How to Grill Salmon So It’s Not Dry

Add flaky, smoky salmon to your grilling rotation.

If you haven’t tried grilling salmon, this is your sign to give it a go. Salmon filets are as easy to throw on the grill as burgers are, and they make for an elegant main dish at any gathering. With a rich, not-aggressively-fishy flavor, flaky texture, and beautiful coral coloring, salmon is a total crowd-pleaser. Plus, since it’s full of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, salmon is decidedly good for you. We love it roasted, cured, poached, and more, but for the warmer months, grilling is our go-to. Keep reading to learn how to grill salmon with ease.

How to Grill Salmon on the Grill

Grilling salmon directly on the grill yields crispy skin and a smoky flavor, and only takes 3-5 minutes per side. You can serve the grilled salmon as is, or dress it up with a bright, punchy sauce like Fried Herb Salsa.

  1. Preheat the grill to high heat, and spray it with cooking oil to prevent sticking.
  2. Season the salmon filets’ flesh side with salt, and drizzle them with olive oil. Keep the skin sides dry so that they get crispy.  
  3. Carefully lay the salmon filets, flesh-side down, on the hot grill. Grill for 3-5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the filets. 
  4. With a spatula, flip the filets onto their skin sides. Keep cooking for another 3-5 minutes, or until the fish is almost entirely opaque, has a firm yet flaky texture, and an instant thermometer inserted into the thickest part reads 135-140 degrees. At this point, the fish will still be a little rare, but remember that it’ll keep cooking as it rests.

How to Grill Salmon in Foil

While it’s not completely necessary, there are many benefits to grilling salmon in foil. For example, the foil is much less likely to stick to the grates, and makes for a tidy package (including easy assembly and easy clean-up). In addition, a foil package creates a steamy environment that cooks the fish evenly and quickly. If you feel inspired, you can add aromatics like thyme, bay leaves, and lemon slices to the foil package to flavor the fish as it cooks.

  1. Preheat the grill to medium heat.
  2. Drizzle a generous piece of foil with olive oil to prevent sticking, then place the salmon filets skin-side down on the foil.
  3. Season the salmon filets with salt, and drizzle with olive oil.
  4. Close the foil package, carefully place it on the grill, and close the grill. 
  5. Check for doneness after about 8 minutes. Depending on the thickness of the filets, they could take more time. You’ll know they’re done if the filets are almost entirely opaque, with a firm yet flaky texture, and if an instant thermometer reads 135-140 degrees.

How Long to Grill Salmon

According to the USDA, the internal temperature of salmon should reach 145 degrees before you eat it. Keep in mind that the salmon will keep cooking a bit once taken off the grill. Salmon cooked to 145 degrees will be quite firm and well-done, so if you prefer your fish a bit rarer, keep that in mind. While instant thermometers are helpful and important tools, we also recommend testing the fish by poking it with a fork; if it’s nice and flaky, it’s cooked. On the other hand, if there are still some more solid parts, it’s not done yet.

The exact timing of grilling salmon will differ depending on the size of your filets and the strength of your grill, so it’s best to check regularly to avoid dry, overcooked salmon.

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