How To Grill A Perfect Piece Of Salmon

Salmon is made for the grill.

Firecracker Grilled Salmon
Photo: Jennifer Davick

When you think about grilling, the first foods that come to mind are probably hamburgers and hot dogs. While these are some of our favorite barbecue staples for pool parties and tailgates, we're here to show you just how versatile your grill can be.

From skirt steak to pork chops, we love to cook all types of meat on the grill to impart a smoky, charred flavor. Grilling is a simple art that, when mastered, leads to plenty of easy, breezy meals and endless flavor combinations.

But one thing that you might not typically think to throw on the grill is fish. "Salmon is perfect for a hot grill, as it chars up perfectly, and the rich, fatty flesh flakes super easy," according to our Test Kitchen professionals.

Our recipe for Easy Grilled Salmon quickly became a fan favorite; not only is it remarkably easy to prepare—we're talking six ingredients—but it also takes just 15 minutes from start to finish.

We love to put salmon on the table for dinner because it's lean and nutritious, not to mention that it cooks super-fast. We've come up with quite a few simple, creative ways to cook salmon—we've baked salmon in parchment, formed it into patties, and pan-seared it in a cast-iron skillet—but grilling salmon might just be our favorite technique yet.

How Hot Should Your Grill Be To Cook Salmon?

When grilling salmon, you want to maintain a medium-high heat—our Test Kitchen suggests preheating the grill from 400°F to 450°F. Once you place your salmon on the grill, you'll want to close the cover to retain as much heat as possible.

How Long Does It Take To Grill Salmon?

Salmon cooks very quickly on the grill—the whole process takes 15 minutes from start to finish. For a standard 6-ounce fillet, our Test Kitchen pros recommend cooking your salmon for 4 minutes per side, or until it reaches the internal temperature of 120°F (accounting for some carryover cooking).

How To Grill Salmon

There are a few different techniques that you can use to grill salmon. Some recipes will call for you to wrap the fillets in foil before placing them on the grill; others will call for you to grill your salmon on a cedar plank to infuse extra smoky flavor into the fish.

In our Easy Grilled Salmon recipe, we take a simple, traditional approach by placing the fish directly on the grill.

In this recipe, we brush the fish and the grill grates with oil to prevent sticking and place the fish directly on the grill grates. Not only is this the easiest approach, but it helps you achieve those beautiful grill marks. To ensure that your fish does not stick to the grill, resist the urge to move it around or flip it—attempting to flip the fillets too early will cause the fish to stick. Plus, leaving the fish in one place helps you achieve nice, defined grill marks.

Cook the salmon for 4 minutes, covered, on one side, then flip and grill for another 4 minutes, or until cooked through. You're looking for the fish to be slightly charred on the outside, while still flaky and deep pink on the inside.

Get the Recipe: Easy Grilled Salmon

How to Serve Grilled Salmon

You can serve grilled salmon fillets with any number of sauces. Our Easy Grilled Salmon recipe includes a lemon-herb vinaigrette that balances out the richness of the fish.

To make the vinaigrette, simply whisk together lemon juice, chopped parsley, shallot, mustard, and the remaining oil and salt in a small bowl. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the grilled salmon fillets before serving.

Once you've mastered the salmon grilling technique, get creative with your sauces and sides. Serve grilled salmon with rice and broccoli, or pair it with your favorite starch and veggies. This dish is easy enough to throw together on a weeknight, but impressive enough to serve at an al fresco gathering.

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