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How to Grill Salmon to Perfection

Updated on August 7, 2011

Grilling Salmon is Easy

Salmon is great on the grill and it’s good for you! Whether you have a charcoal or gas grill, it's easy to cook perfect salmon every time. The key is to not overcook it.

Grilled salmon is simple and delicious. You'll only need a few minutes of actual grilling time, and there are so many ways to prepare your salmon, from simply brushing on some olive oil to concocting a masterful marinade or rub to enhance its flavor.

If you choose to marinade your salmon, be sure not to leave it in the marinade for more than 15 minutes; the acidic ingredients in the marinade will begin to break down the flesh and make it mushy.

Grilled Salmon

I find that a light brushing of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper are all that are needed to produce a delicious grilled salmon. You can try more elaborate rubs, or even coating the salmon with mayonnaise prior to grilling. The important thing to remember when learning how to cook salmon is to keep it simple. Salmon doesn't require a lot of additional seasoning or fuss.

Grilled Salmon Recipes

Grilling Salmon

Grilling Salmon
Grilling Salmon


Salmon ready for grilling
Salmon ready for grilling

Grilling Recipes for Salmon

Choose salmon fillets or steak that are about one inch thick and preferably with the skin on. Follow one of the methods below and your salmon will be grilled to perfection!

Grilling Tips - Preheat the grill to medium-high. If you have a charcoal grill, the coals should be bright red and any flames should have subsided before you place your fish on the grill. If you have a gas grill, set the temperature between 300 and 325 degrees F. The best way to tell if your grill is the right temperature is to hold your hand about 4” above the grill rack, if you can hold you hand in this position for 4 to 5 seconds, the grill is medium hot. If you need to move it away sooner, the temperature is too high and you’ll need to turn your grill down.

Lightly oil the grill before placing your salmon on it. The easiest way to do this is to dip a paper towel in vegetable oil and using tongs, rub the towel on the grill to lightly coat it.

Salmon is meaty enough to not fall through the grill rack, but if you prefer, you can wrap the rack in heavy-duty aluminum foil for extra protection. If you use foil, be sure to oil the foil before putting your fish on it. You can also use a special two-sided grilling basket which is extremely handy for this type of grilling, but once again be sure to oil it before use.

Cook the fish until it’s opaque, turning it only once during cooking. This will only take about 4 minutes per side, so be sure to watch it carefully. You’ll also want to be sure that no flame directly touches the salmon. There’s no need to close the grill. Set a timer; don’t mess with the salmon until the timer goes off. Be close by so you can remove it promptly and be sure that you DO NOT OVERCOOK it. When you remove the salmon from the grill, it should be slightly undercooked because it will continue cooking for a few minutes from the residual heat. Gently press on the fillet, if it’s squishy, it’s not done. Put it back on the grill for a minute or so. If the fillet is firm with a little give, it’s medium rare, which is the recommended doneness for salmon. That’s really all there is to it.

Grilled or baked salmon is an excellent addition to your weight loss program. A 5 oz fillet of Atlantic Grilled Salmon contains only 250 calories, 13.8g Fat, 0g Carbs and 43.2g Protein. It is also an excellent source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids.

A quick alternative to grilled salmon is to bake it. With some easy baked salmon recipes, you can prepare the dish in the morning and it will be ready to go in the oven as soon as you come in the door from work. Nothing could be tastier or simpler!

Grilled Salmon Recipes

Another great way of preparing salmon on the grill:

Lay a salmon fillet or steak on a large rectangle of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Season the salmon to taste with a little lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper and dill. Securely wrap the fillet in the foil, folding tightly to seal the packet.

Here’s different approach to grilling your fish. Place seasoned salmon fillets in a brown paper bag and tie it up with a string. Dip the tied fish in cold water and promptly transfer to the hot grill. The paper will blacken but the fish will remain intact and cook to your taste. Turn the bag over after 3 to 5 minutes. Place the bag on a plate and carefully cut the string and tear off the paper.

If you don’t have a grill, all is not lost.

You can use a grill pan indoors. Preheat your grill pan over medium high heat until it’s hot but not smoking. Be sure to lightly oil the pan to prevent the salmon from sticking. Place salmon directly on the grill pan and adjust cooking times until desired doneness is reached.

Another great method of preparation is baked salmon, which always comes out delicious and moist for a perfect presentation.

Additional Tips:

Remove salmon from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature before grilling.

Some people think that adding salt prior to grilling draws moisture from the fish, the very thing you’re trying to avoid. You might want to hold off on the salt until the salmon is removed from the grill.

To add a light smoke flavor to your salmon, try tossing a handful of cedar chips directly on the coals just before adding the salmon. For gas grills, you can place cedar chunks directly on the grilling surface. When they start to smoke, it’s time to add the salmon.

For an extra special dish, consider serving grilled salmon with a sauce made from one of the 5 classic mother sauces. Absolutely Delicious!

An excellent desert idea would be a fast and easy Fruit Crunch Cake.

Grilled salmon goes very well with a simple green salad and rice pilaf or boiled red potatoes.

Suggested wine pairings:

Chardonnay: Especially one that lets the fruit come out. Not too oaky

Pinot Noir: A classic pairing for grilled salmon

Chenin Blanc: Fragrant and a little sweet, a wonderful and often overlooked pairing for salmon

Perfect Grilled Salmon

Grilled Salmon
Grilled Salmon

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