How to Grill Salmon

  • Since starting as a vendor at the Palisades Farmer’s Market two weeks ago, I have had the opportunity to talk with a lot of folks buying salmon from me and wondering how best to cook it. After 30 years of eating salmon, I am realizing that simple is always better (in food and also in life I think). Salmon is one of nature’s truly amazing foods––in taste, texture and personal and environmental health. It really is something that such a wonderful food is also so incredibly easy and quick to cook!

    So, how to cook it? Keep it simple! Most Alaskans grill it and that is what I will cover here. For those of you without a grill, stay tuned for a post on baking, poaching and broiling. When I say grill, I mean a wood, charcoal or gas outdoor grill. In a pinch a George Foreman-style table top grill will also work well enough.

    All my favorite recipes at the moment involve cooking the salmon on a grill simply with oil, salt and pepper. Then serving it with dipping sauces such as a fruit relish or a cilantro pesto. Another approach that still involves the grill is a simple marinate, also a quintessentially Alaskan technique. Follow the same grilling tips below but instead of putting oil, salt and pepper on the salmon, use a simple marinate of soy sauce, a little fresh ginger and some brown sugar.

    Preparing the Grill:

    • Fish cooks best over a medium-hot grill.
    • Make sure the grill is hot before you start cooking.
    • Liberally brush oil on the grill just prior to cooking (watch for flareups).
    • Make sure grill is very clean or fish will stick.

    Cooking Seafood:

    • Start with a portion or whole fillet of wild Alaskan salmon.
    • Brush oil on all flesh surfaces of salmon then sprinkle with pepper and salt.
    • Always leave the skin on. It seals in moisture and the fat between the fish and the skin keeps the fish rich and tasty.
    • Always start fish with the skin side up, flesh side down.
    • Turn seafood only once. For easy turning, use a two prong kitchen fork inserted between the grill bars to slightly lift the fish, then slide a metal spatula under the fish and turn. A well oiled and clean grill is key to getting a clean flip.
    • Generally speaking, salmon should never cook for more than 10 minutes. Small pieces (2 inch wide pieces cut short ways from a fillet) will cook just 2 or 3 minutes per side. An 8oz. portion might cook just 3 to 4 minutes per side on a hot grill.
    • To check for doneness, slide a sharp knife tip into the center of the thickest part of a cooking seafood portion, checking for color. Remove from the heat just as soon as it turns from translucent to opaque throughout.
    • Seafood continues to cook after it’s removed from the heat so take it off the heat just as soon as it is opaque throughout.
    • Serve immediately.


    Download a PDF of these tips here.

    For an e-book on grilling Alaskan salmon, click here.

    November 29th, 2011 | Traveler | No Comments | Tags: , , ,

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