How To Grill Salmon
With warmer weather comes grilling season and one of the easiest and healthiest foods you can prepare on a grill, gas or charcoal, is salmon. There is a trick to grilling salmon though, that once you know will transform your success with grilling this fish forever. The secret?
Use skin-on fillets and place the salmon fillets on the hot grill skin-side up first.
The fillets, when raw, won’t flake and fall apart like they will when they are cooked. So, you sear the raw skinless side first, only enough to get some good grill marks and an edge of cooked fish, then you carefully flip it and finish your cooking at a lower temp with the skin-side down.
This way the skin will help keep the fillet together and help keep it from flaking apart and falling into your grill while the fish completes its cooking.
A friend of mine taught me this approach years ago and it makes a huge difference. If you do it the other way? Skin side first? It’s a mess.
Also make sure you coat the grill grates and the fillets well with oil, to help prevent sticking. Some sticking is likely to happen anyway, which is why you need to be careful when you flip the fillets over. But having a well oiled hot grill and well oiled fillets will help.
Best Salmon Marinades
There are plenty of marinades you can use with salmon; I’ve included four favorites here below. We often just use a simple soy sauce and minced garlic marinade. Sometimes I get a little fancier and add mirin rice wine, ginger, and sugar.
Do you have a favorite way to prepare grilled salmon? A favorite salmon marinade? If so, please let us know about it in the comments.
More great salmon recipes
Easy Grilled Salmon RecipePrint
- 1 1/2 to 3 pounds salmon fillets, skin-on (figure 1/3 to 1/2 pound per person)
- Canola, olive, or grapeseed oil
- 3/4 cup soy sauce (use gluten-free soy sauce if cooking gluten-free)
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
Basic teriyaki marinade:
- 1 cup soy sauce(use gluten-free soy sauce if cooking gluten-free)
- 1-inch nob of fresh ginger root, grated
- 4-5 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 to 4 Tbsp brown sugar
Teriyaki marinade with mirin:
- 1/2 cup soy sauce(use gluten-free soy sauce if cooking gluten-free)
- 1/4 cup mirin (sweet Japanese rice wine) or seasoned rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp minced garlic
- 2 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
- 1/4 cup minced green onions
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
- Pinch chili pepper flakes
Yakitori marinade with sake:
- 1/2 cup sake
- 1/2 cup soy sauce (use gluten-free soy sauce if cooking gluten-free)
- 1/2 cup mirin
- 2 Tbsp finely grated fresh ginger
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- A dash of red chili pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup white sugar
1 Make the marinade: Combine marinade ingredients in a bowl. If sugar is an ingredient in the marinade you are using, stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.
2 Marinate the salmon fillets: Cut fillets 1 1/2 to 2-inches wide. Place marinade ingredients in a large casserole dish (or a plate with sides so the marinade doesn't run). Coat the salmon fillets in the marinade and then place them skinless-side down in the marinade.
Marinate for 20 minutes for a quick marinade (can do this at room temperature while you are preparing the grill) or if you have more time from 1-2 hours chilled in the refrigerator. Before grilling, remove fillets from marinade and discard marinade.
3 Prepare the grill: Prepare grill for high direct heat (if you are using a charcoal grill, prepare one side of the grill for high direct heat and the other side with fewer coals for indirect heating). When the grill is hot (you should be able to hold your hand one inch above the grill grates for only 1 second), spray or brush oil generously on both sides of fish fillets.
4 Place fillets skinless side down on the hot grill: Place salmon fillets on grill, skinless side down first, so that they can get nice grill marks on the hot grill while the fish is still firm. Close the grill lid. Cook 1-3 minutes on the first side, depending on how thick the fillets are.
Once the fish fillets have been placed on the grill, do not move them until you are going to flip them over, otherwise they may fall apart.
5 Turn fillets over to grill skin-side down: Look for grill marks on the fish and a small layer of opaque (cooked) fish where the fish is closes to the grill. Using tongs, and a metal spatula to help if necessary, carefully turn the fish onto the other side, so that the skin side is now on the grill grates.
If you are using a charcoal grill, the fillets should be placed on the side of the grill furthest from the coals. If you are using a gas grill, just reduce the flame to medium.
Close the grill lid. Cook for another 2-5 minutes, again depending on the thickness of the fillets. Salmon should be just barely opaque throughout when done.
Better to err on the side of undercooking the salmon, rather than overcooking. You can always put the fish back on the grill, but once a good fillet is overcooked, there's nothing you can do.
Remove from grill and serve immediately.
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