How to Make the Best Grilled Salmon

Grilling Tips for Perfect Salmon:

  • Use quality ingredients and a hot grill for the best results.
  • Choose between wild-caught salmon for more flavor or farm-raised salmon for a milder taste.
  • Ingredients needed: salmon fillet (skin on), quality oil (e.g., grape seed oil), kosher salt, and black pepper.

Mastering the Charcoal Grill:

  • Choose all-natural briquettes made from pure hardwoods for higher temperature and better flavor.
  • Avoid lighter fluid; use a chimney starter with newspaper to light the briquettes naturally.
  • Preheat the grill with the lid on for about 10 minutes until it reaches the right temperature.

Grilling Process:

  • Grill temperature should be 450°F-500°F for success.
  • Oil the fish, not the grill grates, to prevent sticking.
  • Grill salmon skin side down for 6-8 minutes to avoid sticking and achieve crisp skin.
  • Flip the salmon for 1-2 more minutes of browning.

Cooking Time and Temperature:

  • Cook until the skin crisps and naturally releases from the grates (6-8 minutes).
  • Grilled fish is done at 145°F, but remove it at 125°-130°F to prevent overcooking.

Sauces to Serve:

  • This simple salmon recipe can be paired with various sauces and toppings, like tartar sauce, cucumber dill sauce, fruit salsa, or compound butters.

Grilled salmon is a classic dish that shines during the summertime, and getting it just right can be a true art form. With the right techniques, your grilled salmon can become your new favorite healthy dinner option. Whether you’re a seasoned grilling pro or just starting out, these tips will help you achieve the best results every time.

Selecting the Perfect Salmon:
The foundation of any great grilled salmon dish begins with the choice of salmon. While this recipe doesn’t call for elaborate marinades or complex methods, it does emphasize the importance of using quality ingredients. When it comes to the type of salmon, there are a few factors to consider.

Wild-caught salmon is preferred by many for its robust flavor. However, if you’re catering to individuals who prefer a milder taste, a high-quality farm-raised salmon is an excellent option. Keep in mind that higher fat fish tend to offer a more luxurious, buttery bite. Wild-caught salmon, due to its more active lifestyle, is leaner and often has a more distinct fish flavor.

Essential Ingredients:
For this grilled salmon recipe, you’ll need just a few key ingredients:

  • A salmon fillet (opt for varieties like king, chinook, coho, or sockeye)
  • Quality oil with a high smoke point (consider grape seed oil or extra virgin olive oil)
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Mastering the Charcoal Grill:
While gas grills offer convenience, using a charcoal grill provides that signature smoky flavor that’s hard to replicate. To start, make sure you choose the right type of charcoal. All-natural briquettes made from pure hardwoods are a great choice, as they burn at higher temperatures and avoid the use of questionable fillers. Skip the lighter fluid and opt for a charcoal chimney starter with a few pieces of newspaper at the bottom. This method helps the briquettes ignite naturally. Once the briquettes are covered in white ash, spread them on the bottom rack of the grill.

Getting the Grill Hot:

Preheating the grill is essential to achieve the perfect sear and grill marks on your salmon. Place the lid on the grill to preheat the grates, just like preheating an oven. After about 10 minutes, the grill will reach the right temperature for cooking.

Grilling the Salmon:
When it comes to grilling the salmon, the right temperature is crucial. Aim for a grill temperature of 450°F-500°F. This high heat ensures that the fish cooks quickly and develops that desired sear. The skin of the salmon plays a crucial role in preventing it from sticking to the grates. Generously coat the flesh side of the salmon with oil, and then place it skin side down on the hot grates. Close the lid and let it cook for about 6-8 minutes until the color lightens, the texture becomes firmer, and you can easily lift the fillets off the grates without them sticking.

Flipping and Finishing:
Once the skin side is cooked to perfection, carefully flip the salmon over. Close the lid and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes for a beautiful browning effect. The skin should naturally crisp and release from the grates, allowing for easy flipping.

Determining Doneness:
Grilled fish is safe to eat at 145°F, but keep in mind the concept of carry-over cooking. This means that food continues to cook even after it’s removed from the grill. To avoid overcooking, take the salmon off the grill when its internal temperature reaches 125°-130°F. Let it rest for a few minutes before removing the skin and serving.

Sauces and Serving Suggestions:
This grilled salmon recipe is versatile and serves as a canvas for a variety of sauces, toppings, and salsas. Consider serving it with options like tartar sauce, cucumber dill sauce, mango fruit salsa, or even flavored compound butters.

In conclusion, grilling the perfect salmon is a delightful culinary experience that combines the beauty of quality ingredients, the charm of a charcoal grill, and the precision of timing and technique. By following these steps, you’ll be well on your way to creating a moist, flavorful, and perfectly grilled salmon that’s sure to impress your guests and become a staple in your summertime menu.


  1. Why is grilled salmon a popular dish during the summertime?
    Grilled salmon is a popular dish during the summertime because it combines the joy of outdoor grilling with the deliciousness of this flavorful and healthy fish.
  2. What are the key elements to consider when selecting salmon for grilling?
    The type of salmon and its flavor profile are essential. Wild-caught salmon offers a robust flavor, while farm-raised salmon has a milder taste. Additionally, the fat content of the fish affects its buttery texture.
  3. What are the main ingredients required for grilled salmon?
    The main ingredients for grilled salmon are a salmon fillet (preferably with skin on), quality oil (like grape seed oil), kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper.
  4. Why is using all-natural briquettes made from pure hardwoods recommended for grilling salmon?
    All-natural briquettes made from pure hardwoods burn at higher temperatures and provide better flavor compared to briquettes with questionable fillers.
  5. What method is suggested for lighting the charcoal grill without using lighter fluid?
    To light the charcoal grill naturally, use a charcoal chimney starter with a few pieces of newspaper at the bottom. This avoids the chemical taste of lighter fluid.
  6. What is the optimal grill temperature for cooking salmon?
    For optimal results, aim for a grill temperature of 450°F-500°F when cooking salmon.
  7. How should the salmon be oiled to prevent sticking to the grill grates?
    Instead of oiling the grill grates, it’s recommended to oil the flesh side of the salmon. This improves the chances of the fish releasing easily from the grates.
  8. How long should the salmon be grilled skin side down, and why is this step important?
    The salmon should be grilled skin side down for about 6-8 minutes. This prevents sticking and allows the skin to crisp and release naturally from the grates.
  9. At what temperature should grilled fish be considered done, and what is carry-over cooking?
    Grilled fish is considered done at 145°F. Carry-over cooking refers to the fact that food continues to cook even after being removed from the heat source.
  10. What sauces or toppings can be paired with grilled salmon?
    Grilled salmon serves as a versatile canvas for various sauces and toppings, such as tartar sauce, cucumber dill sauce, fruit salsa, and flavored compound butters.

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