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How to Grill Salmon

Get fuss-free, smoky flavor with your fave fish.

The rich, creamy flavor of a good salmon filet is only made better by cooking over an open flame. Whether gas or charcoal, the grill infuses salmon with a deliciously smoky flavor that can't be replicated with an oven or range. The best part? Grilling salmon is super quick and relatively fuss-free. Just slap it on the grill, wait a few minutes and you're good to go. Okay, maybe there's a little more to it than that, but I promise that it's not nearly as scary as it seems.

Follow the guide, then watch the video in which we share some tips and tricks for grilling perfect salmon.

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1 Pick your salmon

Be sure to start with fresh salmon filets for optimum flavor. Avoid salmon that looks dry, dull, or which has a fishy odor. Keep the skin on the filet to help it hold together during grilling, but remove the scales by scraping against the grain with a chef's knife. Rinse the filets with cool water, then pat dry with a paper towel. If you plan on using a dry rub or keeping it classic with salt and pepper, brush the salmon liberally with vegetable oil. Skip this step if you prefer to use a liquid marinade.


2 Season or marinade

The sky is the limit when it comes to seasoning your salmon for the grill. I chose to coat the fish with a sweet and spicy dry rub made with brown sugar, garlic, cayenne and paprika. You can stick to a simple pinch of salt and pepper, or experiment with different liquid marinades like teriyaki, maple-Dijon, or honey-lime. If using a liquid marinade, allow the fish to marinate for 15 – 30 minutes before grilling (fish absorbs flavors quickly and excessive marinating times can break down the flesh).

3 Pre-heat the grill

If using a charcoal grill, light the briquettes and allow them to burn until they have turned ashy and grey (about 30 minutes). If using a gas grill, pre-heat the grill to medium-high heat. Fully pre-heating the grill before beginning will not only help the fish cook quickly, but it also helps prevent the fish from sticking to the grill rack.

4 Grill your salmon

Once pre-heated, brush the grill rack with vegetable oil to provide extra protection against sticking. Place the fish directly on the grill rack, skin side down. Cover the grill and allow the fish to cook for about five minutes, or until it looks completely opaque and some of the white fat begins to seep from the sides.
At that point, use a metal spatula to carefully loosen the fish from the grill rack. Flip the filets and cook on them the flesh side for one to two minutes, or just long enough to add color and grill marks to the top. If you find that the fish is sticking, allow it to cook just a little longer. The grill rack will release its grip when it has achieved a good sear.


5 Serve and enjoy

Grilling salmon is a little like learning to ride a bike. It seems intimidating at first, but once you get the feel for it, it couldn't be easier. Of course, if you still want to ride with training wheels, try adding a piece of foil between the grill grate and fish as a safeguard. Just be sure to cut a few slits in the foil to allow the juices to flow out and the flavor to flow in.

Want more great ways to cook salmon? Check out these guides:
How to Pan-Sear Salmon
How to Bake Salmon
How to Cook Salmon in a Dishwashe

About Budget Bytes

Beth from Budget Bytes is a food lover and a number cruncher who dishes up  healthy recipes on her blog that won't put a huge dent in your wallet. She is the author of the cookbook, Budget Bytes: Over 100 Easy Delicious Recipes to Slash Your Grocery Bill in Half, and she also works as a microbiologist in a hospital laboratory. Follow her on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.