The One-Ingredient Hack to Perfect Grilled Salmon

published Aug 9, 2023
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grilled salmon on a plate on a marble surface
Credit: Photo: Julia Gartland; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

Grilling salmon is never as simple as when you throw hot dogs or chicken on the grill. Fish can stick or easily overcook and get too dry — both things you don’t want to happen, especially considering how expensive fish can be. 

Luckily, I learned that doing one small extra step with a single ingredient before grilling salmon results in flavorful, moist grilled fish every single time, and I’m never turning back.

Take the Time to Brine

I test a lot of recipes for cookbooks written by chefs, and one perk is picking up a lot of restaurant techniques and secrets that make restaurant food so delicious. One such technique I learned recently is brining fish before grilling

I don’t usually like swordfish, but simply submerging it in a wet brine made it flavorful and moist throughout. I’ve used this technique most often now on salmon (although it also works great on other meaty, dense fishes), and I end up with perfect grilled and seasoned salmon every time. 

How to Brine Salmon

Brining salmon is similar to brining a turkey in a wet brine, but it’s simpler, as you don’t need aromatics or even sugar. Here’s how to do it.

  1. Make a wet brine. For every pound of salmon, whisk together 2 cups cold water with 22 grams kosher salt (3 1/2 tablespoons Diamond Crystal or 2 tablespoons Morton) until the salt is dissolved.
  2. Brine for 45 minutes. Add the salmon to the brine and refrigerate for 45 minutes.
  3. Pat dry. Take the salmon out of the brine and pat dry with paper towels. You can grill it at this point or you can put it back in the fridge (skin-side up and uncovered if you want crispier skin) for up to a few hours.
  4. Grill. Grill the salmon as you normally would. I like rubbing the salmon with a little oil before grilling, but it doesn’t need any more seasoning, as there’s already salt in the brine.
Credit: Christine Han/Kitchn

Ways to Use Grilled Salmon

Brined, grilled salmon is great eaten fresh, but the leftovers are also tasty chilled and repurposed into other dishes. It’s worth grilling up some extra if you can to use it in the following ways:

One thing I love about the brining process is that you can do it on your own timeline. Brine the salmon for 45 minutes, but if you’re not ready to grill it yet, it’ll be fine hanging out in the refrigerator for a few hours. 

Brining is an extra step for sure, but you already have salt on hand. And with just few extra minutes of prep, you’ll have delicious, perfectly grilled salmon every single time.