How To Grill Perfect Salmon Fillets

updated Jul 1, 2023
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How To Grill Salmon (Healthy, Simple, Fast)
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Credit: Mia Yakel/Kitchn

It’s no secret that grilled salmon looks impressive — from its caramelized grill marks to its juicy, rosy interior — but did you know that grilled salmon is stunningly fast and easy, too?

With this recipe, we’ve cracked the code on moist and tender grilled salmon fillets that are perfect for Sunday meal prep, weeknight dinners, or for serving guests. Here, we’ve broken down the few key steps that will make this grilled salmon fail-proof — even for beginner grillers.

Quick Overview

Steps to Grill Salmon Fillets

  1. Brine the salmon for 10 minutes. Add the salmon fillets skin-side up and brine it in a water and salt mixture.
  2. Heat the grill over medium-heat (about 350°F).
  3. Prep the salmon. Remove salmon from the brine mixture and pat them dry.
  4. Grease the grill grates. Lightly oil the grill grates with a swipe of oil on a towel.
  5. Place the filets skin side-up on the grill. Cook for 3 minutes per side. 
  6. Check for doneness and serve. Insert a probe thermometer (medium to well doneness for salmon is 125°F to 145°F), or slide a paring knife into the middle to peek inside.

What Cut of Salmon Is Best for Grilling ?

For quick and easy grilled salmon, you’ll want to use fillets, which can be seasoned in a brine in just 10 minutes (more on that below), and take less than 10 minutes to cook on a hot grill. Look for fillets that are roughly one-inch thick, about three inches across, and about six ounces each with their skin on. Fresh fillets or ones that have been frozen and thawed will both work for this recipe.

Can You Grill Skinless Salmon Fillets?

Yes, totally! Although you’ll miss out on the crispy and delicious skin, you can use skinless fillets for this recipe. Just make sure you start cooking skinless fillets with the side that did have the skin facing upwards.

Credit: Mia Yakel/Kitchn

How Do I Prepare Salmon for the Grill?

Briefly brining your salmon before grilling it ensures that the fish is moist and flavorful, and it prevents the fillets from getting those funny little bubbles of white protein (totally harmless, if not a bit homely). For four fillets, you need two cups of water, one tablespoon of salt, and 10 minutes of brining — you can easily do this while the grill preheats.

Credit: Mia Yakel/Kitchn

How Do I Keep Salmon from Sticking to the Grill?

Fish sticking to the grill grates is a legitimate fear — in fact, it’s probably happened to all of us at least once. But thanks to a few smart steps in this recipe, you don’t have to worry about these salmon fillets sticking.

  1. Get the grill nice and hot. Give the grill plenty of time to heat up. You want the grill grates to be nice and hot when you add the fish.
  2. Brush the fillets with oil. After brining, you’ll pat the fillets dry with paper towels, and brush them gently with oil.
  3. Don’t flip too soon. When the grill is hot and the fillets are oiled, you’ll place the salmon skin-side up on the grill. Be patient as it cooks and let the grill marks form before you gently flip the fillets over with a fish spatula. If you meet any resistance, wait 30 seconds and try again.
Credit: Mia Yakel/Kitchn

How Can I Tell When My Grilled Salmon Is Done Cooking?

Salmon is done when the exterior is opaque and the interior is still a bit translucent. For fillets, this is about six minutes of total grill time, or an internal temperature of about 135°F in the thickest part. If you don’t have a probe thermometer, use a paring knife to gently peek into the thickest part of the flesh.

How Do I Serve and Store Grilled Salmon?

If you plan to grill a bunch of fillets for meal prep and reheat them later, you can slightly undercook them, let them cool to room temperature, then store them in the fridge for up to four days. If you’re serving your salmon straight from the grill, a squeeze of lemon and a side of grilled vegetables is the simplest, easiest way to serve grilled salmon.

Credit: Mia Yakel/Kitchn
Credit: Mia Yakel/Kitchn
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How To Grill Salmon (Healthy, Simple, Fast)

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 8 minutes to 12 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 2 cups

    cool water

  • 2 tablespoons

    kosher salt

  • 4

    (6- to 8-ounce) skin-on salmon fillets

  • Vegetable oil, for greasing the grill

Equipment

  • Outdoor grill

  • 8x8-inch baking dish

  • Measuring cups and spoons

  • Fish spatula

  • Paper towels

Instructions

  1. Brine the salmon for 10 minutes. Whisk the water and salt together in an 8x8-inch baking dish until the salt dissolves. Add the salmon fillets skin-side up and let brine for 10 minutes. This will help season the fish and minimize the white protein that often cooks out of salmon. Meanwhile, heat the grill.

  2. Heat the grill for direct cooking over medium heat. Heat an outdoor grill to direct, medium heat (about 350°F).

  3. Prep the salmon for the grill. Remove the salmon from the brine and pat dry with paper towels. Brush the flesh side of each fillet with about 1/2 teaspoon oil.

  4. Grease the grill grates and grill covered for 3 minutes per side. Scrape the grill grates clean if needed, then lightly oil them (use a brush or towel dipped inoil). Place the fillets skin-side up on the grill. Cover and grill for 3 minutes. Using a fish spatula or other thin, hard spatula, flip the fillets, cover, and grill for 3 minutes more. Start checking the salmon for doneness after about 6 minutes total grilling time.

  5. Check for doneness and serve. The salmon is done when it is uniformly opaque on the outside and tender to the touch. You can also check the doneness by inserting a probe thermometer (medium to well doneness for salmon is 125°F to 145°F), or by sliding a paring knife into the middle to peek inside — the interior should be rosy and slightly translucent.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 3 days.