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How to Grill Salmon

Grilled salmon is an easy meal that is quick to prepare, and pairs well with tons of side dishes.

Grab your favorite seasoning option and let’s get started.

Best Salmon for Grilling

There are over seven types of salmon that you would likely buy from the store. Some are in short supply, however, and may even be considered a delicacy.

While the names for each type vary (with some going by several names, depending on region), all are appropriate for grilling:

  • Coho Salmon: Also known as Silver Salmon, it is a deep red fish with a mild flavor.
  • Pink Salmon: This fish is the type you often find in the canned goods aisle. It is smaller, lower in fat, and also goes by Humpback Salmon.
  • Sockeye Salmon: This fish is red-skinned, firm, and has a stronger flavor. It is higher in fat than most other varieties.
  • Chum Salmon: Don’t let the name fool you. While this fish is lean and can dry out while cooking, it has excellent flavor. It’s also called Keta or Dog Salmon.
  • King Salmon: This giant fish is full of fat and flavor. You can also find it under the name Chinook Salmon.
  • Atlantic Salmon: While fishing this Atlantic-born fish is prohibited, it’s often farm-raised for commercial sale which means it may be higher in PCBs. It is also called the Salmo Salar.
  • Masu Salmon (Sea Trout): You won’t find this fish native to the U.S., and getting it may be difficult. It’s considered an imported delicacy with a high fat content.

Which of these can you grill successfully? The higher the fat content, the more forgiving the fish will be. You can cook it slightly longer without the fear of it drying out.

How to Prepare Salmon for the Grill

Salmon is typically sold ready to cook, but if you bought the fish from a fresh market or ordered it through some of the online suppliers, your salmon may come with skin and pin bones.

The pin bones can be found by running your fingers along the surface of the fish. You’ll feel tiny little bones sticking up that you can pull out using a pair of pliers or a special pin-bone puller found at a specialty kitchen store.

Your salmon may have skin on it, which you’ll want to leave on if you're going to grill. The skin makes it easier to hold the fish together, and it adds some moisture to it as well. If your salmon didn't come with skin, you can remove it, but you'll need to cook it with extra reinforcement in the next steps.

Do not rinse salmon. As the USDA cautions, washing raw fish could lead to cross-contamination across your kitchen appliances and surfaces, spreading bacteria. You can pat it dry with a paper towel.

Salmon Seasoning Options

Salmon has a delicate flavor, and too much seasoning can overpower the natural notes. The right seasoning blend, however, gives it a great taste that gets even better over the grill.

Traeger has two favorite seasonings for salmon.

Don’t limit yourself to rubs, however. If you’re short on supplies, you can get great results from a simple lemon pepper seasoning.

How to Season Salmon

Seasoning a salmon filet is as simple as placing it skin-side down and sprinkling the seasoning on the flesh side.

For added moisture, and to help larger herb and spice pieces stick, you may choose to brush some olive oil onto the surface before seasoning.

Grill Temperature for Salmon

From 325 to 350 degrees Fahrenheit is the right temperature to grill salmon for most recipes. Set your Traeger Grill to 350 degrees and allow it to warm up for 15 minutes with the lid closed, as in our grilled blackened Saskatchewan salmon recipe.

If you cook salmon at a temperature that is too low, you’ll lengthen cooking times and cause your salmon to dry out.

How to Grill Salmon on a Pellet Grill

There’s no one recipe you should use to grill your salmon, but those tested by us are likely to get you the best results. After your pellet grill has reached optimal temperature, place the salmon skin-side down directly on the grill grates.

Some people like their grilled salmon without grill marks or may choose to brush the fish with a butter sauce before cooking. In these cases, putting the fish on a baking sheet before grilling – like in this Garlic Salmon recipe – works best. If you don’t have a skin to keep the fish together, the baking sheet is a good idea to keep the fish from falling through the grate as it cooks.

What Side of Salmon Do You Grill First?

Grilled salmon shouldn’t be flipped, unlike other meat. Cook it with the skin side down the entire time. Turning it over will not only break up the fish, but you may lose the flakier portion beneath the grates.

How Long Should You Cook Salmon on the Grill?

Depending on the recipe, you should cook the salmon for between 25 and 30 minutes, or until the fish flakes at the thickest portion.

Safe Internal Temperature for Grilled Salmon

Salmon should be cooked until it reaches 140 degrees Fahrenheit in the thickest part. When using a Traeger Grill, you can put the probe in the salmon before you begin cooking and monitor it to see when it is done.

What to Serve With Grilled Salmon

Since salmon is a meatier fish, many people pair it with a lighter side such as a salad, rice pilaf, or a steamed veggie. Salmon is particularly healthy, making it a guilt-free way to cook on the grill that goes well with many options.

Side dish ideas include grilled mango coleslaw, smoked 3-bean salad, and roasted sheet pan vegetables.

Best Grilled Salmon Recipes

Picking the right recipe to start your food adventure can be difficult, especially since there are so many out there. These trusted recipes are a good place to start, no matter your experience level.

Simple Glazed Salmon Fillets – Proving less can be more, these simple filets highlight the best of salmon’s qualities.

What to Do With Leftover Grilled Salmon

If you follow the tips for grilling salmon above, you likely won’t have much at the end of the meal. If you double up on a recipe and have some leftovers, the fish makes a great addition to soups, salads, and pasta dishes.

Here are some favorite ways to enjoy leftover salmon:

Any place you want to add some flavor and texture, grilled salmon flakes can make their appearance.

Once you grill salmon for the first time, you’ll realize how simple it is to put on the table. With a variety of spices and glazes to try, you can have a new salmon experience every time with no fuss or waste.

Traeger Salmon Recipes