There are several types of delicious firm fish, but this is the absolute best for grilling.
Credit: Hector Sanchez/Southern Living

If you enjoy grilling outdoors during warm weather but are getting tired of the usual burgers and hotdogs, consider grilling a piece of salmon. There are several types of delicious, firm fish that perform well on the grill, such as swordfish, tuna, and mahi-mahi, but sustainable, wild-caught salmon is my all-time favorite. Paired with a fresh vegetable side dish, a serving of Firecracker Grilled Salmon is the ideal summer meal. Follow these tips to get the perfect piece of grilled salmon.

Don't Cook a Cold Fish

Don't ever use the microwave to thaw a frozen piece of fish, as the heat will start cooking the fish. Let frozen fish thaw in the refrigerator overnight, or leave the frozen fish in a sealed bag under cold running water. Once the salmon is thawed, and even if you are using a piece of fresh, never frozen fish, remove it from the refrigerator and let it warm up to room temperature before grilling. If you place a cold piece of salmon on the hot grate, the outside will overcook before the insides even begins to heat up.

Start With a Well-Prepared Grill

Your grill needs to be clean of any residue left from last weekend's cookout. Rub the cooking grate with a thin layer of oil. Heat the grill; either charcoal or gas, to medium-high or high so you can burn off whatever may be left on it. Once the grill is hot, use a grill brush to clean the grate thoroughly, and then turn the heat down to your recipe's required temperature for grilling your salmon.

One of the ways to mess up a grilled salmon is to let it stick to the grill. After you have cleaned the grate and lowered the temperature, oil the grate again. Squirt some vegetable or olive oil on a paper towel and, using grill tongs, rub it generously along the grate. Be mindful of flames and flare-ups if you are using a charcoal grill - you may need to remove the grate and oil it away from the heat.

Prep and Cook

If using a recipe, follow the directions for seasoning and cooking. Otherwise, rinse the salmon and pat it dry. You may see pin bones sticking out, but you can also run your finger against the grain to feel any other bones barely poking out of the flesh; remove them all with a clean pair of tweezers. Sprinkle both sides with salt, pepper, and any other spice blend you enjoy – I like using a dash of our family's favorite BBQ rub. Don't use too many additional seasonings, however, because you don't want to mask salmon's wonderful natural flavor.

Place the salmon, skin-side-down (see below if cooking skinless salmon) on the grill and cover. Cook, undisturbed (don't lift the lid and scoot the salmon pieces around or you will tear the skin), until the salmon just starts to release its albumin (the milky-looking fat) and/or the flesh flakes easily, usually 10 to 15 minutes for most 1-inch-thick fillets. Allow another 10 minutes for each extra inch of thickness. Use a sturdy spatula to remove the salmon from the grill.

If cooking skinless salmon, cut a piece of foil a few inches larger than your piece of fish. Punch a few holes in it—about one hole every inch—and oil it as you would the grate. Cook the salmon on the "foil grill" using the method described above.

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Serve grilled salmon immediately with lemon wedges or garnished with fresh herbs. Chill any leftovers and use to top green salads or mix with a bit of mayonnaise, pickle relish and boiled egg for a quick salmon salad.