Grilled Salmon with Skin
This Grilled Salmon has great smoky flavor, crispy skin, and a simple preparation that lets the flavor of the fish shine. This can be added as a protein for salads or served as an entree that pairs well with many side dishes.
Salmon has always been my favorite fish, and one that I’ve eaten abundantly in many forms, from lunch-friendly Salmon Salad to party-ready Smoked Salmon Spread to Salmon and Eggs for breakfast. But I love the simplicity of a healthy grilled salmon with the skin on!
This to me is the best grilled salmon, simply cooked with salt and pepper, but you may add a salmon marinade, a dry rub, or any other flavorings you like.
Why The Gas Grill Is Best Here
I own 3 grills, but I prefer to use a gas grill for two reasons: responsive temperature control and high heat.
I also have a Traeger and a charcoal grill, and while I love my Traeger pellet grill, it doesn’t get hot enough for this. The charcoal grill does get hot, but it’s not responsive like a gas grill because the coals are just sort of there doing their thing.
What’s Great About This Recipe
Crispy skin – I’ve always loved crispy salmon skin, and find it to be such a nice contrast to the soft flesh. I’ll show you what to do to get skin that’s crisp, smoky and delicious.
No sticking – I will share several tips for cooking salmon on the grill without sticking, because having bits of skin or flesh stuck to the grill is the worst!
Moist interior – Salmon is best enjoyed when cooked to an internal temperature of 125F, which is medium. We can get the skin plenty crispy here without overcooking the interior.
Simple – There’s really nothing complicated going on in this method, it’s just a straight forward grilled salmon recipe. I season with salt and pepper, but I have suggestions below for adding more flavors via seasonings, sauces, or sides.
What Kind of Salmon to Use
You can use this method to grill any type of salmon, either farm-raised or wild. Just make sure you purchase a piece with the skin still on.
As a general rule, wild salmon tends to have more flavor but is also more lean and therefore less forgiving of overcooking. Farmed salmon tends to be fattier, but has an inferior flavor to wild. The only way to learn your preference is to give them all a try at some point and see what you like best.
My ultimate recommendation is Wild Alaskan King Salmon, as it has the best of both worlds with delicious flavor AND tenderness, but it is quite expensive. You can see how moist it is below. Atlantic salmon is my second choice.
Seasoning and Sauce Suggestions
For my grilled salmon seasoning, I simply add salt and pepper. Since I splurge on the King variety, I really like to enjoy the flavor of it. However, if you want a sauce or seasoning, these are some great options:
- Cilantro Lime Dressing – Drizzle it on when serving.
- Cajun Seasoning – Sprinkle it on both sides before cooking.
- Chimichurri – Serve it on the platter.
- Tartar Sauce – Serve it on the platter.
- Roasted Red Pepper Sauce – Drizzle it on when serving.
- Tapenade – Serve it on the platter.
- Pair with Mango Salsa
Prep the Fish
Here I have a 1.5lb piece of Wild Alaskan King Salmon, and I start by using this tool (affiliate) to remove the scales from the skin.
You can also scrape it with a knife but it’s a little messier. Sometimes you can get the fishmonger to do this for you before you take the fish home.
Instead of washing the scales off, I prefer to brush them away with a paper towel so we don’t bring any extra water and moisture into the equation (this will help keep the skin crispy later and also prevent sticking to the hot grill).
Remove any bones with tweezers (if the fishmonger has not already removed them), then wrap the entire fillet in a layer of paper towel, and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes while you preheat the grill.
When the grill is preheated, cut the salmon into pieces, and season generously with kosher salt and black pepper.
If you’re wondering how to grill salmon with the skin without sticking, it’s important to add some fat directly to the skin.
For best results, I highly recommend ghee, which is butter without the milk solids. It has a very high smoke point, and I like that when you spread it on the skin, it firms up and stays put.
If you don’t have ghee, you may use any other high smoke point cooking fat. You can probably get away with olive oil without it tasting scorched, though the hot grates are probably a little too high in temperature in theory.
Make sure to season the skin side of the salmon filets with salt and pepper as well.
Cook the Fish
After the grill has preheated to at least 600F, brush the grill grates so they’re clean, completely turn off the grill, quickly add the fillets with the salmon skin-side down, then close the lid.
Note that I do not grease the cast iron grates, because the fish is already greased with the ghee. I have never had issues with sticking.
Why turn off the grill?
This prevents flareups from scorching the ghee on the skin, and the grates and grill will be preheated enough that it will cook the fish gently.
Let the fish cook with the grill lid closed for 5 minutes.
Turn the fish
Turn the grill back on to high heat. Then, open the lid, gently turn each piece 90 degrees, and close the lid again, letting the fish cook for 3 more minutes:
This is the same technique I use for Grilled Ribeye and Grilled Chicken Breast, and it basically gets you more caramelization and flavor while cooking on the same side. Plus, cross hatch grill marks look pretty too!
Carefully flip over each of the skin-on salmon fillets (I usually change to tongs for this instead of the spatula, but use either tool you feel more comfortable with), then close the lid again and let cook for 1 more minute.
Using an instant-read thermometer, check for an internal temperature of 125F. This will give you a slightly pink salmon inside, which makes for especially tender fish. This is especially important for wild-caught salmon that tends to be on the leaner side.
If you want fully cooked salmon, the target temperature is 140 degrees F.
If the fish is not warm enough yet for your liking, continue cooking for 1-2 more minutes, and check again.
Recipe FAQ and Tips
For a 1.5″ thick piece, you will need about 10 minutes to fully cook it. A 1″ piece might need about 8 minutes. You want to cook the salmon 90% of the way with the skin side down, then flip it over for 1 minute just to cook the top.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Yes, store in an airtight container for up to 2 months.
Salmon does not reheat well, as it’s very prone to drying out. I prefer to add it cold to things like Kale Caesar Salad or make Salmon Salad from it. But if you insist, try microwaving on 50% power for 1 minute for a 6-ounce piece.
That is a protein called albumin, and it is perfectly safe to eat.
It won’t have the flavor that an outdoor grill gives you, but it will also work. Use medium-high heat instead of high heat, or the pan will likely smoke.
Grilled Salmon with Skin
- 1.5 lbs salmon*
- 2 tbsp ghee**
- Unless the fishmonger has already done it, remove the scales from the skin, then brush them away with a paper towel.
- Wrap the salmon with paper towel and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes, while you preheat the grill.
- Preheat a gas grill on high so that the internal temperature will reach at least 600F. For me, I can achieve this with preheating 2 of the 3 burners.
- Unwrap the fish, cut it into pieces as desired (cutting a 1.5lb piece into 4 pieces gives you 6 ounce portions, which is good for a serving), then spread a thin layer of ghee onto the skin.
- Season the fish all over with salt and pepper, including on the skin.
- Open the grill lid, turn off the flames completely, then quickly add the salmon to the grates, skin-side down, and close the lid. Turning off the flames prevents flareups from scorching the skin. Let the salmon cook with the lid closed (do not open it!) for 5 minutes.
- Turn the burners of the grill back to high heat, then open the lid and turn each piece 90 degrees, to caramelize more of the skin. Close the lid and keep cooking for 3 minutes.
- Open the lid again and flip each piece of fish over, close the lid, and cook for 1 more minute.
- Check with a thermometer for an internal temperature of 125F. If it is not warm enough inside, keep cooking for 1-2 minutes until at least 125F in the middle.
- Serve promptly and enjoy!
Nutrition is estimated using a food database and is only intended to be used as a guideline for informational purposes.