Let’s face it. Fish can be tricky to grill.
Overcooked fish? No thanks.
Salmon is a wise choice for grilling for several reasons.
In general, salmon is one of the firmer fish. Because of that firmness, it holds up well to grilling and can take the heat. And by grilling, I mean directly on the grates or a cedar plank, not on a piece of foil.
With salmon, you want to make sure it’s seasoned with a good amount of kosher salt and, if you like, freshly ground black pepper. Any chef will tell you, it’s the salt that brings out the flavor of salmon, and other varieties of fish.
Brush or rub it with some oil first and then sprinkle on salt and pepper. You can also add other seasonings.
You can grill salmon over direct heat if you pay close attention to the heat. It should be medium, but not scorching-hot medium. Grilling salmon over indirect heat takes that out of the equation because the heat source is surrounding the salmon and not directly below it.
Over the years, I’ve grilled salmon flesh side down and skin-side down first. I find grilling flesh side first is a good bet because it allows me to judge doneness better and helps me know when it’s ready to flip.
When you place the salmon flesh side down on the hot grates, the flesh continues to cling tighter and tighter to the grates. You can see the flesh protrude between the grates. Once it’s cooked enough, a thin spatula should easily be slipped under the fillet so you can turn it over.
Depending on the thickness of the fillet, it can take 5 to 7 minutes. Once you turn the fillet over, it needs just another 3 to 5 minutes to cook.
When cooking salmon allow about 10 minutes cooking time per inch of thickness – that’s called the Canadian rule. It’s also a good idea to have an instant-read thermometer to check the internal temperature. I cook salmon to about 130 degrees and then let it rest 5 minutes before serving.
If you’re still not sure of grilling salmon (or other fish) directly on the grill, try this technique: place some citrus slices on the grill and place the salmon on the citrus. The citrus will get nice and charred on the bottom and infuse the salmon with flavor.
Also salmon loves being cooked on cedar planks. Look for cedar planks at most big box retailers. You’ll find them in the grilling sections. You need to soak the planks for several hours — I soak them overnight — before using. If you don’t, they will burn. It’s a good idea when using cedar planks not to put them over a direct flame for the same reason. Even if the planks are well soaked, they will burn.