How to Grill Salmon for Perfect Results
This step-by-step guide gives you the best ways to cook salmon on the grill.
Everything tastes better on the grill, from cookout favorites like burgers to summer produce—and salmon, everyone's favorite fish. While it seems more difficult than simply broiling or baking, grilling salmon is actually a simple cooking method that adds flavor (and keeps the seafood smell outside instead of in your kitchen). There are a number of easy ways to grill salmon (check out our collection of Easy Grilled Salmon recipes), infusing it with woodsy, smoky aromas and brightening it up with herbs and citrus. Read on to find out how!
Pictured Recipe: Salmon with Curried Yogurt & Cucumber Salad
How to Prep Salmon for Grilling
Salmon fillets are typically boneless—the fishmonger has done the work of removing the small pin bones for you. However, you should gently feel each fillet before cooking and remove any bones you may find with tweezers or your fingers.
One thing to note before you get grilling: Keep the skin on your salmon, just as you bought it. Why? The skin helps keep the delicate flesh of the salmon from falling apart as it cooks, so it will grill as a single fillet instead of flaking apart through the grill grates.
How long should you grill salmon?
As a general rule of thumb, cooking salmon fillets on the grill takes 10 to 12 minutes total for each fillet. Test the salmon with a fork to see if it flakes. Remove it from the grill when it begins to flake and lifts off the grates without sticking to the grill and it's easy to flip.
How to Grill Salmon with Skin
Grilling salmon with the skin is the simplest method of grilling salmon. It gives you perfect grill marks and juicy, flaky fish.
Preheat a gas grill to medium-high (450-500°F). Brush salmon with oil–this prevents sticking. Place each piece of fish flesh side down on a clean grill grate. Cook until the salmon has started to turn from translucent to opaque (about 4 minutes for a 1-inch-thick piece), then flip the salmon. When it's ready to flip, you should be able to lift the salmon from the grill with a thin metal spatula without it sticking. If it sticks, give it a little more time. Continue grilling just until the fish begins to flake with a fork, then transfer it to a plate and let it rest for a few minutes. (Try it with this easy Grilled Salmon with Cilantro-Ginger Sauce recipe.)
More Ways to Grill Salmon
Worried your salmon will stick? Try one of these alternatives to grilling salmon directly on the grill grate.
Grill Salmon in Foil
Taking a cue from campfire cooking, foil-wrapped salmon packets hold the fish to keep the grill clean while infusing the fish with flavor.
Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium-high (450-500°F) or light your charcoal grill. Make squares of foil large enough to envelop the fillets. Place one piece of salmon in the center of each piece of foil. Drizzle with olive oil and add fresh herbs, citrus slices, sliced garlic or other aromatics of your choice. Crimp the foil together to seal, then place the foil packets on the grill. Cover the grill and cook until the salmon flakes when tested with a fork, 8 to 10 minutes. (Try it with this Grilled Lemon-Pepper Salmon in Foil recipe.)
How to Grill Salmon on a Cedar Plank
Grilling planks are available in various sizes and types of wood, such as cedar, maple, alder and oak, for both small and large portions of salmon. A whole fillet grilled on a large plank is an impressive main course for an outdoor party, but it's easy to make single servings.
Soak the planks in water for at least 1 hour. Pat the salmon fillets dry and place on the planks. If using small planks, 1 fillet per piece of wood will likely fit, but if using large planks, you may be able to fit multiple fillets on the same piece. Season the salmon as desired and place the entire plank on the grill. Cover and cook until the salmon flakes when tested with a fork. Timing will vary based on the size of your fillet, but individual portions will cook within 10 minutes as noted above. (Try the technique with this Grilled Herbed Salmon recipe.)