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The Best Ways to Cook Salmon on a Grill

Salmon is one of the cleanest sources of vitamin B6 and B12, great healthy protein and lots of good fats. It’s a coveted food source which can be prepared in numerous ways – including charcoal grilling.

There are many benefits to charcoal grilling salmon, like for instance Argentinian style grills can get naturally quite hot, which is something great because salmon grilling requires lots of heat.

The most common issue that people face when grilling salmon on a gas grill, is that it cannot get hot enough and the salmon sticks, no matter what they try.

This article is aimed towards providing the Griller Dude blog readers with a fantastic, fool-proof way of grilling salmon, which can provide consistent results each time. We hope you enjoy it.

What Makes Grilling Salmon More Difficult Than Other Meats

There four main factors that make grilling salmon more different and difficult than grill cooking other types of meats. Those are:

  • Salmon sticking to the grill;
  • Salmon being overcooked;
  • Salmon falling apart or through the grill grates;
  • Inadequate grill setup – grill can’t get hot enough.

Due to the high protein amount in each salmon cut, it requires very high heat to cook, as high as you can get the grill.

Further preparations of the mean prior to grilling will aid in resolving issues like sticking or burning - salting and letting the meat “sweat” its moisture out, then drying it of with a paper towelette is a great start.

You can leave the salted salmon in the fridge for 1 hour, or up to 1 full day to fully draw out the moisture, allowing for the meat to release its surface moisture completely. Moisture is what makes salmon stick to the grill and we don’t want that.

Additional Tips on Preparation and Portioning

The big question when choosing what type of salmon cut to buy, is whether it should a fillet or a steak - both types of cuts have their advantages and disadvantages, which we will mention next.

The Pros and Cons of grilling salmon steaks cuts, are:

  • Great for beginners;
  • They allow for more flexibility with the grilling time;
  • They don’t fall apart;
  • They stick to the grill less;
  • You’ll have to eat around the bones;
  • The finished skin won’t be crispy because it’s on the outside of the cut.

The Pros and Cons of choosing to grill Salmon filets, are:

  • Filets get crispy on the skin side;
  • There are no bones;
  • Require more skill to cook;
  • Require a grill that can get really hot (up to 460F).

With the capacity to get hot (above 460F), the Smart Flip Grill from Griller Dude is a fantastic choice for grilling salmon filets and steaks, especially for its temperature control and large coal pit.

Make sure whatever type of cut you choose, is scale-free. Scales will prevent the skin from becoming crispy. Check and see if your fishmonger sells scale-free salmon steaks or filets.

When shopping in big office stores you have to specifically ask for your fish to be de-scaled. In these cases, it’s better to ask than assume because home de-scaling fish can get dirty really quickly.

If you’ve gone for the filet, here are some tips that would make your grilling experience more productive:

  • It’s best to portion it into smaller pieces, separating them into thicker and thinner pieces;
  • Thicker pieces will require more time on the grill, whereas thinner will cook quicker and would burn if they are cooked as a whole piece;
  • Don’t make the fillet pieces too small and thin because they will cook too soon without being able to get that golden-brown finish you are looking for.

How to Cook Salmon on the Grill

To cook a perfect salmon filet or steak, you’d need to first season the grill grates. Heat up the grill and remove any remaining residue from previous cooking sessions.

The best practice for grill seasoning and preparation in order to cook salmon on grill, is to separate the coals and create a “hot” and “cold” zone. With the easy to access coal pit and drawer on the Smart Flip Grill, you can do this procedure at any time of the cooking process.

Oil the hot zone of the grill grates only, using a high heat resistant vegetable oil, like sunflower or canola oil. Moisten a paper towel and season the grates eight times. This will not only reduce the chance of the salmon sticking, but it will also allow it to come out nice and juicy.

The good news is that people using a charcoal grill will not have to worry about their grill not being able to get hot enough. Argentinian style grills can get pretty hot, which is perfect for people wondering what temp to cook salmon on grill.

What temperature to cook salmon on the grill? Get your grill up to 400F to 425F. Use the hot and cold grill method we mentioned above and you’ll get pretty consistent results.

How Long to Cook Salmon on Grill

After you’ve sweating your salmon, portioned it properly and seasoned the grill, you place your salmon skin-side up directly on the hot spot. Your temps should read anywhere between 400F and 425F – just the right range for high protein meats.

Let the salmon sit for three minutes on the meat side and check if it’s getting brown using tongues or by lifting up your Smart Flip Grill grates with the handle.

The big BIG advantage of our grill is that you totally avoid the risk of salmon sticking or falling apart on you. You only need to check and see if it’s getting those nice grill marks, then you flip after 3 minutes.

If you want to get those crisscross grill marks you should slowly lift up the salmon with your spatula and tongues then rotate it to 90 degrees. The first marks take 3 minutes, the second ones will take 1 minute.

Salmon should not be cooked for more than 4 minutes in total on the flesh side. Skin side will take 1-2 minutes in total. Look for that golden brown, crispy finish and your salmon is done. 

The Safest and Most fun Ways to Cook Salmon on the Grill

Using an Argentinian style grill for cooking salmon makes the entire aforementioned process quite simple.

You still need to season the grill, sweat the meat and be cautious with your meat portioning, however, you directly avoid the biggest issue with cooking high-protein meats – sticking to the grill and falling apart.

The Griller Dude team highly recommends that you try out using a movable grill like the Smart Flip Grill we produced, because it will give you access to far more grilling options and help you eat healthier.

Direct Grilling Over Medium-High Heat

You can go for direct grilling over medium-high heat, which in total (flesh and skin side) will take about 6 minutes - 4 mins for flesh side and 2 minutes for skin side.

Grilling over direct heat is the best way to get a nice and crispy finish, however, you need to be mindful of flare-ups from the grease falling on top of the coals.

The best salmon cook time on a grill is up to 6 minutes per inch of salmon, so portions that are more than this should cook for a little more.

For the sake of safety, we do recommend that you check and see if the thickest part of your salmon is cooked. You can tell by the color – it should be pink, but not transparent. This is also a great answer to the question “How long do you cook salmon on the grill?”.

Cook Salmon on Grill in Foil

There’s also quite a common method for cooking salmon on a charcoal grill and that’s the “foil method”. It allows the cook to preserve the moisture of the salmon, steaming it in whatever sauce or vegetables they want to cook it with.

How long to cook salmon on the grill in foil depends on the thickness of the meat cut and the temperature of the grill. At 425F you should cook salmon grill foil for about 2-3 minutes, then you should get that crispy skin by directly grilling the skin side.

We hope this quick and simple guide on how to cook salmon on grill helps you get better, tastier, more consistent results.

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