BBQ Salmon: 3 Techniques to Master
Whether you like it best under steak or filet form, salmon is one of the classics when it comes to grilling protein.
Often served as a fresh summer meal, but versatile enough to be used in hearty comfort food, salmon can be cooked in different forms. Being able to prepare it in many ways proves to be a valuable skill to enjoy time behind your BBQ and that’s exactly what we’re going to cover today.
Salmon is dense, yet flaky once cooked, so one must choose the right cooking technique to obtain the right desired end result. With that in mind, what exactly are the best techniques to master successfully cooking fish without burning or drying it?
Here are 3 different techniques that you can use to get different results with salmon:
Wrap it in Foil
Wrapping salmon in foil is potentially nothing new to a lot of you. Yet, it is one of the most convenient ways to grill fish on the BBQ. Fish meat gets harder to manage as it cooks since its texture changes from a soft and flexible one to one that’s firm and flaky. That said, one of the biggest benefits of working with foil is removing the risk of seeing your salmon break and fall apart through your grates or, even, stick to the grates.
Pro tip: Always work with a wide spatula when you’re managing fish on the BBQ. This will reduce the risk of wasting good food through the cracks.
As with anything else, wrapping in foil is also a great way to encapsulate moisture in a packet and get a result that’s tender every time.
Also, foil makes it easy to add other ingredients with your protein to boost its flavors. Place your fish skin down on the foil, stack up your favorite ingredients such as lemon wedges, dijon mustard, capers, and herbs with it, and you’ll get flavorful, flaky, salmon filet in under 20 minutes.
Though it requires more preparation than your standard grilled fish, serving brined salmon is a sure bet.
Be it with fish or anything else, the process of brining consists of using a salt-based mixture to lock in moisture and chemically break down the protein before the cooking process starts. In the end, brining your salmon will give it a deeper flavor profile, a slightly different texture, and a juicy taste.
What’s great about salmon is that you can use a dry or a wet brine with it. It also does not require a long brining time to get good results. Indeed, you can let it brine anywhere between 4 and 24 hours (maximum) and get noticeable results.
A very basic brine can be put together using 2 tablespoons of kosher salt for every 2 cups of water. Adding some brown sugar or maple syrup to that also adds a nice sweetness that balances things out with the natural flavor of the salmon.
I must say though, the longer you let your fish brine, the saltier it will be. Rinsing your fish under tap water may be of interest if it was brined for more than 12 hours. It is also important to always pat dry your fish and to let it air dry for a few hours in the refrigerator (until a light film develops on its top) before you start to cook it. You’ll notice at that point that your salmon feels firmer to the touch than it did when you first started the brining process. This texture makes grilling brined salmon steaks a lot easier and it is a great way to maximize the aesthetic appeal of the salmon with nice grate marks.
When it comes to putting it on the BBQ, cook your salmon over medium heat (400°F), in an indirect cooking zone, and leave it there until it reaches an internal temperature of 145°F. Add a finishing salt or rub (the House of BBQ Experts’ Caribbean spice mix and rub, for example) just before pulling it out and you should have yourself a very juicy salmon with just enough char on the edges to give various textures to each bite.
You’ll know it’s about ready once you start seeing white beads (albumin) pearling on top of the salmon. (Albumin melts at 133°F, so it’s a great visual indicator to be mindful of.)
This technique also works great if you like to cook skewers. The denser texture of the salmon makes it easy to dice, skewer, and manage over high heat. (By the way, salmon skewers are a great way to get kids to start enjoying fish in the summer. 😉)
I have yet to meet a human being who doesn’t appreciate the taste of smoked salmon. Be it cold or hot smoked salmon, there’s just something about the way smoke settles into salmon and creates a rich and deep flavor that leaves everyone wanting more. The good news is, we covered this in detail already. If you’re interested, it’s right this way!
All of these techniques can work wonders, but always keep in mind that you get what you put in out of a cooking session. This means that you can’t expect mind-blowing results if you always work with cheap-quality ingredients.
Working with more intricate or time-consuming techniques is often enough to justify investing in better quality salmon to make sure that the effort you put in is worth it. And trust me, it is. You can take my word for it.