Grilling salmon is easy, as long as you follow three simple steps. This no-flip technique requires that you work with skin-on pieces of salmon. Have skinless salmon filets? Scroll to the bottom and see how to troubleshoot that situation.
Use this recipe to grill any type of salmon or size of fillet perfectly every single time.
Note that while many people swear by the superiority of king (aka chinook) salmon, other varieties such as sockeye, coho, and even pink salmon are also delicious on the grill. Plan on about 6 ounces of salmon per person and grill individual fillets or cook a whole side of skin-on salmon at once. Feel free to add spice rubs, glazes, and sauces as you like—check out this miso-glazed grilled salmon recipe as an example.
- Salmon fillets, skin-on (about 6 ounces per person)
- Vegetable or canola oil
- Fine sea salt
- Optional: Freshly ground black pepper
- Optional: Lemon wedges
Make sure your grill is clean. Rub the cooking grate with a thin layer of oil. Heat the grill, either charcoal or gas, to medium-high (you should be able to hold your hand about 1 inch above the cooking grate for 3 to 4 seconds before pulling it away from the heat). A properly heated grill will help keep the fish from sticking excessively while also cooking it gently and thoroughly without setting it aflame.
While the grill heats, prepare the salmon fillet(s): Rinse them and pat them dry. If you feel like it or have particular eaters sitting at your table, use tweezers to pull out the pin bones (pull them out in the direction at which they're coming out for the smoothest results). Don't see any pin bones? Run your finger down the "seam" of the fillet—you'll feel them. Brush the salmon skin with oil. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper to season.
Brush the cooking grate with oil. Place the salmon, skin-side-down (see Note, below), on the grill and cover. Cook, undisturbed, until the salmon just starts to release its fat (opaque mayonnaise-like stuff) and/or the flesh flakes easily, 10 to 15 minutes for most 1-inch-thick fillets. Allow another 10 minutes for each extra inch of thickness. Use a spatula to remove the fish from the grill.
Serve grilled salmon immediately. Offer lemon wedges so people can spritz their salmon with fresh lemon juice, or serve with the garnish of your choice (fresh herbs are nice).
Note: Does your salmon not have any skin on it? Simply use a piece of foil a few inches larger than whatever piece of salmon you have. Punch a few holes in it—about one hole every inch—and oil it liberally. Cook the salmon on the foil on the grill, no turning required!
Have an entire salmon? You might want to check out how to grill a whole fish (salmon is great grilled whole, stuffed with herbs and lemons, coated with oil).
Have salmon but no grill? See more tasty ways to cook salmon here.