Grab your big girl (or big boy) apron, your tongs, and your attitude, because we’re conquering culinary fears with this easy, perfect, you-can’t-mess-it-up Grilled Salmon.
How to Grill Perfect Salmon Every Time
Even if you are intimidated to cook fish (I was for years!) or intimidated to use the grill (yep, I was scared of that too), this grilled salmon recipe is foolproof.
I’ve included all the best tips for how to grill salmon, ways to flavor salmon, what to serve with salmon, and more!
This post is your grilled salmon toolkit.
This recipe is based on my go-to Baked Salmon.
Before grilling season leaves us, I’ve had on my mind to adapt, test, and perfect that much loved baked salmon recipe to the grill. Today is the day!
- Read on for detailed photos and step-by-steps for how to cook grilled salmon.
- At the bottom of the post, I’ve included a recipe for grilled salmon with lemon and dill (and garlic and butter). It’s a lovely combination.
- You can follow those flavor recommendations or use the same grilling method with one of the other suggested variations below.
The Easiest Way to Grill Salmon
While you can grill salmon without foil (see these classic Grilled Salmon Fillets and Cedar Plank Salmon for recipes), for a foolproof method that works especially well for a large piece of salmon, use the foil packet method.
- Using foil to make a packet around the salmon keeps the salmon moist when grilling. It ensures the salmon turns out perfectly tender and flaky, not dry.
- With the foil method, you also don’t need to worry about the salmon falling apart or sticking to the grill grates.
Avoid sad, stuck-on, dry salmon: use foil to grill! Want to test your salmon grilling skills? Check out my Grilled Salmon, sans foil.
How to Make the Best Grilled Salmon in Foil
1. Start by Selecting The Best Fish
- Look for salmon that is bright pink in color, that smells fresh but not fishy, and, if possible, is wild caught.
- For more information on how to pick salmon, see How to Cook Salmon.
2. Lay a Large Sheet of Foil on a Baking Sheet
- You’ll want a piece large enough to fully wrap around your piece of fish, with plenty of overhang on all sides to make a foil packet.
- I recommend using a heavy-duty foil or at least slightly thicker foil, as it is less prone to tearing.
- The baking sheet is there so it’s easy to carry to your grill. When you’re done grilling, you can slide the foil packet right back onto it, then carry it straight to the kitchen (or your table).
- If you do not want your food to touch the foil directly, lay a sheet of parchment paper on top of the foil to act as a barrier. Cooking food directly in foil has been noted as a health concern by some, so do whatever makes you the most comfortable.
3. Place Half of the Herbs and Citrus on the Foil
- Most often, I do a simple grilled salmon: a few sprigs of herbs and lemon slices. I like dill, but you can use any mix of fresh herbs and citrus that you like.
- If you use a stronger herb like rosemary or dill, be more sparing on the herbs. Herbs like parsley or cilantro are more delicate, so you can be more generous.
- For citrus, use lemon, lime, or orange (or try all 3!). Of these, lime is the strongest.
- Of course, you don’t have to use lemon and herbs—you can use salmon that’s rested in your favorite marinade, or a different blend of herbs and seasonings.
4. Arrange the Salmon on Top
- Place the salmon on the foil skin side down, flesh side up.
- If you realize your sheet of foil is too small, simple tuck a second one behind it.
5. Add Butter, Garlic, and Seasonings
- For grilled salmon, I’ve been loving the flavor of melted butter. Two tablespoons are all you need for a full 1 ½ pounds of fish. Worth it!
- If you prefer not to use butter or need the grilled salmon dairy free, you can use olive oil or another cooking oil of choice.
- For seasonings, I like minced fresh garlic, along with plenty of kosher salt and black pepper.
- Be generous with the salt and pepper! The more fish you have, the more you need.
- Place more herbs and citrus on top.
- For other ways to flavor the salmon, try Salmon Seasoning for a dry rub or this go-to easy Salmon Marinade.
6. Seal the Foil Packet and GRILL!
- A large piece of salmon should be grilled over medium heat, about 375 to 400 degrees F. This recipe is written for a gas grill, and it also works for a charcoal grill, Traeger grill, or Big Green Egg.
- Once you close the grill lid, the salmon should cook for 14-18 minutes, until almost completely cooked through at the thickest part. The cooking time will vary based on the thickness of your salmon.
How to Tell When Salmon is Finished Cooking
The eternal question! The greatest of salmon crimes (in addition to under seasoning) is overcooking.
- As this Salmon Temperature Guide outlines, the best way to tell if salmon is done is to use an instant read thermometer like this one. Remove the salmon at 135 degrees F, then let it rest.
- The FDA recommends cooking salmon to 145 degrees F, but its temperature will continue to rise as it rests.
- If you don’t have a meat thermometer, you can check for doneness by taking a sharp knife and peeking into the thickest part of your salmon. If it is beginning to flake, but still has a little translucency in the middle, it is done.
- If your piece is thinner (around 1-inch thick) check several minutes early to ensure your salmon does not overcook. If your piece is very thick (1 1/2 inches or more), it may need longer.
What to Serve with Grilled Salmon
- Grilled Portobello Mushrooms. Grilled mushrooms are a delicious, easy side dish that offers a meaty flavor. Try my Grilled Portobello Mushrooms recipe.
- Grilled Sweet Potato Fries. Serve your grilled salmon with these Grilled Sweet Potato Fries for a fun and easy summer dinner!
- Grilled Asparagus. Most often, we do grilled salmon with asparagus. You can cook it right alongside the salmon. See this Grilled Asparagus for a recipe.
- Broccoli. Grilled Broccoli and Roasted Broccoli are stellar ways to make it.
- Carbohydrates. Serve your salmon on top of a bed of rice like Brown Rice or Lemon Rice, alongside Healthy Potato Salad or Grilled Potatoes, or with Grilled Corn.
- Roasted Vegetables. Roast a hearty side dish of vegetables in the oven to serve with your grilled salmon. Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Garlic and Roasted Zucchini would all pair nicely. Or a a mix of Oven Roasted Vegetables.
More Ways to Season Grilled Salmon
In addition to the dill and lemon grilled salmon below, here are more tasty suggestions to keep the recipe feeling fresh:
- Grill Salmon in Foil with Capers. For a bright, slightly Italian spin, use a few sprigs of thyme in place of the dill and reduce the salt to ½ teaspoon. Sprinkle the finished fish with 1 to 2 tablespoons of drained capers.
- Grilled Salmon with Lime. Use lime for the lemon and cilantro in place of dill. Enjoy alongside a Skinny Margarita.
- Grilled BBQ Salmon. Instead of the melted butter and garlic, brush 1/4 cup of BBQ sauce (try this homemade barbecue sauce) on the salmon before grilling. Top with lemon slices as directed.
- Grilled Salmon with Soy Sauce. For an Asian spin on your Grilled Salmon in Foil, swap out the melted butter for 1/4 cup of soy sauce. Drizzle the soy sauce over the salmon and top with garlic as directed before placing on the grill. Because of the high sodium content in soy sauce, you can also omit or reduce the added salt. This version would be delicious served with Asian Noodle Salad.
- Grilled Salmon with Brown Sugar. A sweet twist on this Grilled Salmon in Foil! Stir 1/4 cup brown sugar into 1/4 cup melted butter, and brush evenly over the salmon. Top with the garlic, salt, pepper, and lemon as directed.
- Grilled Salmon Marinade. Takes all of 2 minutes to put together. It uses soy sauce for salt and umami, honey or pure maple syrup for sweetness (salmon loves sweet!), and Dijon mustard for balance and zip.
More Ways to Cook Salmon
Yes, we adore baked or grilled salmon in foil, but there are also many other healthy salmon recipes that don’t use foil.
- Lemon Pepper Salmon. You can also use this lemon pepper seasoning on the grill.
- Whole30 Salmon. A great way to make a salmon fillet.
- Soy Ginger Salmon. This glaze would also work nicely on grilled salmon.
- Salmon Patty Recipe. You can make these with leftover grilled salmon too.
- Salmon Burgers. If you make these on the grill, I suggest using a grill-proof skillet or grill pan. Flip halfway through.
Have you made a simple grilled salmon fillet before?
If you try this recipe or have other salmon grilling tips, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
Frequently Asked Questions
No, you do not need to flip salmon when grilling (in fact, if you do try to flip it, you’re very likely to have it stick and fall apart). The foil packet method in this recipe does an especially good job making sure the salmon cooks evenly without flipping.
Since the skin is easy to remove after salmon is cooked, you can grill it with the skin off or on. Leaving the skin on can help the keep the salmon moist and deter overcooking, so if you are on the fence or new to cooking salmon, leave it on. If you prefer the skin is off for presentation purposes, if you grill the salmon in foil, you can remove the skin, since you don’t need to worry about the salmon falling apart.
If you grill salmon directly on grill grates, grill it skin side down. Do not grill it face side down, as the flesh is likely to tear and stick. With the foil packet, you don’t need to worry about sticking. You can also place a cast iron skillet on the grill and make Pan Seared Salmon.
- 1 1/2 pound side of salmon skin off or on
- 1 small bunch of fresh dill divided
- 1 medium lemon plus additional for serving
- 2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter or canola oil or olive oil
- 3 cloves minced garlic
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Remove the salmon from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients. Preheat an outdoor grill to medium (about 375°F). Line a rimmed baking sheet (large enough to hold your piece of salmon) with a large piece of aluminum foil. If you prefer your food not to touch the foil directly, lay a piece of parchment paper on top (be sure none of it pokes out when the packet is sealed).
- Lightly coat the foil with baking spray. Then, arrange a few sprigs of dill down the middle. Cut the lemons into thin slices and arrange half of the slices down the middle with the dill. Place the salmon on top.
- Drizzle the salmon with the melted butter. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Scatter the garlic over the top, then lay a few more springs of dill and the remaining lemon slices on top of the salmon. Chop a tablespoon or so of the remaining dill and reserve for serving.
- Fold the sides of the aluminum foil up and over the top of the salmon until it is completely enclosed. If your piece of foil is not large enough, place a second piece on top and fold the edges under so that it forms a sealed packet. Leave a little room inside the foil for air to circulate.
- Carefully slide the wrapped salmon onto the grill. Close the grill and grill the salmon for 14-18 minutes, until the salmon is almost completely cooked through at the thickest part. The cooking time will vary based on the thickness of your salmon side. If your piece is thinner (around 1-inch thick) check several minutes early to ensure your salmon does not overcook. If your piece is very thick (1 1/2 inches or more), it may need longer.
- Open the grill, and carefully open the foil so that the top of the fish is completely uncovered (be careful of hot steam). Close the grill, and continue grilling until the fish is cooked through completely, about 3 minutes more. Watch the salmon closely to make sure it doesn’t overcook. Remove the salmon from the grill (I like to use the foil to lift it right back on top of the baking sheet). If it still appears a bit underdone, you can wrap the foil back over the top, and let it rest for a few minutes. Do not let it sit too long—salmon can progress from "not done" to "over done" very quickly. As soon as it flakes easily with a fork, it's ready.
- To serve, cut the salmon into portions. Remove the topmost sprigs of dill and discard. Sprinkle with freshly chopped dill and top with an extra squeeze of lemon as desired.
- This recipe is best enjoyed the day that it is made, as salmon usually dries out when reheated. If you have leftover salmon, try serving it room temperature over a salad the next day or flaking and scrambling it with eggs.
- TO MAKE DAIRY FREE: Swap olive oil or the oil of your choice for the unsalted butter.
- TO MAKE WHOLE30/PALEO: Swap olive oil or the oil of your choice for the unsalted butter
- For more tips about how to tell when salmon is done or ideas to vary up this recipe to different tastes, see blog post above.
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