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Grilled Salmon Skin Up or Down?

If you have never had grilled salmon you are in for a real treat. It is simple to do so don’t let it intimidate you.

You may have grilled fish before only for it to fall apart right on the grates ruining dinner and making quite a mess on your grill. Well, I have a few tips for you.

When you are grilling salmon you want to grill it with the skin side down on the grates. There are a few reasons why you want the skin side down so let’s get into it. Also, check out my post on the top 10 sides to serve with salmon.

Grilled salmon on a grill with flames

Should grilled salmon be grilled with the skin up or down? Yes, salmon should be grilled with the skin side down.

Grilling salmon with the skin side down helps to hold the fish together and keeps it from sticking to the grates.

How to grill salmon skin side down

Grilled salmon is simple and fast. There are a few key tips that you should know when you are grilling salmon so that it doesn’t stick to the grates, fall apart or become overcooked.

Allow for your salmon to rest on the counter for 10-15 minutes before you grill it. Also, check and make sure that it is still fresh before you go through all of the trouble of grilling it. You can read up on how to tell if salmon has gone bad here.

One of the most important tips is to cook with the skin side down. And second, knowing when your salmon is done. Read this post on how to tell when salmon is cooked.

You get a different flavor profile when you grill salmon rather than baking it or pan-searing it. When cooking with the skin on your salmon, nothing crisps up that skin better than grilling it.

1. Preheat your grill

If you have tried cooking salmon on the grill before and it fell apart or got stuck to the grates, chances are that you didn’t preheat the grill. Preheat your grill to medium heat of 400°-450° F.

When you heat the grates before you put the salmon on it allows for the skin to sear up before getting the chance to really stick to the grates.

2. Skin side down

It is really important when grilling salmon to put the skin side down (flesh side up) on the preheated grates. Lay the salmon skin-side down in the hot zone of your grill.

Grilling salmon skin side down helps hold the fish together while it cooks and the skin will naturally release from the grates when it is ready to come off.

The skin not only acts as a barrier to the flesh from the open flames but also helps hold in the moisture so you don’t end up with dry salmon.

Salmon is flakey when it is cooked which is why you don’t want to put the flesh side on the grates. It will cook and then fall apart.

3. Don’t flip it

You want to be patient when cooking your salmon on the grill. Allow 8 minutes for every inch of thickness. When you suspect that it is finished cooking see if the skin is ready to release from the grates.

There is no need to flip your salmon. It will cook just like in an oven when you keep the lid closed.

Use a fish spatula or a metal spatula and slide it under one corner of the salmon. If the skin is still sticking to the grates then give it another minute two, checking it every 30-45 seconds until the skin comes off the grates cleanly.

Using a thermometer to check the temperature is another great way to tell if your fish is done. You want to cook it until you get an internal temperature of 145°F.

I have an entire post on how to tell when grilled salmon is done.

3 Most common reasons salmon sticks to the grill grates

Grill grates are clean

You want to make sure that you clean your grill grates well before you cook your salmon.

If you have bits stuck to the grates from last night or maybe last week’s dinner then your salmon’s skin will meld to that and won’t allow for the skin to release when it is done cooking.

You will also have the flavor from the prior grilled food infused in your salmon and that might not be so delicious.

It is also a great idea if possible to add a little oil to the grates before you grill the salmon.

Didnt preheat the grill

As I said earlier in this post it is important to make sure that your grill is nice and hot before you lay your salmon skin side down on the grates.

This will help the skin release when and you won’t have to fight it when it is done.

The fish isnt done cooking

If the salmon skin is stuck to the grates then it isn’t ready to come off yet. The skin will release when it is cooked. You shouldn’t have to pull and tug ripping the skin of your salmon in order to get it off the grill.

Leave it a few minutes more and allow for it to release on its own.

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