Grilled salmon is a simple and delicious dinner that works great to taper off your busy workday, especially in the warm spring and summer months. Crispy, flaky, and of course, delicious, yet most people tend to shy away from salmon, especially when cooking it on the grill.
Novice grillers can find grilled salmon to be intimidating. However, with these simple tips and tricks, you can impress all of your friends and family at your next dinner party.
Preventing the Dreaded Sticking
Most people steer clear of grilling salmon because it tends to stick on the grill. Even though it’s an oilier fish, it might fall apart and become one giant mess instead of the delicious, well-prepared grilled salmon that we all desire.
The good news is this problem is very fixable. You can do three main things to keep your fish from falling apart:
- Keep your grill clean.
- Utilize oil on your salmon and in the marinade.
- Cook it skin side down first if they’re salmon fillets.
Keep Your Grill Clean
One preventative measure to keep your grilled salmon from sticking is to clean your grill beforehand. The process of cleaning charcoal and gas grills is similar, but you should note a few key differences.
No matter what kind of grill you have, it is always good to do some minimal cleaning after each use. All you need to do is scrub your grill grates with a wire scrub while still hot. The heat will loosen some of the leftover food and grime. If you wait until your grill cools down, it will be a lot more challenging.
According to Popular Mechanic, cleaning a gas grill requires a few more steps. You want to heat your grill for about 30 minutes. The heat will burn off any leftover food on the grill and make it slide off easier when cleaning the grate.
From there, you use your wire brush, some warm water, and grease-cutting soap like Dawn to clean your grill. Then you turn off your gas, remove the gas tank, and allow your grill to cool completely.
For a charcoal grill, ensure that your coals are cooled down completely and appropriately disposed of. You can then continue with whatever cleaning process you like. You can soak your grates or give them a good scrub with soap and warm water.
Like a pan on the stove, you can brush a little bit of vegetable oil on your grill. The oil will add a slick barrier between the hot grate and salmon. You can also add olive oil or any oil of your choice onto your salmon.
You can add oil in a marinade or apply it directly to the salmon with some seasoning. The oil gives additional flavor while also keeping your salmon from sticking.
Cook the Skin First
If you are using salmon fillets with the skin on, you should cook it with the skin down first. Cooking the skin will allow the meat to form together, with the skin holding the pieces firmly together for a strong foundation.
After you have cooked your salmon with the skin side down, you then flip it and allow it to cook on the other side. In total, it should take about 8 minutes to cook your salmon thoroughly. Then it’s the best part, the eating. So now you can enjoy your grilled salmon without the awful sticking being a problem.
Marinades and Seasonings
Another hurdle with cooking grilled salmon is the flavorings. Usually, people worry about how to properly season their salmon. Everyone loves salmon for its buttery texture and rich flavor, but like most fish, it can sometimes carry a pungent taste.
To cut out some of that fishiness and expand on the salmon’s natural flavor, utilize these few ingredients. Add them to your marinade, or sprinkle them onto your salmon with additional seasonings before tossing it on the grill.
While salmon is a favorite dish among many, not all people like fish. Using lemon may help entice everyone around the dinner table, even those who aren’t fish lovers.
Lemon and citrus fruits are incredible components to any dish with fish or seafood. They add brightness to the fish that mellow out the fishy flavor without stripping the food of its taste. The acidic quality of the lemons enhances the rich flavor that salmon already has.
Adding just a squeeze of lemon to your marinade can make all the difference.
Whether you are seasoning your salmon and throwing it on the grill or allowing it to bathe for a few hours in a wonderful marinade, herbs are essential to any salmon dish.
Foodie blogs and food enthusiast raves about herbs in dishes with salmon, and it is no different with grilled salmon. Different herbs develop the flavors of the salmon even more.
FoodGuys.com suggests these herbs: dill, sage, fennel, tarragon, parsley, basil, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, and even ground coriander.
Garlic has a bold and well-loved flavor, so of course, it is on this list of things that will take your grilled salmon to the next level. It is generally a crowd-pleaser, so a little clove or two definitely won’t hurt your marinade.
You can also try brushing a light garlic butter over the salmon as it grills to get that delicious flavor without the risk of burning the garlic.
Using a Gas Grill
Some people prefer to use a gas grill for certain meals. If you really enjoy salmon’s natural taste and you like to eat it without any added smoky flavor, then a gas grill works best for your personal preference.
The bright side of using a gas grill is that there’s a whole less preparation involved than a charcoal grill. Instead of using all the extra time to prepare your fire, all you need to do is turn on your grill as you would your stove.
You also might want to use a gas grill if you are still a beginner at grilling. The added convenience can give you more time to learn about how to work your grill. From there, you can dive deeper and use charcoal to experience the added smoky flavor it can give your food.
Just be sure to turn off your gas grill after use. Not doing so can be a serious safety hazard.
Using a Charcoal Grill
Now that we’ve discussed preventative measures and seasoning, here comes the fun part: the actual grilling. A massive staple among master grillers is the charcoal grill. Charcoal grills are known for packing tons of flavor into whatever you cook on them, and the same thing goes for salmon.
The smoke and everything added into the fire deepen the flavor of the salmon. However, before you start up the grill, make sure you know your basics to charcoal grilling. Mastering the art of cooking on a charcoal grill is something every grill master needs in their arsenal.
Basics to Charcoal Grilling
The very first step is to prep your grill. For many this means, cleaning your grill or brushing oil on the grate to prevent sticking. Once you have done those preliminary steps, it is time to pick the fuel for your fire.
There are different charcoals you can use, which are hardwood charcoal and charcoal briquettes. D’Artagnan, a food company specializing in meats, speaks against using chemically-treated charcoal and lighter fluid because it can drastically change the taste of your food.
To bring out more intensity to the smokiness of your fish, you can also add wood chips and chunks for extra flavoring. The most notable wood chip types out there are mesquite, hickory, applewood, or alder. If you plan on using these, allow time for your wood chips to soak in a liquid, like water, wine, or beer.
After your wood chips are soaked, drain them and add them to the hot coals to smolder. You’ll notice a rich, robust smell to your smoke, which is the same essence that your grilled salmon will have.
While your wood chips are soaking, you can start to heat your coal. It is easier if you do this process with a chimney starter. Once your coals are hot from using that chimney start, you can dump them into your grill, and then it’s time to add your delicious salmon.
Pairing Sides with Grilled Salmon
After you have perfected your grilled salmon, now you need to decide what you can eat with it. Generally, you can eat grilled salmon with any sides that work great with fish. But if you are still short of ideas, we got you covered.
These side options can also be interchangeable, meaning that you can use two of these for dinner, no need to just pick one.
Leafy Greens Vegetables
There are tons of vegetables that you pair well with grilled salmon, like Brussels sprouts, asparagus, spinach, or even a lightly-dressed side salad. Grilled salmon is quite a healthy, lean meat, so if you want to keep things light, vegetables are the way to go.
Rice is a great side that goes along with grilled salmon. Suppose you packed your salmon with a lot of flavors. Whether it has bold seasonings or a potent marinade that packs a spicy kick, the rice can help mellow out those flavors, so your entree and your side are not battling your taste buds with too much intensity.
Rice can also work to highlight what you’ve done with your grilled salmon as well. You can push the boundaries a little bit further with your rice by adding stock, garlic, herbs, or butter. You name it. If you like it, add it to your rice to give it a little something extra.
Roasted potatoes with rice can either add or minimize the flavors of your grilled salmon. You can roast them in the oven with salt and pepper. Or you can add other spices, like garlic, onions, herbs, or you can even add other vegetables to the mix for some added crunch.
No matter what you do, have fun with it. Cooking involves experimenting and learning, so do not be afraid to push the envelope thing about some of your favorite ingredients and go from there.
Grilled salmon is a quick and delicious meal that anyone can make. With all of your added knowledge, you can now make grilled salmon a signature dish of yours.
There are tons of recipes and ways to season your salmon to your taste. Be sure to marinate your salmon or season it accordingly. Use lemon, herbs, and garlic to elevate your grilled salmon and impress everyone.
Finish off your meal right by selecting sides that pair well with salmon. Remember, as a general rule, if it works with fish, it will most likely work well with salmon; think starch with two vegetable sides.
No matter what you do, don’t be afraid of something different or new. It may be a cliche, but practice really does make perfect. So fire up your grill and get to cooking!