Cooking salmon on a gas grill is absolutely the best choice. We all like a nice smoky flavor to our meat, but let’s face it: over charcoal or wood, the flavor of the salmon is going to get overwhelmed, unless you use a marinade so strong that you’re likely not tasting the fish anyway (We’re not talking about smoked salmon here: that’s a totally different subject). Here’s a basic rundown of what to do to get the most out of grilled salmon-
First off, you want to be sure of your fish. If you didn’t catch the salmon yourself, you want to look for firm filets with deep color. They should look a little wet, and the cut edges should be smooth. Pale or ragged looking salmon is old salmon- move on. If you buy packaged fish, there shouldn’t be any liquid visible (or frost if it’s frozen- but if you’re buying frozen salmon, why bother grilling it?) Also, keep in mind that this is a mild fish. It won’t smell all that strong if it’s fresh. Whole salmon should have bright red gills, clear eyes, and glossy skin.
Salmon is a skin-on fish. You won’t have any trouble removing the skin after grilling if you don’t want to eat it. This is recommended even for those who prefer the foil-packet method to avoid clean-up. Cooked salmon flakes easily, and the skin will keep your fish from crumbling apart during handling.
You’ll want to brush the grill grate- and the fish, if you’re leaving it plain- with a little oil before you start it if you’re putting the salmon directly on the grate. For best results, use indirect grilling- that means your meat is 3-4 inches away from your gas grill’s hotspots. Start with the flesh side down, and cook for 2 or 3 minutes per 1/2 inch (about a thumb’s width) of thickness. Do the same for the skin side, and you should be done. For whole salmon, heat up the grill on high first, then grill the same distance away from the heat about 12-15 minutes per side, per pound.
To check if your salmon is done, take a knife and pierce the thickest part of the meat. If it’s opaque and flakes easily when you tug a little, then it’s good to go. Salmon will cook a little after you remove it from the grill, so be careful not to overdo it or you’ll be serving up crispy fish-flakes.
A very basic marinade for salmon that I used as a grill neophyte, but also works well when you want the fish to stand out, involves just:
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup water (warm)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp garlic powder
per 1 1/2 pounds of cleaned and fileted salmon. Mix those ingredients together until the sugar is dissolved, and pour them into a sealable bag. Rub the filets with a little salt, or lemon pepper (I prefer ground ginger), then bag them up with the marinade and turn them over to thoroughly coat. Let them sit in the refrigerator for at least two hours, then set your grill for medium heat and follow the indirect cooking method described earlier. Six to eight minutes on each side, and you should be getting that good flaking that means it’s ready. Enjoy!