Easy Grilled Salmon

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Here's an easy way to grill salmon without the fish sticking to the grates. Promise! And mix up your approach with 4 different marinades while you're at it.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

With warmer weather comes grilling season and one of the easiest and healthiest foods you can prepare on a grill, whether it’s 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 temperature 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 cooks.

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 down first? It’s a mess.

VIDEO! How to Grill Salmon

Oil Your Grill Grates Well

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.

easy grilled salmon

Love Salmon? Try These Recipes

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Updated June 22, 2020 : We spiffed up this post with a new video! Enjoy!

Easy Grilled Salmon Recipe

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 10 minutes
  • Marinating time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 to 3 pounds salmon fillets, skin-on (about 1/3 to 1/2 pound per person)
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Marinades

Basic marinade:

  • 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 knob of fresh ginger root, grated
  • 4 to 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons 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 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1/4 cup minced green onions
  • 2 tablespoons 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 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • A dash of red chili pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup white sugar

Method

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 to 2 hours in the refrigerator.

Before grilling, remove fillets from marinade and discard the marinade. Generously rub or brush oil on both sides of fish fillets.

3 Prepare the grill: Prepare the 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), brush the grill grates with oil. (The best way to do that is to fold up a paper towel, dip in oil, and use tongs to rub the folded up paper towel on the grill grates.)

4 Place fillets skinless side down on the hot grill: Place salmon fillets on grill, skinless side down (skin-side up) first, so that the fillets can get nice grill marks on the hot grill while the fish is still firm. Close the grill lid. Cook 1 to 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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Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

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103 Comments / Reviews

No ImageEasy Grilled Salmon

Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Bobbie

    This is a fantastic and wonderful recipe!! Best EVER!

    xxxxxyyyyy

    Show Replies (1)
  2. Baltisraul

    We have tried a bunch as we eat a lot of salmon. Our ‘go to’ is a salmon firecracker marinate. Easy to research as there are a few variations on the net. Marinate for up to 3 hours and grill about 16-17 min with indirect coals. We use a grill mat to prevent sticking. You can also flip them over the direct coals for a couple of minutes to get a nice char. After flipping just slide the grill mat over the direct coals and the fish will not break apart. Always serve asap as it cools rapidly.

    xxxxxyyyyy

  3. donutty

    Elise, how do you keep the salmon from exuding albumin? I’ve seen articles saying that slow roasting helps to keep the albumin from coagulating on the outside of the steak, but the last few times I’ve cooked salmon, it has been covered with those white bubbles. Any tips?

    Show Replies (1)
  4. Kathy

    Just made this last night and OMGoodness was it amazing! I used the basic marinade with a spoonful of brown sugar, marinading only when waiting and cleaning the grill.
    I kept my grill on high the whole time cooking and basted with the marinade the whole time. I do keep my eye in it just about the while time. I even basted the skin while the flesh side was down which made the skin crisp like a chip when cooked skin side which tasted DELISH!! It was soo moist and flavorful! I’ll never use or look for another salmon recipe again.
    Thank you!!!

    xxxxxyyyyy

  5. Lori

    This was the best salmon I’ve grilled in a long time. I used the soy/garlic marinade. I don’t like my food too salty so I only used about 1/3 cup of soy. When done I squeezed some lemon on top and gobbled it down. Thanks!!

    xxxxxyyyyy

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