How to Grill Salmon
While the smoky flavor may be the top reason to grill salmon, the quick prep time is also a benefit. You can season and grill salmon fillets or steaks in about 30 minutes. Plus, heart-healthy grilled salmon is packed with protein and omega-3 fatty acids, so you can feel good about indulging in a tender, melt-in-your-mouth salmon dinner.
Beginner Tips for Grilling Salmon
Salmon fillets and steaks are naturals for both charcoal and gas grilling. When grilling salmon, the key is to get the timing right so the fish is perfectly tender every time. Follow these tips for grilling, then check out our delicious grilled salmon recipes.
How to Choose Fresh Salmon
- Salmon has a moderately firm texture that helps it hold together well when grilling. When shopping, look for moist, cleanly cut fillets or steaks, and avoid those with a strong fishy odor.
- Plan to grill salmon the day you buy it, or keep it loosely wrapped in the coldest part of the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
- If it hasn't been previously frozen, you can freeze salmon for up to 3 months.
- If your fish is frozen, thaw it in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days. Salmon Buying Tip: A salmon steak is a crosscut slice from a large dressed fish and is usually ½ to 1 inch thick. A fillet is a boneless piece of fish cut from the side and away from the backbone. You can purchase it with the skin on or ask to have it removed.
Prep Salmon for Grilling
- Before grilling fish, rinse it and pat dry with paper towels.
- To add flavor, use a dry rub or sprinkle with spices or herbs (thyme, dill, or basil work well with grilled salmon). Or marinate it in your favorite sauce. Keep in mind that salmon will pick up the flavors quickly, so even 15 to 30 minutes in a marinade can be enough to add big flavor to your grilled salmon.
How to Grill Salmon
Now that you've prepped the fish, it's time to fire up the grill. Here are a few things to remember when grilling salmon:
- Place fillets in a well-greased grill basket to ensure they stay intact. Nonstick or greased foil works, too; just be sure to cut a few small slits in the foil to let the juices run off. You can also grill salmon fillets and steaks directly on a greased grill rack. If the fillets still have skin, remove it after grilling.
- To grill salmon on a charcoal grill, place the fish on the grill rack directly over medium coals. Grill, uncovered, for 4 to 6 minutes per 1/2-inch thickness or until fish begins to flake when tested with a fork. Turn the fish once halfway through grilling. If you like, brush the salmon with olive oil or melted butter after turning to add flavor and keep it moist.
- For a gas grill, after preheating, reduce heat to medium. Place salmon on the grill rack over heat. Cover the grill and grill as directed for a charcoal grill. Salmon Grilling Tip: To test the level of heat, place the palm of your hand at the level of the grill rack and count the number of seconds you can hold it in that position. If the heat is medium, you should be able to hold your hand in the position for about 4 seconds.
How to Check Salmon for Doneness
- When grilling salmon with the skin on, let the skin get crisp and brown. This way, the fish will pull away from the skin when you turn it.
- Using a fork, check the flesh at the thickest part of the fillet. When it is done, grilled salmon will be opaque yet moist, and will pull apart easily.
- Another way to check doneness is with an instant-read thermometer. Insert it horizontally into the fish. This is especially useful for thick salmon steaks. Remove the fish from the grill when it reaches an internal temperature of 140 degrees F.