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This tender grilled salmon is made with fresh salmon fillets perfectly cooked with a delicious, golden finish. Learn how to grill salmon that's so juicy, you'll make this healthy 15-minute dinner on repeat!
If your grilled salmon isn't tender, juicy, and fall-apart delicious, you're doing it wrong – and you're not alone. Salmon has a solid reputation for being easily overcooked and, therefore, under appreciated.
I wrote this article to help you step up your grilled salmon game because I want you to never overcook salmon again and feel good about the money you spent on it.
So, I'm briefly discussing salmon types, handling and prep, how to grill salmon step-by-step, how to know when it's cooked, internal temperatures, serving ideas, and storage tips. We're getting back to basics with grilled salmon, so if there's something you want me to include, let me know in the comments below.
Why we love grilled salmon
- Salmon is known for being a heart healthy fish because it's an excellent source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids.
- Grilling salmon is a convenient cooking method that doesn't require an oven or stove – and can be done using an outdoor grill or indoor grill.
- Grilled salmon involves easy prep with minimal ingredients you can customize.
- Salmon cooks very quickly on a hot grill, so it allows you to get dinner on the table in under 15 minutes.
- Perfectly cooked salmon can satisfy your palate and appetite without weighing you down.
- It's an excellent meal prep entree for a busy week of lunches and dinners – perfect alongside salad, pasta, or vegetables.
- fresh salmon - Use farmed or wild salmon. Make sure it smells fresh (not fishy) and has a firm, full texture. You can use whole salmon (also called side of salmon) or salmon steaks with this recipe too!
- salt and pepper - This is the most minimal salmon seasoning and is always recommended as a base seasoning.
- butter, garlic cloves, and fresh dill - These make the garlic butter sauce which is certainly optional, but highly recommended.
Farmed vs wild: texture matters
The texture of farmed and wild salmon are quite different. Wild salmon is lean with less fat and calories, whereas farmed salmon is marbled with fat, so it's not as lean.
The type of salmon matters when grilling because farmed salmon can turn out rich and buttery even when slightly overcooked. Whereas wild salmon becomes dry and unappealing in a hurry, and benefits from less grilling time.
So, it's important to pick the right salmon type for your grilling style and aim for the internal temperature most suited to your liking (see recipe footnote for temperature chart).
Skin on or off?
Your choice! Either will work, but I prefer skin-on salmon for grilling because it renders fat and adds flavor and moisture to the salmon. Some people enjoy eating the skin – I always give mine to the neighbor dog.
Also, the skin is easy to remove from cooked salmon, but hardly worth the attempt with raw salmon. If you bought salmon without skin, the same grilling instructions apply for skin-on or off.
Salmon prep tips every cook should know
- If using frozen salmon fillets, thaw completely. I recommend thawing salmon overnight in the refrigerator; or immerse sealed salmon in cold water for 30 - 60 minutes before prep.
- Remove any pin bones that might be hiding in the flesh. Long-nose pliers work great for this!
- Use paper towels to remove excess moisture before adding oil or seasonings. This will prevent steaming and promote the beautiful browning that occurs naturally from the dry heat.
- Let salmon rest at room temperature for 20 minutes to remove the chill before adding seasonings. This helps it cook more evenly and efficiently on the grill.
How to season salmon for grilling
If using dry seasoning, oil the salmon on all sides (including the skin) before seasoning. I used salt, pepper, and simple garlic butter for this recipe because it's a well-loved classic! You can season salmon any way you like – here are some ideas:
- Paprika and garlic powder are my go-to spices for fish and chicken.
- Old Bay seasoning is great for a low country boil flavor.
- Use Cajun seasoning or blackened seasoning for classic southern influence.
- Fajita seasoning or chili powder are great for kicked up Southwest flavors.
A note about marinades
This grilled salmon recipe will work with your favorite marinade. However, if it has acidic ingredients such as lemon or vinegar, I recommend grilling the salmon within 30 minutes of marinating because acid denatures, or cooks, raw proteins as it marinates.
Skin up or down?
There are two schools here. Start salmon on the grill skin side up and set the presentation side with grill marks. Or, start salmon skin-side-down and get crispy skin. I'll let you decide which method you prefer.
Either way, I do recommend flipping salmon after 3-5 minutes. If the salmon is sticking to the grill, as most proteins do, don't force it, just wait – it always releases, which is a key indicator that it's time to flip it over.
How to grill salmon step-by-step
1. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat of 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat butter and garlic in a sauce pot. Add fresh dill once butter has melted.
2. Season the salmon with salt and pepper. Brush the whole fillet (including skin) with melted garlic butter. You'll notice the lack of fat marbling in my salmon fillets because I'm using wild salmon.
3. Clean the hot grates with a grill brush to remove burned on debris and oil the grates. Sometimes we use cooking spray at a safe distance, but it's also wasteful, so I recommend rubbing an oiled towel over the grates using tongs.
4. Place salmon skin side up on the preheated grill. Close lid and grill salmon 3-5 minutes, or until it releases easily from the grates with tongs.
5. Flip salmon over, brush butter over the surface, close lid, and grill a few more minutes until the salmon is opaque and flakes apart easily. Well-done salmon will register an internal temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit on a meat thermometer. See internal temperature chart in recipe footnotes.
How do I know when salmon is cooked?
Grilled salmon is cooked when you can press a utensil in between the rows of the flesh and it separates easily. Medium-rare salmon will register an internal temperature of 125 degrees Fahrenheit and will be semi-translucent in the center of its thickest point. Well-done salmon will register an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit and is opaque through the center.
Allow salmon to cool completely and refrigerate in an airtight container up to 5 days or freeze up to 90 days (longer if vacuum sealed).
FAQ about grilled salmon
Cooking times vary depending on thickness. Grill salmon fillets about 10 minutes over medium heat at 400 degrees Fahrenheit, or until flesh is opaque and flakes apart easily. See temperature chart in recipe footnotes.
Make sure grill grates are clean, oiled, and hot before grilling salmon. Lightly coat the salmon with oil including the skin. When you first lay salmon (or any protein) on a hot grill, it naturally sticks to the grates, but eventually releases, allowing you to flip it over.
Yes. It's not required, but flipping grilled salmon helps distribute the heat more evenly and offers more surface browning which adds color and delicious flavor to both sides.
USDA recommends a safe minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Use discretion to serve salmon at lower internal temperatures.
What to serve with grilled salmon
Other: Homemade French Bread
More seafood entrees
I hope these tips, along with a little practice, will go a long way to change your mind about salmon for good. Enjoy your delicious grilled salmon! xoxo
Juicy Grilled Salmon with Garlic Butter
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- 2 (4 ounce) Salmon Fillets or more as needed
- Pinch Salt and Pepper
- 2 tablespoons Unsalted Butter
- 3 cloves Garlic minced
- Fresh Dill or parsley
- (optional) Lemon for garnish
- Pat SALMON dry, remove any bones, season with SALT and PEPPER, and rest at room temperature about 20 minutes to remove the chill.
- Preheat the grill to medium-high – around 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat BUTTER and GARLIC in a sauce pot. Add FRESH DILL once butter has melted.
- Season the salmon with SALT and PEPPER. Brush the whole fillet (including skin) with melted garlic butter.
- Clean the hot grates with a grill brush and oil the grates.
- Place salmon skin-side up on preheated grill. Close lid and grill salmon 3-5 minutes, or until it releases easily from the grates using tongs.
- Flip salmon over, brush butter over the surface, close lid, and grill a few more minutes until the salmon is opaque and flakes apart easily. Well-done salmon will register an internal temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit on a meat thermometer (see recipe footnote).
- Transfer salmon to a covered platter and rest until carry over cooking boosts it to a safe minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Serve warm garnished with lemon.
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- 120-125 degrees Fahrenheit = medium-rare
- 125 - 135 degrees Fahrenheit = medium
- 135 - 145 degrees Fahrenheit = medium-well
- 145 degrees Fahrenheit = well done