Learn how to grill salmon perfectly so that it is succulent, flavorful, and never dry! Pro tips + two ways for delicious grilled salmon, and seasoning options you'll love.
Warm weather calls for the grill. And if it’s grilled fish you’re after, salmon is a good choice because it can stand up to the heat and won’t fall apart, and it will also keep its distinct rich flavor.
Perfect grilled salmon is flaky, charred, juicy, and never dry. It should also be pale pink in color with no rubbery edges.
There are two easy ways to cook salmon on the grill: directly on the grill or in foil. In this post, I’ll show you both recipes, plus my no-fail tips for how to grill salmon so that it is delicious and never dry! And if you’re looking for the best fish seasoning, you’ll have some options for that too!
Now, whether you choose to grill your salmon directly over the hot grates, or you try grilled salmon in foil, your fish will be cooked anywhere between 8 and 18 minutes. That’s why it’s a great idea to work on your sides and salads before you put your fish on the grill.
In this post
The best salmon for grilling
Whether you’re working with wild-caught or quality, responsibly raised fish, the cut of salmon will make a difference. Here is what I look for grilling:
- Center-cut salmon fillet: The center-cut part of the fish t is thicker and more uniform so it will cook more evenly(No dry edges and undercooked middles here!)
- Skin-on salmon: Particularly if you’re cooking it directly on the grill, it's a good idea to use skin-on fish fillets. The skin holds the salmon together as it cooks over dry heat, and it also imparts good flavor as it releases fat that keeps the fish moist. But if you only have skinless salmon fillet, I recommend grilling the fish in foil instead.
Best seasoning for salmon
Salmon is a rich and slightly oily fish that can take a variety of seasonings and marinades very well. First, be sure to dry the salmon well and season with kosher salt, from there, you can your seasoning or marinade of choice. Here are a few options to season your salmon fillet:
- Dry salmon seasoning: Kosher salt and black pepper, adding equal parts garlic powder, oregano, cumin, coriander and Aleppo pepper.
- Lemon-garlic marinade: Lemon juice and zest, extra virgin olive oil, loads of chopped garlic, dried oregano, paprika, and black pepper. I use this marinade in my baked salmon recipe, so get more details about this marinade there!
- Spicy lime-harissa marinade: This marinade combines hot harissa paste (store-bought is fine if you don't have the time to make it) with a little honey, lime juice, garlic, Aleppo pepper, ginger and warm spices to make the perfect spicy salmon marinade. (Check out the marinade used in this recipe).
- Herby Salmon Marinade: Lemon juice, EVOO, fresh mint, minced garlic, coriander, cumin, turmeric, black pepper and a dash of kosher salt. This is the marinade in my all-star grilled salmon recipe, and it is a hit every time!
- Pesto: Like in my Chilean sea bass recipe, you can slather a cooked salmon fillet with a herby green sauce like basil pesto or chermoula.
How to grill salmon
Cooking salmon on the grill directly over the hot grates will take less than 10 minutes! Here is how:
- Season the salmon. Pat the salmon dry and season well (see the seasoning and marinade ideas above). You can refrigerate the marinated fish for 20 minutes or so while you heat up the grill or work on sides.
- Start with high direct heat. The grill should be heated to around 450 degrees F. I use a gas grill, but you can also use a charcoal grill.
- Oil the grates. Brush the grates generously with oil. This is so important to make sure the salmon does not stick to the grill.
- Grill salmon flesh side down FIRST, then flip over once. Place the salmon fillets on the grill flesh side down first (so the skin is facing you). Raw salmon is relatively firm, so starting it off with the flesh facing down is a great way to get some nice grill marks on the salmon without it falling apart. Close the grill lid and do not disturb the salmon for 2 to 3 minutes.
Once you see a thin layer of opaque (cooked) flesh closest to the heat, gently flip the salmon over using tongs and a spatula so it is skin-side down. The skin will help hold the salmon together. Lower the heat to medium (about 350 degrees F) and close the lid again. Cook for another 2 to 5 minutes, depending on the thickness of your salmon.
- Take the fish off the heat and let it rest for 5 minutes or so. Remove the salmon from the heat when the flesh is just opaque. At that point, if it is still not cooked enough to your liking, you can put it back on the heat. But you can’t undo overcooked grilled salmon, so it’s better to take it off the heat the moment the flesh turns from translucent to opaque. Allow the fish to rest for about 5 to 10 minutes or so before serving, the salmon will continue to cook as it sits. This will give you tender juicy salmon with loads of flavor.
Note: your salmon is cooked when its internal temperature registers 145 degrees F, but take it off the grill when it is a few degrees below that.
Grilled salmon in foil
If you're looking to cook a large fillet of salmon on the grill, wrap it in foil! It's much easier to manage this way, and you'll get a tender piece of fish that is impressive looking. This method takes about 14 to 18 minutes. Here’s how to grill salmon in foil:
- Heat the grill to medium-high heat. On my grill, medium-high is at 375 to 400 degrees F.
- Place the salmon in a large piece of foil and fold over. Spread a big piece of heavy-duty foil over a baking sheet so you can easily carry the salmon from the kitchen to the grill. Lightly brush the foil with olive oil so the salmon doesn’t stick. Arrange a few slices of lemon or orange on the foil. Season the fish well with kosher salt on both sides and put it in the center of the foil.
- Season the fish. After salting the fish, use the seasoning or marinade of your choice (I chose the lemon garlic marinade, but check out all the options above). I used the like to use a marinade with foil-cooked salmon, it is a great way to add flavor and keep the salmon nice and moist (plus, the foil contains the marinade well, so it won't be messy).
- Seal the edges of the foil to enclose the salmon and poke a few small holes at the top so the steam can escape.
- Grill the salmon. Place the foil pouch on the hot grill and close the lid. Cook the salmon for 14 to 18 minutes, depending on how thick your salmon fillet is. Check doneness at around 14 minutes for a thin piece of fish. Thicker fillets will take a few minutes more.
Grilled salmon FAQs
The best grill temperature for salmon depends on what method you’re using. For the perfect salmon on the grill without foil, start with a very hot grill that’s around 450 degrees F. This will give your salmon the perfect sear without drying it out. (The grill should be hot enough that you can hold a hand an inch or so above the grill for only a couple of seconds.) After turning the fish, reduce the temperature to medium to medium-high – about 350 to 400 degrees F. If you’re grilling salmon in foil, your grill should be heated to medium-high (375 to 400 degrees F) for tender, flaky grilled salmon.
If you’re cooking it directly on the grill, the fish will usually take 6 to 8 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillet.
Grilling salmon in foil takes between 14 to 18 minutes, again depending on how thick the piece of fish is.
Yes, if you're cooking the fish directly on the hot grates, you'll start with the flesh side down first (skin facing you) then flip it over once after 2 to 3 minutes or when you see some grill marks on the layer touching the grates.
Cook the salmon with the grill lid closed. Keeping the fish covered helps to maintain an even temperature in the grill, similar to how an oven would maintain its temperature. This helps the salmon cook evenly.
Cooked salmon is ready when it flakes easily at the touch of a fork. It should register an internal temperature of 145 degrees F in the thickest part. However, to make sure your salmon is moist and never dry, remove it from the heat when its internal temperature is around 135 to 140 degrees F and allow it to rest briefly (the temperature will continue to rise).
What to serve with salmon
When the weather is warm, there’s nothing like a piece of perfect salmon cooked on the grill with a drizzle of tahini green goddess sauce and a fresh salad (try avocado salad, cucumber salad, or Panzanella).
Leftovers and storage tips
Cooked salmon filets will keep in the fridge for 2 days in an airtight container. Serve it cold or at room temperature over a bed of greens. I don’t recommend reheating it because it inevitably dries out and becomes rubbery.
More salmon recipes
How to Grill Salmon (2 Ways)
- 1 to 1 ½ pounds salmon fillet, skin-on, center cut fillet
- Kosher salt
- marinade of your choice, (see the options below)
Method 1: Direct grilling
- Cut and season the fish. Cut the large fillet into 4 6-ounce pieces. Season with kosher salt and add the marinade of your choice (see options in the notes). Allow the salmon to marinate for 20 minutes or so (refrigerate).
- Prepare the grill. Heat an outdoor gas grill on high (grill is ready when you can hold your hand one inch above the grates for only 1 to 2 seconds). Make sure the grates are oiled to ensure that the salmon does not stick.
- Grill flesh-side down first! Arrange the salmon fillets on hot grill, flesh side down first (the skin should be facing you). Close the grill lid. Cook for 1-3 minutes on the first side, depending on how thick the fillets are.
- Flip over once. Look for grill marks on the fish, and where the fish is closest to the grill, you should see a small layer of opaque flesh. Slide a metal spatula under the fish and use a pair of tongs to hold the top, carefully turn the fish over (it will now be skin-side down).
- Lower the heat down to medium and close the grill lid. Cook for another 3 to 5 minutes, again depending on the thickness of the fillets.
- Let the fish rest before serving. Remove from the grill and let it rest for 5 minutes or so. The fish will continue to cook (it should reach a temperature of 145 degrees F before serving).
Method 2: Grilled salmon in foil
- Prepare the grill. Heat the grill to medium-high heat (375 to 400 degrees F).
- Arrange the fish in a large piece of foil. Spread a big piece of heavy-duty foil over a baking sheet so you can easily carry the salmon from the kitchen to the grill. Lightly brush the foil with extra virgin olive oil so the salmon doesn’t stick. Arrange a few slices of lemon or orange on the foil. Season the salmon well with kosher salt on both sides and place it on the citrus slices.
- Add the marinade of your choice. Spread the seasoning or marinade of your choice all over the fish fillet.
- Seal the foil to enclose the fish and the marinade. Pull the foil sides up and tightly close the foil to enclose the fish (making sure the foil is tented over the fish with a little room in between the fish and the top of the foil). Make a few small holes on the top of the foil so that the steam can escape.
- Place the foil pouch on the hot grill and close the lid. Cook the salmon for 14 to 19 minutes, depending on how thick your salmon fillet is. Check doneness at around 12 to 14 minutes for a thin piece of fish. Thicker fillets will take a few minutes more. Remember that the salmon will continue to cook as it rests.
- Let the fish rest briefly before serving. Remove from the heat and let the salmon rest for 5 minutes or so (it should reach a temperature of 145 degrees F before serving).
- Marinade options:
- Lemon-garlic marinade: zest of 1 large lemon, juice of 2 lemons, 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil such as Early Harvest Greek extra virgin, 5 minced garlic cloves, 2 teaspoons dry oregano, 1 teaspoon sweet paprika, and ½ teaspoon black pepper.
- Spicy lime-harissa marinade: This marinade combines hot harissa paste (store-bought is fine if you don't have homemade) with a little honey, lime juice, garlic, Aleppo pepper, ginger and warm spices to make the perfect spicy salmon marinade. (Check out the marinade in this recipe).
- Herby Salmon Marinade: Juice of 1 lemon, extra virgin olive oil fresh mint, minced garlic, coriander, cumin, turmeric, black pepper and a dash of kosher salt. This is the marinade in my all-star grilled salmon recipe, and it is a hit every time!
- Pesto: You can season the salmon simply with salt, pepper, and olive oil. And once you cook it, spread 2 to 4 tablespoons of basil pesto or chermoula and finish with a squeeze of lemon juice.
- Tips for choosing salmon for the grill: Skin-on, center-cut salmon fillets are the best option. Skin will help hold the piece of salmon together as it cooks on the grill, and a center-cut piece ensures the fillet cooks at the same speed throughout.
- What to serve with grilled salmon: Avocado salad or Greek salad are good options. Since you’re firing up the grill anyway, why not grill some vegetables?! And if you need something starchy to serve along, try potato salad or serve your salmon over a bed of bulgur wheat.
- Leftovers and storage tips: Cooked salmon filets will keep in the fridge for 2 days in an airtight container. I don’t like to reheat salmon because it inevitably dries out and becomes rubbery. So I turn leftovers into a salmon salad.
- Nutrition information only applies to the salmon filet. It does not take into account any marinade or seasoning.
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