Grilling Salmon With Skin

grilling salmon with skin

Keeping the skin on the salmon adds flavor, crunch and texture to the fish, as well as a gorgeous char. Grill the salmon skin-side up, over indirect heat for ease and to help the skin crisp.

Pat the fillet dry and season it with salt and pepper or smoked paprika for extra smokiness. Use an instant-read thermometer to check that the salmon is close to done but not overcooked.

Preheat the Grill

Salmon goes well with so many flavors—it’s great brushed with teriyaki sauce, amazing just with salt and pepper, and perfect with barbecue sauce. In this recipe, we’re pairing salmon with the bright, fresh flavors of lemon zest and dill in a quick marinade that gives the fish magazine-worthy grill marks and a deliciously crisp skin.

The key to grilling salmon with its skin on is preheating the grill before laying the fillets down. If the grates aren’t hot enough, your salmon will stick and it will be hard to free when it’s ready to be flipped over or removed from the grill.

Lay the fillets on the grill with their skin side down for two thirds of the cook time. When the skin is crispy and easy to remove from the grates, flip it to finish cooking the flesh side. A thermometer should read 135 – 140 degrees Fahrenheit when the salmon is done. If it’s covered in white foam, though, that’s a sign that the salmon is overcooked.

Place the Salmon on the Grill

Regardless of whether you grill salmon with skin on or off, it’s important to cook it thoroughly. Use a digital meat thermometer or gently poke it with your finger to check for doneness. When the thickest part of the fillet reaches 140-145°F, it’s ready to be removed from the grill.

You can add extra flavor to grilled salmon by brushing it with a marinade, dry rub or paste. This recipe uses a simple combination of brown sugar, smoked paprika, dried thyme and garlic powder to give the fish a sweet, smoky and savory flavor.

For best results, brush the grill rack with oil before adding the fish. It helps prevent the fillets from sticking to the grill grates. Cook the salmon with the skin side down for 6 to 8 minutes before flipping it. This allows the skin to crisp and makes it easier to flip the salmon with a fish spatula. Cook the other side for about 3 minutes more or until it’s cooked to your liking.

Flip the Salmon

A well-browned piece of salmon with crispy skin is the epitome of summer grilling. You can serve it alongside a salad, roasted vegetables or pasta for a delicious meal that’s easy to prepare.

For this recipe, you will want to start with a piece of wild salmon with the skin still on. You can use farm-raised salmon as well, but the flavor tends to be a bit leaner and less forgiving of overcooking.

If you’re using a marinade, make sure to brush it on both sides just before placing the salmon on the grill. It’s also important to dry the skin thoroughly – this will speed up the browning process and prevent sticking.

Begin cooking the salmon skin-side down on high heat, until it has a nice crisp. Then flip it over to cook the other side. Cook it for about 6 to 8 minutes. This is where the flavors really begin to develop and the texture gets just perfect.

Check the Salmon

For a quick, easy meal, grill up salmon fillets with skin. It only takes 6 to 8 minutes per side and requires little prep. Pat the fish dry with a paper towel, especially if it is thawed from frozen, and season with salt and pepper. I also like to add a bit of smoked paprika to give the salmon some smoky flavor.

When done, the salmon will be moist and tender with a nice crispy skin. You can test the salmon for doneness by using an instant-read thermometer or gently poking it with your finger. It is done when it flakes easily.

It is important to season your salmon right before cooking, because adding salt too early will draw out the moisture and cause it to overcook. You can season your salmon with lemon, citrus juice, herbs, spices, or a combination of these. Just remember to only add the seasonings right before you cook it, not while it is on the grill!

Grilling Salmon With Skin Step By Step

Grilling salmon with the skin on is a fantastic way to cook this delicious fish. The skin adds flavor and helps protect the salmon from overcooking or sticking to the grill grates. Here’s a simple guide on how to grill salmon with the skin on:


  • Salmon fillets or a whole salmon side with skin
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Optional: Lemon slices, fresh herbs (such as dill, thyme, or rosemary), and additional seasonings or marinades of your choice


  1. Preheat the Grill:
    • Preheat your grill to medium-high heat (around 350-400°F or 175-200°C). Ensure the grill grates are clean and well-oiled to prevent sticking.
  2. Prepare the Salmon:
    • While the grill is heating, prepare the salmon. Rinse the salmon fillets or whole side under cold water and pat them dry with paper towels.
    • Drizzle a little olive oil over the salmon to help prevent sticking and add flavor. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
    • You can also add additional seasonings or marinades at this point if you like.
  3. Place the Salmon on the Grill:
    • Place the salmon fillets or whole side on the grill grates, skin side down. You should hear a sizzling sound when the skin comes into contact with the hot grates. This helps prevent sticking.
  4. Grill the Salmon:
    • Cover the grill and cook the salmon for about 4-6 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the fillets or side. Grill with the lid closed to retain heat and smoke flavor.
    • To prevent overcooking, you can use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature. Salmon is safe to eat when it reaches an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C).
  5. Flip the Salmon:
    • After 4-6 minutes, carefully flip the salmon fillets or the whole side. Use a spatula to gently lift the fish to avoid tearing the skin.
  6. Continue Grilling:
    • Grill the salmon on the second side for an additional 4-6 minutes or until the desired level of doneness is achieved.
  7. Garnish and Serve:
    • Once the salmon is grilled to your liking, remove it from the grill and transfer it to a serving platter. Garnish with lemon slices and fresh herbs if desired.

Grilling salmon with the skin on not only adds flavor but also makes it easier to grill and serve. The skin protects the salmon from sticking to the grill grates, and it crisps up nicely during grilling. Enjoy your grilled salmon with your favorite sides, such as a fresh salad, roasted vegetables, or couscous, for a complete and delicious meal.