A beautiful piece of salmon can become the perfect grilled meal, but the process can be intimidating for first timers. If you’ve recently bought a new grill and are ready to start experimenting with ingredients, salmon is one of the best to get started with.
When you learn how to grill salmon properly, you will enjoy tender, flavorful meals that will impress family and friends. The right techniques will prevent sticking and overcooking, and you’ll find that the process is quick and simple with our helpful guide.
Discover how to grill salmon like a professional chef and make the most of your gas or charcoal grill.
Your Step by Step Guide: How to Grill Salmon Over Gas or Charcoal
If you’ve cooked salmon in a skillet or even in the oven, you might need to unlearn some of your existing techniques. These steps will have you preparing restaurant-grade salmon on your grill.
Choose the Right Cuts: For grilling, you’ll want large salmon steaks or fillet cuts. It’s best to choose wild salmon that is as fresh as possible. Wild salmon has more flavor than farmed salmon, and it’s more ethical and sustainable.
Keep the Skin On: Buy salmon with the skin on and resist the urge to remove it. The skin makes all the difference when you learn how to grill salmon. It holds the meat together and prevents sticking.
Check for Bones: If you’re buying salmon from a supermarket or specialty grocer, the bones will likely be completely removed. However, it always pays to give the salmon a quick check before you cook it. Remove any pin bones with kitchen tweezers. Give your salmon a quick dusting with kosher salt and pepper to taste. A little goes a long way when cooking fresh wild salmon.
Prepare Your Grill: Salmon cooks in almost no time at all, even when you’re working with the thickest steaks or fillets. Oil your grilling surface before you start. Use a vegetable oil that won’t burn at high temperature. Work the grill up to a medium high heat and you’re ready to start cooking.
Crispy or Not: There’s no real rule when it comes to this aspect of how to grill salmon to perfection. If you like crispy skin, then place your fillets on the skin side first. Make sure pieces are well spaced so that they have plenty of room to cook. Keep the steaks and fillets close to the burners or the hottest part of your charcoal grill. This will ensure consistent cooking.
Don’t Move It: Here’s the one part of the process that will make or break your grilled salmon. Many who haven’t learned how to grill salmon will try to flip the meat too early. This is how salmon gets stuck, leaving a disintegrated mess that compromises flavor and presentation. Salmon will shrink slightly and release itself from the grill when it is ready. This usually happens in about three to four minutes with a 1-inch cut. You will see the change in size, signaling that it’s time to flip with a thin and flat spatula. Stainless steel works best. Cook the other side for an equal amount of time and remove the salmon from your grill.
Look for White Beads on Your Salmon: If you’ve overcooked the salmon, white beads will start to appear on the outside of the cuts. If you’re nervous about cooking for the first time, start with a single piece as a test. Note the cooking time and adjust as necessary. Perfectly cooked salmon will be lightly browned on the outside and slightly pink in the center.
Rest Your Salmon: Another beginner mistake is failing to rest the salmon. Just like a good piece of steak, salmon will need to be rested before serving. This will allow it to continue cooking, while keeping all the remaining moisture inside of the meat where it should be.
With these eight simple steps, you now know how to grill salmon to perfection. This is a quick and simple ingredient to work with, but the results are as good as anything that you would find in a high end restaurant.
You can serve salmon with a simple green salad and a slice of lemon. Simpler is always better when working with this delicate and flavorful fish.
Gas vs Charcoal: Which Works Better for Grilled Salmon?
The debate of gas vs charcoal cooking can get heated. You can learn how to cook salmon on either type of grill, and both will provide excellent results.
Charcoal can impart unique flavor in some dishes, but it makes little difference when working with an ingredient like salmon that cooks quickly.
The only thing to be careful of is temperature. With a gas grill, you can fine tune a medium-high heat easily, simply by turning a dial to adjust your burners.
With a charcoal grill, you’ll need to get the coals going manually and ensure that you have even heat distribution.
Check for cool spots over a charcoal grill by passing your hand a few inches above the grilling surface. Be sure to place your salmon only over the hottest area of the grill.
You can cook salmon with a grill hood on, but it’s recommended that you avoid this. Doing so will alter the cooking time and it makes it harder to observe the salmon as it shrinks.
You risk overcooking your steaks and fillets, resulting in a rubbery texture.
Show Friends and Family How to Grill Salmon the Right Way
If you follow these steps, you’ll be able to create a quick meal that will impress every guest at your next backyard event.
Take the steps slowly and master your technique before cooking for a large group of people. You’ll find that salmon will become a go-to ingredient for grilling at any time of year.