This post may contain affiliate links, which help keep this content free. (Full disclosure)
This easy grilled salmon recipe is the only one you’ll ever need! I’m sharing all the tips for how to cook salmon on the grill (hint: it’s a lot like grilled cod!), including what kind of salmon to buy, the best tools, tips to prevent sticking and avoiding dry salmon, and answering all the grilling questions you might have.
Try serving your grilled salmon fillet with a sauce (see below for ideas!) or serve it all on it’s own. Simple and delicious!
If you love salmon, be sure to also try salmon lox, salmon patties, baked salmon, air fryer salmon, and salmon foil packets.
How To Choose The Best Salmon For Grilling
Don’t be overwhelmed by the salmon choices! Here are a few ways to help you choose the best salmon at the grocery store.
Grill salmon fillets that are individual-sized.
Individual-sized salmon fillets are best for grilling — 5 or 6 ounces is a good size. Grilling a large piece of salmon is tough unless you are putting it on something, as it’s nearly impossible to flip and you risk it breaking apart. Plus, individual fillets will cook more evenly.
Choose skin-on salmon if possible.
Leaving the skin on during cooking will make the salmon more flavorful (you can always remove it afterward if you prefer not to eat the skin). Also, the skin helps keep the salmon together so that the salmon doesn’t fall through the grates or break apart as easily.
The best salmon is firm, fresh, and bright pink-orange in color. To test firmness, gently poke the fillet with your finger: the salmon should spring back and you should not see a fingerprint left behind.
Farm raised vs. wild caught.
This is up to you. Wild caught salmon is lower in calories and saturated fat, and has fewer contaminants and pollutants [*]. On the other hand, some people prefer the milder flavor of farmed salmon.
Ingredients For The Best Grilled Salmon Recipe
I find that the best way to season salmon for grilling is to marinate it. It’s super easy and prevents the salmon from drying out.
Grilled Salmon Marinade Ingredients
To marinate salmon for grilling, make my easy salmon marinade:
- Olive oil – I chose extra virgin olive oil for flavor, but avocado oil is suitable here too.
- Lemon juice – The acid helps to tenderize the salmon, plus the tang of citrus pairs very well with fish.
- Maple syrup – I use Wholesome Yum Keto Maple Syrup, which is naturally sweetened, sugar-free, and tastes just like real maple syrup. But you can use regular too if that works for you.
- Fresh herbs – I used dill and parsley, as these summer herbs work well on fish. Look for bright, leafy herbs that aren’t turning yellow. Dark green will have the most flavor. You could use dried herbs in a pinch (1/3 the amount of fresh), but for salmon fresh herbs work best.
- Garlic – Use fresh minced garlic, or jarred to save a few minutes.
- Sea salt – Salt helps the marinade penetrate into the fish.
- Black pepper
Grilled Salmon Ingredients
To make grilled salmon fillets, all you need is the marinade above and four 6-ounce salmon fillets. I prefer wild-caught salmon and like to order it here (use this link for $15 off a whole box!).
How To Grill Salmon Perfectly
- Make grilled salmon marinade. Find the directions and amounts for salmon marinade here.
- Marinate salmon. Pat salmon dry with paper towels. Place the salmon and marinade into a large zip lock bag or bowl. Marinate for 30 minutes.
- Grill salmon skin side down. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat, with the lid closed. Remove salmon from the marinade and place onto grill, skin side down. Close the grill and cook for 6-8 minutes.
TIP: Cook skin side down until salmon is 80% done. It’s ready to flip when the salmon color turns lighter pink and doesn’t stick when you try to flip it.
- Flip and grill on the other side. Use a fish spatula to carefully flip the salmon. Grill for another few minutes, until cooked to desired level of doneness. (See below for how to check that salmon is done!)
- Rest. Let the salmon rest for 3-5 minutes before serving. (This is less critical than when you are cooking a steak, but still helps lock in moisture in the best grilled salmon result.)
What temperature to grill salmon?
Grilled salmon recipes work best over a medium-high heat, which is a grill temperature of approximately 400 to 425 degrees F.
How long to grill salmon?
The salmon grill time will vary depending on size and thickness of your fillets, but a rule of thumb is 6-8 minutes skin side down, followed by 2-5 minutes skin side up.
When is grilled salmon done?
A common recommendation for fish is that it’s done when it flakes easily with a fork, but it’s also easy to overcook it this way. For best results, use a meat thermometer to ensure perfectly cooked salmon and check the internal temperature every couple of minutes after you flip it:
- Medium rare – 125 degrees F (51 degrees C)
- Medium – 130 degrees F (54 degrees C)
- Medium well – 140 degrees F (60 degrees C)
Let the salmon rest for 3-5 minutes before serving, as the internal temperature will rise 3-5 more degrees while resting.
If you don’t have a meat thermometer, though, you can use my time estimates above and flake the edge of the fish with a fork to test for doneness.
Tips For Grilling Salmon
Grilling salmon isn’t difficult, but following these tips will get you the best grilled salmon every time.
1. Marinate salmon for only 30 minutes.
Marinating fish or meat too long causes the meat and flesh to start to break down and become mushy. 30 minutes is the perfect amount of time.
2. Preheat the grill to medium-high.
You want the grill hot and ready before you add the fish. This ensures even cooking, nice caramelization and grill marks, and prevents sticking.
3. Make sure salmon (not the grill) is coated with oil.
It may be intuitive to coat your grill grates with oil, but it’s actually not necessary and much more effective to have your fish covered in oil instead.
The salmon marinade I use has plenty of oil and is perfect for this purpose, but if you’re not marinating, be sure to coat your fish generously in oil before grilling.
4. Use oil with a high smoke point.
The grill is hot, so you want to use an oil that can stand up to the heat. Avocado oil or regular (not extra virgin) olive oil are good candidates.
5. Don’t move the fish around.
Place the salmon on the grill and leave it one spot until you are ready to flip — just once. Constantly moving the fish will prevent a good sear and grill marks, increases the risk of tearing, and will cause your fish to stick to the grill. It will also make it harder to cook the salmon evenly since the heat source is constantly changing.
6. Grill salmon skin side down for most of the time.
Grilling salmon skin side down has several benefits. The skin protects the more delicate flesh from the high heat, crisps up better by being direct to the heat for most of the time, and is much easier to flip without sticking.
TIP: Only flip your salmon in the last 1-2 minutes of grilling. It should be 70-80% done before you flip.
7. Keep the grill lid on.
Keeping the lid on creates an even source of heat (like an oven would!), so that your salmon can cook evenly.
8. Use the best tools for flipping grilled salmon.
Because fish can be fragile, use a fish spatula like this to flip. This tool is thin enough that it can slip in between the layer of fragile fish and the grill without tearing the fish, and large enough to hold your entire grilled salmon fillet on it.
Grilled Salmon Recipe FAQs
Is the marinade required?
No, you can grill salmon without a marinade, I just love the flavor it imparts.
If you grill salmon without marinate, be sure to oil the salmon well (so that it doesn’t stick to the grill) and season generously with salt and pepper right before grilling.
Do you grill salmon skin side up or down?
Grill salmon skin side down until it’s 70-80% done, then skin side up for just a few minutes. This method allows the skin to crisp up and makes flipping the salmon easier without tearing or sticking.
Do you flip salmon when grilling?
Yes, you’ll flip over the salmon once, just toward the end of cooking.
How to prevent salmon from sticking to the grill?
There are a few things you can do to prevent the salmon from sticking:
- Preheat the grill well. A hot grill will create a sear on the salmon flesh so that you can flip it without tearing.
- Keep your grill clean. Always scrape down and keep your grill clean so that what your cooking doesn’t stick to burnt on food.
- Oil the salmon well. Just like if you’re cooking salmon in a pan, you’ll want to put plenty of the oil on the salmon.
- Cook skin side down first. It’s easier to flip the skin side of the salmon and get the spatula in between.
Can you grill frozen salmon?
Grilling frozen salmon is not recommended, as frozen meats and fish do not cook evenly and so you may end up with some raw parts and some overcooked parts.
It’s pretty quick and easy to thaw salmon fillets in a bowl of water, or you can do so in the fridge overnight. Do not thaw the salmon in the marinade.
Is grilled salmon healthy?
Yes! A grilled salmon fillet is a very nutritious meal that’s a great source of protein and healthy fats.
Can you grill salmon in advance?
Yes, grilled salmon fillets are actually delicious served chilled or at room temperature if you need to make them ahead.
If you want to serve it hot, grill right before serving.
Can you freeze grilled salmon?
Yes, you can freeze grilled salmon for 2-3 months.
Reheat the salmon in a hot skillet, on the grill, or in the oven for best results. Microwaving is not recommended!
Optional Toppings For Salmon
Now that you know how to grill salmon, you can enjoy it on its own (delicious!) or try one of these toppings if you want to take it up a notch:
- Hollandaise sauce – This creamy sauce is buttery and citrusy and not just for brunch! This one is made easy in the blender.
- Creamy Avocado Salsa – You’ll get your dose of healthy fats with this creamy salsa. It’s a fresh and zesty topping.
- Pesto Sauce – Pesto is delicious on everything. Drizzle a bit on the salmon and finish it with a squeeze of lemon juice.
- Lemon Garlic Aioli – Serve a dollop of this garlicky aioli over the salmon if you love lemon and garlic.
- Lemon Butter Sauce For Fish – If you prefer a lemon butter sauce, this one is made for fish (I love it with lemon baked cod fish!). Super easy, too.
What To Serve With Grilled Salmon
What side dishes go well with grilled salmon? You have lots of options! Here are some ideas:
- Vegetables – Vegetable recipes like sauteed asparagus, stir fry veggies, or roasted broccoli all work well.
- Salads – Try fresh summer salad recipes like cauliflower tabbouleh, Greek salad, or creamy cucumber salad.
- Starches– Potatoes or rice are classic options, but I prefer healthier swaps like cauliflower rice, cauliflower potato salad, or sauteed radishes.
For more information please see the list of Grilling salmon on indoor grill