Cooking Salmon on the Grill: How and Why You Should Do It

When most people think of grilling, the first things that come to mind are steaks, burgers, maybe even hot dogs, but they are intimidated by the idea of cooking salmon on the grill or other seafood. 


Fish is an excellent meal to cook on the grill, and salmon is one of the most popular options, especially for beginners. Grilling is just one of many delicious ways to enjoy salmon, but it’s our most favorite way, for obvious reasons.

Everything You Need to Know About Cooking Salmon on the Grill


  • Why cooking salmon on the grill is a great idea

  • The health benefits of salmon

  • How to cook salmon on the grill

  • Our favorite grilled salmon recipes

  • Tips for Cooking the best grilled salmon

  • The best tools for cooking salmon on the grill

Photo by Davey Gravy on Unsplash

Why Cooking Salmon on the Grill is a Great Idea

Many fish can only be cooked on indirect heat on the grill because of their lean and delicate nature. Salmon is unique in its fat content and durability, making it well-suited to high-heat cooking on the grill. The result is tender, juicy fish that flakes easily and tastes great. 


Most people who aren’t fans of seafood or fish generally enjoy salmon because it doesn’t have a strong fishy taste. When cooked correctly and paired with the right sides, salmon is a real crowd-pleaser. 

Health Benefits of Salmon

Salmon is one of the most nutritious foods on the planet and has been known to reduce risk factors for several diseases. Salmon is also on the list of healthy, nutrient-rich foods that can help you maximize memory function of your brain.


Other health benefits of cooking salmon on the grill include: 


  • Reduced inflammation 

  • Reduced risk of heart disease

  • Weight control support

  • Improved overall brain function

  • High dose of selenium 

  • Antioxidant-rich

  • High in B vitamins 

  • High in potassium 

  • Rich in protein

  • Plenty of Omega-3 fatty acid


The health benefits of this fatty fish are awesome, but it’s also important to keep in mind that wild caught salmon are healthier than farmed salmon. Farmed salmon are fed with processed fish feed, which makes them less nutritious than wild salmon. Wild salmon contain more important minerals, while farmed salmon has more calories (mostly from fat) but is higher in Vitamin C.

How to Cook Salmon on the Grill

Cooking salmon on the grill is like a fine art. While salmon isn’t as delicate as other fish, you still need to be careful so that it doesn’t stick to the grill or fall apart. 


Here’s a step-by-step guide for how to cook salmon on the grill:

Step 1: Prep the salmon for the grill. 

Remove the salmon from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for at least 20 minutes. Pat the salmon dry with a paper towel. If you use a marinade, blot off as much of the liquid as possible. 


Before adding the salmon to the grill, lightly coat it with olive on both sides and season with salt and pepper. 

Step 2: Prep the grill. 

Before heating the grill, brush off any remaining food residue on the grill grates. We use the Juniper BBQ Scraper for the best results.  


We suggest creating greased grates that prevent sticking by dipping a quarter of an onion into olive oil and using your grill tongs to wipe it over the grates. Be careful that you don’t add too much oil, which can result in flare-ups. Some people use paper towels for this process, but we suggest using an onion to ensure you don't get paper towel fibers on your grates.

Step 3: Heat the grill. 

Create two cooking zones: one hot zone for searing and one low heat zone (or indirect zone) for gentle cooking. If you’re using a gas grill, turn one side up to high heat and keep the other on low.


For charcoal grills, use the JJ George Grill Torch for easy light-up. You’ll also want to check out our Kick Ash Basket Adjustable Divider. It helps keep the direct and indirect zone separated for precision cooking. 


Close the lid and preheat for at least 15 minutes. If you are using a charcoal grill, you want air circulation, so keep the lid vents open.

Step 4: Grill the salmon. 

Place the salmon skin-side down on the hot zone and allow to cook for 6 to 8 minutes. Use a fish spatula to flip the salmon over onto the lower-heat side. 


Cook the opposite side of the salmon fillet on low, indirect heat for 2 to 4 minutes or until you reach the desired doneness.

Tips for Cooking Salmon on the Grill

Cooking salmon on the grill is fast and straightforward. If you have any reservations about it, review these quick tips so you cook your salmon fillet flawlessly the first time. 


  • To avoid overcooking salmon, don’t walk away from the grill or get distracted. Salmon cooks quickly and shouldn’t take longer than 12 minutes once it’s on the grill. An internal temperature of 120º F indicates the salmon is medium-rare.

  • Never use tongs to flip any fish. Tongs not only encourage delicate meat to fall apart, but they squeeze out those flavorful juices. 

  • If the fillet sticks when you try to flip it over, you may want to wait another minute or two. It will pull away from the grill easily when it is ready.

  • Let the salmon rest for a few minutes before serving. This allows for any carryover cooking. 

  • When purchasing salmon, look for steaks or center-cut skin-on fillets for even, easy grilling. 

  • Be prepared with all the right tools. 

Photo by Alice Pasqual on Unsplash

A Classic Grilled Salmon Recipe

Easy Sweet and Salty Salmon

Ingredients: 


  • 1½ pounds salmon steaks for center-cut fillets

  • 1/3 cup of soy sauce

  • 1/3 cup of brown sugar

  • 1/3 cup of water

  • 1/3 cup of olive oil

  • Lemon pepper to taste

  • Garlic powder to taste

  • Kosher salt to taste

  • 2 cups cooked white or brown rice


Directions: 

 

  1. Season fillets with lemon pepper, garlic powder, and salt. 

  2. Combine soy sauce, brown sugar, water, and olive oil in a small bowl and mix until sugar is dissolved.

  3. Place fish and soy sauce mixture in a resealable plastic bag and refrigerate for 2 hours. 

  4. Follow the above steps for cooking salmon on the grill. 

  5. Salmon is ready when it flakes easily with a fork. 

  6. Serve with a scoop of rice and a fresh salad to complete the meal.

 

Cooking salmon on the grill is a great way to add variety to your BBQ dishes and impress your guests. Not only is salmon a delicious addition to your meals, but it’s extremely rich in nutrients.  It is a quick and easy process, especially once you’ve practiced it a few times. Patience is key when learning to grill salmon, but as you continue to practice, it will only get easier. You’ll wonder why it took you so long to try it!