With warmer weather comes al fresco dining, which means al fresco dining, and there's nothing more satisfying than grilling salmon in your own backyard. Need a quick primer on how to grill wild salmon? Here’s how you do it.
First, consider that one of the reasons grilling food is such a unique and tasty experience is because natural charcoal provides a special smoky flavor that is hard to find elsewhere. Unfortunately, a gas grill does not provide the same experience, and mass produced charcoal briquets can leave the fish tasting like chemicals. You’ll want to use all-natural hardwood charcoal grill.
How to Grill Wild Salmon: Easy Tips and Tricks
Choose the best wild salmon fillets.
Dry your fish.
Wrap your salmon fillets in aluminum foil to seal in their moisture.
Grill salmon on a cedar plank as an alternative to aluminum foil.
Grill for about 10 minutes (assuming the fillets are about an inch thick).
Aim for internal temperature of 115-125 degrees Fahrenheit.
How to Choose Wild Salmon for Grilling
We generally recommend grilling sockeye salmon from Alaska. This type of Alaskan salmon has a robust and complex flavor and even among wild-caught salmon, sockeye is packed with an abundance of Omega 3s. Its rich flavor complex makes it perfect for grilling compared to leaner types of fish.
Dry Your Fish
Before you grill salmon, you’re going to want to pat the fillets dry to ensure that there is no excess moisture. You can use a paper towel or clean kitchen towel to do this.
Skin in the Game
By using salmon fillets, you already have a built in advantage: the skin. Salmon skin acts as a natural barrier between the meat and the grill so the meat doesn’t burn. If you are using a salmon steak or some other cut of fish without skin, it’s a good idea to use some aluminum foil to create a layer between the fish and the grill. You can also sprinkle some kosher salt on the skin side of the fish to be doubly sure that it won’t stick.
Aim for Moisture Retention
Many people swear by using king salmon on the grill. Because of its higher fat content, it’s easier to keep moist. However, that’s not to say that other types of salmon will dry out when grilled. Alas, there are steps you can take to ensure that salmon such as sockeye or coho will stay tasty. For example, instead of simply laying the fillet skin-side down on a piece of tin foil, you can surround it in a tin foil pouch in order to keep the salmon’s natural juices close. The aluminum foil pouch also helps if you plan on brushing or drizzling your wild salmon fillets in extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice
Consider Grilling on a Cedar Plank
Cedar planks have been getting more popular in recent years, and for good reason, too. Grilling salmon on a cedar plank is a great alternative to the foil pouch method. It helps lock in moisture and imbues the salmon with a rich.
The surface area of the plank can give you enough space to grill vegetables, too, all while minimizing the amount of oil you'd normally have to use. To do this, all you need are cedar planks which you can easily find in most grocery stores or online shops. Then, soak the planks in water for at least 12 hours before grilling. When you're preparing the salmon, place it flesh side up and drizzle in marinade, olive oil or lemon juice and sprinkle sea salt depending on your recipe.
You’ll need a “tower” to start the charcoal. Before you place salmon on the grill, put some newspaper at the bottom of the tower and some charcoal on top of it, light it up, and in no time you’ll have some embers which to cook your salmon over. Generally, you're looking at a 10 minute cook time assuming the fillet is about an inch thick. You can always take its internal temperature if you have a cooking thermometer handy. Aim for an internal temperature of 115-125 degrees before checking for doneness.
The best part is that keeping the grill lid on retains enough high heat that eliminates the need to flip the salmon. Just let the ambient heat cook the top, while the center cooks up from the bottom.
When done, transfer salmon to a serving dish using a large spatula to ensure the salmon doesn't fall apart.
Our Favorite Grilled Salmon Recipes