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What is the Best Way to Grill Salmon? Learn How to Cook Salmon (2021)

by Outdoor Cooking Pros May 10, 2021

grilled salmon on a black plate

There are LOTS of different recipes and ways to cook your salmon dinner, but NOTHING beats the refreshing, subtle, and smoky taste of grilled salmon for dinner.

In this expert guide, we'll show you the BEST way to grill salmon!

Best Way to Grill Salmon

Cutting the Salmon

If the salmon fillet you bought isn't cut yet, make sure you cut it with a sharp knife in order to get MOUTH-WATERING slices.

Ideally, your cuts should be around 6 to 8 ounces, the PERFECT serving size for you eaters looking for some protein in their bodies.

Choosing the Charcoal Fuel

Of course, you can cook with other types of grills like the gas grill, but I personally prefer the good old-fashioned charcoal grill.

Charcoal imparts that distinct smoky flavor you just CAN'T get from any other type of grill. The best recipes are often enhanced even further by using charcoal fuel.

Salmon on Lemon marination

So, what is the best kind of charcoal fuel?

Well, you can never go wrong with all-natural briquettes. These burn at a higher temperature and have no artificial fillers that can mess up the natural flavors of your salmon.

Preheating the Grill

Most recipes will prescribe you to preheat the grill to a cooking temperature of around 450-500˚F for around 10 minutes. Make sure to CLOSE the lid while preheating.

Next, make two cooking areas:

  • A high-heat area for searing and getting those mouth-watering grill marks
  • A lower-heat area for cooking your fish fillets thoroughly

 Griller with Fire

Load up your high-heat area with more CHARCOAL than your lower-heat area to create the difference in temperature

It's up to you if you want to coat your grill grates with olive oil, but if you season and coat your salmon with enough oil, then it might not be necessary to brush your grill grates with oil.

Prepping the Fish

Remove excess moisture from your salmon fillets by PATTING your fish down with a paper towel. Then, brush your salmon fillets with olive oil or grape seed oil.

Next, season your salmon with ingredients depending on your recipe. Common ingredients on salmon recipes include:

  • Garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper (specifically black pepper)
  • Brown sugar
  • Lemon juice
Salmon on a Grill

You can also look up salmon recipes online, like this recipe for BBQ salmon [1]. With this guide, I'm sure you can also make a unique salmon recipe.

First Skin Down, then Flip Salmon

FINALLY! We're ready to make the best-grilled salmon with any kind of recipe! First, grill salmon skin-side down.

You should grill SKIN SIDE first on your hot zone so that you have a barrier between the grilled salmon and the grill itself.

Trust me, your recipes will besoooo MUCH BETTER when you incorporate this technique.

Feel free to add garnishes like lemon wedges or any other lemon cut that you like once you take the salmon out of the grill.

Best Temperature for Grilling Salmon

Grilled salmon is best when cooked at a temperature of around 450-500˚F.

Served Grilled Salmon

If your salmon is too dry for your taste,our experts advise lowering the temperature up to around 230˚F. There are other ways to retain moisture in your salmon though, which I'll discuss later.

Cooking Time for Salmon on the Grill

Grill the salmon skin side for around 6-8 minutes depending on your thickness.

Using a flat spatula (DON'T use tongs please!), flip the salmon to cook the flesh side on the cooler cooking zone afterward.

If the salmon WON'T BUDGE from the grill, wait an additional 1-2 minutes BEFORE attempting to flip again.

Once flipped, let your salmon cook for an additional 2-4 minutes depending on your recipe and how well-done you want your salmon.

How to Pick the Best Salmon for Grilling

PRO TIP: To enhance your salmon recipe, use center cuts of your salmon filet with the SKIN ON.

Served on a plate Salmon

  • Center cuts cook more evenly because they are thicker and more uniform in consistency.
  • The skin holds the salmon better for easier flipping later on. Don't worry! If you hate fish skin, you can easily remove it!

Frequently Asked Questions

Do You Have to Flip Salmon on the Grill?

Sounds scary, huh? That's okay, it's totally understandable. You always RISK sticking one side of the salmon when flipping.

If you don't want to flip your salmon, that's okay! You don't have to. Just expect that one side may be a little bit undercooked compared to the other.

However, I do recommend flipping your salmon only ONCE. By flipping only once, you avoid the risk of your grilled salmon sticking while evenly cooking your food.

DON'T flip your salmon more than once. ZERO or ONE flip. Those are your ONLY choices. Okay?

How Do You Grill Salmon Without Drying It Out?

If your grilled salmon keeps drying out, then try slow-roasting it. Use a lower temperature (around 230-250˚F) and grill it longer.

ANOTHER METHOD you can use is brining it in saltwater and other spices. This helps it get additional MOISTURE and retains it better when grilled.

How Do You Keep Salmon Moist When Grilling?

Just be mindful of your cooking.

First, as I've mentioned before, don't use tongs to flip your salmon.

Aside from the fact that your salmon may fall apart when using tongs, you also inadvertently RELEASE moisture from it.

Second, remember this concept: CARRYOVER COOKING. This applies to grilled salmon too.

Remember that even after you TAKE OUT your salmon from the grill, it's still cooking thanks to the heat retained inside theoh-so-pinkish-juicy fish.

So what's the moral of the story? If you feel like you still need a minute or two to fully cook your precious seafood, take it out immediately.

The rest of the cooking will be done AFTER the grilled salmon has been taken out of the grill already.

How Many Minutes Should I Grill Salmon?

That depends on your recipe and preference! Some recipes require 15 minutes, while others only need 10. You can always adjust these depending on the doneness level you prefer.

Maybe with a few trial runs, you may be able to create your very OWN recipe with the PERFECT grilling duration!

Conclusion

With lots of nutrients like protein, vitamin A, and vitamin C (from the lemon) salmon recipes are getting more and more popular.

Hopefully, with this expert guide, you now know the best way to grill salmon, and with your best-grilled salmon recipe, there would be no leftover salmon on the dinner table!

Another great addition to your backyard kitchen is a reliable pizza oven. Choose whether you want to install a wood fired pizza oven or gas oven in this comparison. Read next! 

Outdoor Cooking Pros
Outdoor Cooking Pros


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