The best thing about grilled salmon? You barely need to do a thing. Even a little bit of effort can pay off in a big way, flavorwise. In this easy grilled salmon recipe, the secret is in the sauce — just butter, lemon juice, chives, and garlic — which cooks in a pan while the salmon is grilling away. The technique itself is fairly universal, so feel free to swap out salmon for halibut or trout, or try other seafood, like shrimp or scallops. But let’s be honest — it's hard to beat super fresh, in-season salmon.
How To Choose Perfect Salmon Fillets
If it’s summer, you’re in luck — that’s when Pacific salmon is in season. (Atlantic salmon, on the other hand, is almost always farmed. We can argue about the virtues of fresh versus farmed salmon another time). There are six types of Pacific salmon — the most common of which are Chinook (a.k.a king), coho, and sockeye. Take your pick, they’re all wonderful grilled. Look for the label "Alaskan wild-caught" for a healthy, sustainable choice.
When picking salmon fillets, the key is to use your senses. Does it smell like… anything? It really shouldn’t. Does it look firm throughout? The color can vary, from almost ruby red to a light pink-orange sherbet, but it should be bold. Any browning should also be avoided. Is it firm to the touch? (Gushy is never good). If all those are in order, the taste should be on point. Just be sure to get fillets of equal size so the cook time will be consistent.
Which First — Skin Side Up Or Skin Side Down?
It’s a given that you should leave the skin on if you're going to grill salmon. (Really, even if you don’t like to eat the skin, the only time you'll want to remove the skin during cooking is when you poach.) But the ever-present question is, skin side up first or skin side down?
In the skin side down camp, you have Mark Bittman — and plenty of others. The idea is that the skin keeps the salmon fillets from cooking too quickly or sticking to the grill grates. When you grill salmon skin side down, you get deliciously crispy skin, but also potential flare-ups.
In the skin side up camp, you have Cooks Illustrated. Using this cooking method, you place salmon on the grill while it's still raw, so it won’t flake and the grill marks come out perfect. Well-cooked salmon (not well-done, mind you) will lift easily from the grill.
Beyond Olive Oil
All you really need to season salmon fillets is kosher salt, black pepper, and olive oil with a squeeze of lemon juice, for good measure. In this grilled salmon recipe, we’re using a simple olive oil-based dressing; but don't be afraid to get creative! Salmon is so versatile. Try adding herbs and lemon, tomato and basil, mustard and tarragon, soy sauce and brown sugar cooked in a foil packet, or experiment with a flavorful marinade and avocado salsa. Be bold, and find your favorite way to cook salmon!
What To Pair With Grilled Salmon Fillets
Since salmon cooks so quickly — 10 minutes, tops, over medium heat on the gas grill — and prep time is almost nothing, you want easy sides that come together fast. Two salmon sides we recommend are mashed potatoes and tomato salad. For a lighter side, try this simple arugula, feta, and summer squash salad or grilled veggies alongside. For an Asian feel, try rice and Asian-style kale with a simple soy sauce dressing.
- olive oil (to taste)
- 6 salmon fillets
- 1 dash salt
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/2 lemon (juiced)
- 12 chive stems
- 10 garlic cloves
- Use olive oil to grease grill grates, then preheat grill to high heat.
- When grill is hot, place the salmon fillets on oiled grate. After turning, sprinkle with a dash of salt.
- In a small saucepan, add olive oil, butter, lemon juice, finely chopped chives, 2 cloves of peeled, minced garlic, and 8 cloves of crushed unpeeled garlic.
- Place the grilled salmon on a platter and drizzle with the olive oil dressing.
- Serve immediately with mashed potatoes and tomato salad.
PER SERVING *
|Calories440Calories from Fat270|
|% DAILY VALUE*|
|Calories from Fat270|
|% DAILY VALUE*|
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.