Salmon – chock full of protein, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids – is one of the healthiest fish to eat. And luckily for us, it's also fabulous when cooked on a grill.

Prepping your Fish

Maybe you've tried to grill salmon a few times, but for some reason it doesn’t quite work out. Perhaps it turns out as dry as an old shoe, or the skin is burned and it's raw in the middle, or it breaks up and falls into the bowels of your grill. Have no fear! Whether you choose filets or steaks, these tips can help you get your grill on with confidence.

Prep your salmon by first by checking for any pin bones left behind. Remove them with steady fingers or a needle nose pliers. Next, let your salmon come to room temperature. Rub both sides of the fish with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Leave the skin on! This helps anchor the fish together on the grill so you're not picking bits of it off the grate with your tongs.

Preheating the Grill

You want to preheat your grill to a high heat so that you can burn off whatever may be left on it. After the grill has been on high for a couple of minutes, use a grill brush to clean the grate thoroughly. Turn the heat down to medium high heat for grilling your salmon. This will give the fish those nice grill marks without burning the outside.

You want to make sure that your grill is oiled generously. The only way you can really screw up grilling your fish is if it sticks to the grill. The easiest way to oil the grill grate is to squirt some vegetable or olive oil onto a paper towel and, using your grill tongs, rub it generously along the grate. Do not use cooking spray near an open flame – stick to the non- aerosol kind.

Grilling the Salmon

Place your fillet skin-side up, and grill for 1-2 minutes with the lid closed. Once grill marks have formed, flip the fish over, close the lid, and cook for another 5-10 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through.

How will you know if your fish is done cooking? This will depend upon the thickness of your filet and the heat of your grill, as well as your taste preference. If you're grilling a two-pound salmon filet that's about an inch and a half thick, it could take about fifteen minutes on a medium-high grill. The trick is to watch it, and check for signs of doneness. When fully cooked, the salmon will flake easily with a fork , turn opaque and feel slightly firm. Once it’s done cooking, remove it from the grill with a wide, flat spatula.

Garnishes and Dressings

There are so many ways you can dress up a nicely grilled piece of salmon, but if you’re looking for the fastest method, you can’t go wrong with a squirt of lemon. Another way to go quick and simple with your garnish is to try condiment options from your local supermarket or gourmet store. For a good, fast glaze, just brush with apricot jam, honey mustard or barbecue sauce.

Another way to impress is to dress up the salmon in a flavorful marinade before grilling. This will not only add flavor but also help keep your salmon moist. Let the fish soak it up for about fifteen to thirty minutes before you grill or brush the marinade on while it's cooking. Strong flavors stand up well on salmon. Check out these five marinades you can create at home for help deciding which sauces to use.

If you’re looking for more seafood to throw on the barbie, head over to this list of the five best fish to grill.