Whether gas or charcoal, the grill infuses salmon with a deliciously smoky flavor that can't be replicated with an oven or range.
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The best part? Grilling salmon is super quick and relatively fuss-free. Just slap it on the grill, wait a few minutes and you're good to go. Okay, maybe there's a little more to it than that, but I promise that it's not nearly as scary as it seems. Be sure to start with fresh salmon filets for optimum flavor.
Avoid salmon that looks dry, dull, or which has a fishy odor. Keep the skin on the filet to help it hold together during grilling, but remove the scales by scraping against the grain with a chef's knife. Rinse the filets with cool water, then pat dry with a paper towel. If you plan on using a dry rub or keeping it classic with salt and pepper, brush the salmon liberally with vegetable oil.
Skip this step if you prefer to use a liquid marinade.
2. Dramatically Overcooking
The sky is the limit when it comes to seasoning your salmon for the grill. I chose to coat the fish with a sweet and spicy dry rub made with brown sugar, garlic, cayenne and paprika. You can stick to a simple pinch of salt and pepper, or experiment with different liquid marinades like teriyaki, maple-Dijon, or honey-lime. If using a liquid marinade, allow the fish to marinate for 15 — 30 minutes before grilling fish absorbs flavors quickly and excessive marinating times can break down the flesh. If using a charcoal grill, light the briquettes and allow them to burn until they have turned ashy and grey about 30 minutes.
If using a gas grill, pre-heat the grill to medium-high heat. Fully pre-heating the grill before beginning will not only help the fish cook quickly, but it also helps prevent the fish from sticking to the grill rack. Once pre-heated, brush the grill rack with vegetable oil to provide extra protection against sticking. Place the fish directly on the grill rack, skin side down. Cover the grill and allow the fish to cook for about five minutes, or until it looks completely opaque and some of the white fat begins to seep from the sides.
At that point, use a metal spatula to carefully loosen the fish from the grill rack. Flip the filets and cook on them the flesh side for one to two minutes, or just long enough to add color and grill marks to the top.
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If you find that the fish is sticking, allow it to cook just a little longer. If it feels hot, your salmon is probably done; if it's cool or barely warm, it needs a little more time. Cooking salmon to medium-rare or medium is totally okay—it will be tender and satisfying, not dry and sad. A crispy seared piece of fish is wonderful, but a nearly foolproof method is slow-roasting.
You can also do this technique in parchment paper or, on the flipside, broil your salmon quickly in the oven for about eight minutes. Six on the first side, two on the second. Ponzu-roasted salmon is an ideal weeknight recipe. If you want to poach your salmon , don't use plain water—it's a missed opportunity to add flavor! At the very least, spike the water with lemon or a half head of garlic.
Better yet, go all out and poach the salmon in dry white wine. Involving fragrant aromatics in the poaching process will help make your kitchen smell better while cooking instead of weird salmon tea. When at the fish counter or fishmonger, consider your salmon options carefully.
First off, don't turn your nose up at the belly—it's fatty, rich, and full of flavor. Plus, it tends to be cheaper than fillets. If you're going for a more traditional cut—like a steak or a fillet—make sure you get pieces that are all the same size.
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The best bet is to ask for a center cut for uniform thickness so it cooks evenly. The major difference between farm-raised and wild-caught salmon is in flavor. Wild salmon has a more vibrant color and savory, intense, and complex flavor than farm-raised. In a land-locked state? Buying frozen fish online at places like Sea to Table ensures high quality and peak freshness, no matter how close your house is to a body of water.
Taking Off the Skin First of all—skin is tasty!