When it comes to grilling, I find that many folks avoid salmon — or any fish — because it can stick to the grill or turn out dry from too much cooking.
One reason for overcooking could be that many recipes say to cook fish until it flakes easily. I have found that by that time, it’s overdone and dry. Other recipes say to follow the Canadian rule of 10 minutes of cooking time per 1-inch thickness of fish. Paired with brining, that practice generally works for me.
I like salmon when you can break off pieces gently with a fork. Because we are in the middle of wild salmon season, I’ll share my tricks.
One technique I use covers part of one of the above concerns and all of the other. Whether you bake, broil, grill or cook salmon in the skillet, brine it first. It’s a sure-fire way to make sure the salmon turns out moist. The brine, a mixture of water, salt and sometimes sugar, sort of plumps the salmon, adding seasoned moisture to it.
It’s easy enough that you can brine the salmon for a minimum of 30 minutes or up to 1 to 2 hours, but no longer. Once you’ve brined the salmon and follow a timed cooking method, it shouldn’t turn out dry.
To prevent fish from sticking to the grill, it’s a good idea to first oil it a bit.
Make sure your grill is hot. To oil the grates, fold several pieces of paper towel — you should have a thick wad of it — into about a 3-by-3-inch square. Dip much of that square into a bowl of flavorless oil, such as canola, and, using long handled tongs, rub the oiled towel on the grates.
Close the lid and let it heat again for a few minutes.
Use salmon fillet with skin on and place it on the grates flesh side down. The piece of salmon will immediately cling to the grates. And it will continue to cling tighter until it’s cooked enough to release its grip. Once this happens, you should be able to slip a spatula underneath it easily and turn it over. The time it takes to do this depends on how thick the fish is, but it can be about 7 minutes. That’s a bit longer than the general rule of thumb of cooking fish 5 minutes per side (10 minutes total time for 1-inch-thick fish). So once you flip it, grill it just a few minutes more. When the salmon is done, slip a spatula between the flesh and the skin, leaving the skin on the grate.