Paul Sidoriak on September 5, 2016 0 Comments Salmon is one of the easiest and most delicious fish to cook on the grill. By paying attention to a few minor details, you can make restaurant-quality salmon recipes. Wild salmon is known as a fish with tremendous nutritional benefits and is readily available fresh while in season, or fresh frozen for enjoying year round. A 4-ounce serving provides more than 80 nutrients. It is very high in Omega 3 fats, which are understood to have health benefits, from helping mitigate inflammation to improving the body’s overall cell functions. A 4-ounce serving of salmon has only 158 calories and is considered very low on the glycemic index that measures the impact of carbohydrates on the blood stream. Selecting Salmon at the Store If you are lucky enough to catch fresh salmon, the pre-grilling method for getting salmon ready for the grill is basically the same. Salmon should have a very mild, sweet, sea-like smell to it. Anything stronger than that is probably going to have a fishy taste when you cook it. When selecting fresh salmon from your favorite fish purveyor, consider asking when it came in to the store, if it is fresh or was previously frozen, and if it was frozen, how long it has been thawed. I have purchased plenty of salmon that was partially thawed that same day and it has tasted wonderful. I will often ask if I may smell a fillet before I purchase it. If it smells too potent, I try another piece or return when the store gets a new shipment. Salmon Steaks vs Salmon Fillets Raw salmon is typically available cut two ways – in fillets or steaks. Fillets are cut along the spine from the tail to between the head and the gill-plate. Fillets are typically much thicker between the belly area and the head, and taper toward the tail. Steaks are cut across the spine in one- to two-inch-thick pieces that have a horseshoe shape where the meat is significantly thicker at the top, curved part and is scant at the tips. Both cuts of salmon have bones. Fillets have tiny rib bones, or pin bones, which are easy to choke on, and should be removed. To find the pin bones, lay the fillet skin-side down on a cutting board and run your fingertips across the filet lengthwise. Although some salmon fillets are cut almost completely without pin bones, most have at least a few you should consider removing. To remove pin bones, locate them with your fingers and grab them with a clean set of tweezers or kitchen pliers suitable for grabbing small objects. Pin bones are white and are about the thickness of a pin, but are much more flexible. Simply grab hold of the pin bone and pull it straight up to remove it. Salmon steaks typically have the backbone at the center of the curve on the steak. Pin bones are sometimes also present as the meat tapers toward the ribs and some prefer to just cut those small pieces off altogether instead of removing them one by one. When the salmon steak is cooked, the backbone at the top of the steak can easily be removed with a fork. Removal is something you may want to do for children or at least point out to your guests before serving. Preparing Your Grill Pre-heating your grill so it is at a stable temperature of about 400° F for at least 15 minutes is key to grilling any fish, but especially true for grilled salmon. Make sure the surface of your grill is clean and free from debris that may prevent the fish from releasing properly. There are different methods to clean various types of grills, but for the purpose of this article, what is most important are the grates or other surfaces in which the salmon will touch. I would recommend getting a scraper for your grill and a bucket of soapy water, and give the grates on our grill a thorough scrub. Preparing Your Salmon Prior to grilling, rinse the salmon thoroughly under cold water to remove any film that may have developed on the skin or flesh. Pat the salmon dry with a paper towel or clean kitchen towel and set aside. Salmon is truly flavorful and delicious on its own and does not require much seasoning before grilling. It is not uncommon to use a marinade, however, I prefer to brush a thin coat of mild cooking oil on all sides of the meat. It provides a good medium for the rubs, herbs, or spices to adhere to, and promotes beautiful browning. Seasoning Recipe – Option 1 I have two combinations of seasoning that I prefer and will often season one piece one way and another piece a bit differently. The first seasoning is a foundation and can be built upon to your personal flavor preference. It combines equal parts salt, finely ground black pepper, and garlic powder. This seasoning is more of a flavor enhancer and will not steal the show from the fish’s natural taste. This blend works well on its own, but is a great base for adding fresh herbs. Dill, cilantro, tarragon, and the tips of fennel each work well to bring a dynamic flavor to any grilled salmon recipe. You can also experiment with other spices like cumin, curry powder, celery seed, or harissa to take the flavor in a more exciting direction. Seasoning Recipe – Option 2 I learned the second seasoning method from an Alaskan sport fishing guide who had just returned from a summer of catching salmon with clients and months of shore lunches. The guide would sprinkle a small amount of crushed red pepper powder on the flesh of the fish. He grilled the fish skin-side down, often over a campfire. About three minutes into the cook, he slathered the fish in apricot jam. When he prepared this for me, I was skeptical, since I am not much of a fan of hot red pepper flakes or apricots. But what we dined on was a harmonious balance of both sweet and spicy, with the natural taste of the salmon still taking center stage. This method of seasoning can easily be adapted in many directions based on what you have on hand or are trying to achieve as a final dish. It works well with teriyaki orange glazes, barbecue sauces, or any natural fruit syrups. I would strongly recommend giving this recipe a shot. Tips to Grilling Your Salmon Having grilled salmon dozens of times, I find the following two methods are the most simple and provide consistent results. At 400°F, salmon will cook for about 6-8 minutes. The longer you cook the salmon, the firmer the fish will become, but it also gets drier. Salmon cooked to well done makes an excellent salmon salad, spread, or topping for an appetizer with crackers. Direct Grilling When grilling direct, carefully place the salmon on the hot grill, skin-side up. Choose where you place the salmon carefully because once it is on the grill, it should not be touched for 3-4 minutes. Fish, when grilled properly, should release easily from the grill when ready to flip. If it is trying to stick, it probably needs more time before flipping. When it is ready to flip, use a spatula and scrape under the fish to make sure it does not tear away from the grill grate when you flip it onto the skin side. Once flipped, you can decide if you wish to add finishing glazes or sauces to the exposed meat side of the fish. Typically, grilling an additional 3-4 minutes with the skin side down will finish the cooking process while allowing the skin to crisp up and not become soggy. Some find the crispy skin to be a delicacy and it, like the fish, will release when cooked through. Plank Grilling Most places that sell salmon will also sell grilling planks or cedar planks at or near the fish counter. Grilling on a grill plank, or plank of wood, is a fun and flavorful way to make salmon and very easy to do. Grill planks come in various types of wood which impart slightly different sweet and smoky flavors in the fish. Cedar and alder are classic planks for salmon, but I have also had good luck using fruit wood planks like apple, cherry, and peach. Soak the plank for at least an hour to overnight before using it on the grill. This will prevent the plank from burning immediately. Remember, the plank is wood and over direct heat, it will eventually burn. I always keep a spray bottle of water or apple juice nearby so if the corners of the plank do flare up a bit or catch fire, they can easily be extinguished with a few spritzes. After the plank has soaked, shake the excess water off and spray one side with non-stick food release. Place the seasoned salmon in the center of the plank, skin-side down. The plank with the salmon goes directly on the grill for 7-10 minutes or until you reach your desired doneness. For a dramatic table-side presentation, serve the salmon on the plank, but make sure it has cooled and is not in any danger of catching tablecloths or other flammable materials on fire.