With warmer weather comes grilling season, and one of the easiest 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.
How to Grill Salmon with Skin
Use skin-on fillets and place the salmon fillets on the hot grill skin-side up (flesh side down) first.
The fillets, when raw, won't flake and fall apart like they will when they are cooked. So, you sear the raw flesh 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 (flesh side up).
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 Make Grilled 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.
Love Salmon? Try These Recipes!
- Easy Salmon Foil Packets with Vegetables
- Grilled Salmon with Dill Butter
- Grilled Whole Wild Salmon with Lemon Relish
- Salmon Teriyaki Skewers
- Foil Baked Salmon with Leeks and Bell Peppers
Tips for a Great Salmon Marinade
The bold, rich flavor and velvety texture of salmon makes it an ideal match for flavorful marinades. Salmon pairs especially well with salty, sweet, acidic, and pungent flavors, such as you'll find in the four marinade options we've included with this recipe.
In general, it's best to either marinate salmon briefly at room temperature, while you're heating your grill or oven, or for 1 to 2 hours in the refrigerator. Especially if you're using acidic ingredients in your marinade (e.g., citrus juice, mirin, vinegar), the fish will begin to chemically "cook" if it soaks for too long.
How Long to Grill Salmon
Salmon cooks relatively quickly on the grill, so stay close by and keep an eye on it. Cooking times can vary widely, depending on the thickness of your fish and the temperature of your grill, so your best bet is to look for doneness. Salmon should be just barely opaque throughout when done. It should flake easily when you press it gently with a fork or your finger. When in doubt, err on the side of undercooking, as you can always put it back on the grill if you need to!
How to Reheat Grilled Salmon
The trick to reheating grilled salmon without overcooking it and drying it out is do so slowly at a relatively low temperature. Place your salmon on a rimmed baking sheet and cover it loosely with foil. Heat it in a 275°F oven for about 15 minutes or until warmed through.
Another option for leftover salmon? Make salmon cakes!
Perfect Side Dishes for Grilled Salmon
- Roasted Broccolini with Creamy Mustard Sauce
- Roasted Potatoes and Asparagus with Lemon-Mustard Dressing
- Grilled Corn Salad
- Thai Noodle Salad with Peanut Sauce
- Mango Avocado Salsa
Easy Grilled Salmon
1 1/2 to 3 pounds skin-on salmon fillets (about 5 to 8 ounces per person)
Extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup soy sauce (use gluten-free soy sauce if cooking gluten-free)
4 cloves garlic, minced
Basic teriyaki marinade:
1 cup soy sauce (use gluten-free soy sauce if cooking gluten-free)
1-inch knob 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 red 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
Dash red chili pepper flakes
1/4 cup sugar
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.
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 flesh-side down in the marinade.
Marinate for 20 minutes for a quick marinade (you 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.
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.)
Place fillets flesh side down on the hot grill:
Place salmon fillets on grill, flesh 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.
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.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 4 to 6|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 30g||39%|
|Saturated Fat 6g||29%|
|Total Carbohydrate 2g||1%|
|Dietary Fiber 0g||1%|
|Total Sugars 0g|
|Vitamin C 9mg||45%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|