How Long to Grill Salmon? Perfect Cooking Time Explained

Jam Packed with nutrition; salmon is one of the healthiest foods on Earth. It’s high in proteins and omega-3 fatty acids, which promote the overall well-being of your heart and brain. However, skilling the art of flawlessly grilling salmon is not easy, and you need well-documented and trusted temperature and time guidelines about how long to grill salmon.

This guide aims to help you get the right temperature and time outlines for perfectly grilling salmon. Since there are many ways to grill salmon, we plan to provide you with proper insights about how long to grill salmon and at what temperatures in different grilling settings and ways.

Before we move further, please note that this article is about “how long or till what safe internal temperature you should grill salmon;” not about the average cooking temperature that America’s kitchen advises for the sake of producing more delicious and juicy bites. WE want you to go safe, especially if you have a senior or a pregnant woman in your family who can catch infections from undercooked salmon.

The internal temperature of salmon when done – USDA and FDA guidelines

As per FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) and USDA (The United States Department of Agriculture) guidelines, most seafood, ideally salmon, should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145°F. You can use either an instant-read thermometer like Thermapen or ThermoPro or a Wireless digital thermometer to measure salmon’s internal temperature. Regardless of what thermometer you own, ensure that it’s accurate.

If you don’t have a food thermometer, there’s another way to determine whether salmon is done, i.e., check if the flesh is clear and separates easily with a fork. (Cook salmon until it’s opaque (milky white) and flakes easily with a fork.)

FDA’s grilling duration suggestions are always based on food’s internal temperature. Regardless of your grilling medium — be it charcoal, electric, or gas grill, once the internal temperature of your food reaches the recommended value, your food is ready to serve.

Note: FDA suggests a 3-minute rest time after turning the heat off. That’s because salmon still has carryover heat and continues to cook even after removing it from the grill. A 3-minute rest period will allow the carryover heat to diminish and ensure that your salmon cooks to perfection.

How long to grill salmon on a gas grill?

Grilling temperature is the foremost thing to know before one asks how long it takes to grill salmon on a gas grill. Gas grills usually have high heat outputs. When grilling salmon, the ideal temperature is between medium to high heat, around 400-450 degrees Fahrenheit, based on the recipe.

Secondly, you should always preheat your gas grill at a high temperature. Preheating a gas grill helps caramelize salmon, leaves grill marks that all grilling enthusiasts love, and prevents salmon from sticking to the grates.

The rule of thumb is to allow 8-10 minutes of grill time per inch of salmon. So, if your salmon is one inch thick, you’ll need to grill each side for four to five minutes. Similarly, if your salmon is two inches thick, allow each side to grill for eight to ten minutes. This grilling time is ideal whether you grill salmon with its skin on or off.

Allow the grilled salmon a rest time of three to four minutes before serving.

How long to grill salmon on a charcoal grill?

Grilling salmon on charcoal takes almost the same time as on a gas grill. Setting up a charcoal grill should take almost 20 minutes, including time for igniting the charcoal, letting the fire and heat rise, and waiting until the white ash becomes visible on the coals.

Salmon grilled on a charcoal grill
Charcoal grilled salmon

Once the coals are ready, you should remove them from the chimney starter and place them on the charcoal rack of your grill. After doing this, let your grill preheat with its lid closed until the temperature gauge reads 450°F. Preheating a charcoal grill should take about 10 minutes.

It should take salmon 6-8 minutes on a charcoal grill before it’s ready. Flip to the side and grill for another 1-2 minutes for additional browning, if you want.

Salmon is cooked when its internal temperature rises to 145°F. However, it would be best if you took salmon out of your charcoal grill when it is 137°-140°F. That is because salmon continues to cook for a while once you pull it from your charcoal grill, termed carryover cooking.

How long to grill salmon on a pellet grill?

Cooking salmon on a pellet grill takes the same time as on other types of grills. The purpose of a pellet smoker is to infuse your food with flavor notes of smoke while you cook it. Smoker pellets, thin rods of condensed hardwood, are used as a source of smoke and fuel in these grills.

A one-inch thick piece of salmon takes around six to eight minutes to cook at 500 degrees on a pellet smoker. The USDA says that the minimum internal temperature of the fish should be at least 145 °F (62.8 °C) before you consume it. Undercooked seafood has potential health hazards, so never take the risk.

An internal salmon temperature of 145 °F will result in medium to good doneness. If you give grilled salmon a rest period of around three minutes, the carryover heat will compensate for the incomplete browning.

How long does it take to smoke salmon on a pellet grill?

If you want to smoke salmon instead of grilling it over direct heat, a pellet grill, such as Traeger’s, is the best option.

To smoke salmon on a pellet grill, prepare salmon based on the recipe you’re trying. When you’re ready to smoke, preheat your pellet grill for about 15 minutes with its lid closed. For Traeger’s pellet grills, 180℉ preheat temperature is ideal.

Salmon smoked on a pellet smoker
Salmon smoked on a pellet smoker

After this, place salmon skin side down on the grates and smoke for three to four hours or until the internal temperature of salmon registers 140℉.

How long to grill salmon in foil?

Wrapping foil around a piece in packet style is the best method to grill a fish. Foil traps the moisture inside, so your salmon comes out juicy and flaky, not dry.

Grilling salmon in foil is also better because of indirect infrared cooking. If you grill salmon on a gas grill without foil, most cooking is done by convection (transfer of heat through circulating air.) Indirect infrared grilling doesn’t release the sealed juice inside the salmon, resulting in a perfect, fishy taste.

Salmon in foil should be grilled over medium heat at around 375 to 400 degrees for a perfect taste. Once you set the burners or charcoal to medium heat, close the lid and let the salmon cook for 14-18 minutes. The estimated cooking time works if your pieces are one inch thick, and if they’re half an inch, reduce the time to half. Similarly, for a two-inch thick piece of salmon, you would have to grill for another 14-18 minutes on the other side of the salmon. You can make adjustments to your grilling time by remembering the one-inch thickness as the yardstick.

foil salmon grilling

Before taking salmon out, always ensure that its internal temperature is at least 137-140 degrees Fahrenheit.

Related questions

How long does it take to grill salmon?

One can’t answer the question without mentioning the grill temperature. If you grill salmon at 450°-500° F, six to eight minutes is enough for a one-inch thick piece. Increasing the temperature will reduce the grilling time and vice versa, as the temperature is inversely related to overall cooking time.

So, the best method to ascertain when your salmon is done is to register the internal temperature of the salmon. As per USDA and FDA guidelines, the internal temperature of salmon should be at least 145 °F (62.8 °C) before you remove the fish from the grill grates.

Are you supposed to flip salmon on the grill?

Generally, there’s no need to flip. The best method to grill salmon is by putting it skin-side down on the grill. As long as the salmon fillets are one inch thick, cook the salmon at 450°-500° F for six to eight minutes straight. If you flip these fillets before the minimum cooking time of fish, they will most likely stick to the grill grates.

If your salmon fillets are two inches thick, grill them for six to eight minutes at 450°-500° F. After this, flip the salmon by putting its flesh side down and grill for an additional six to eight minutes before at the same temperature.

Long story short, the general rule of thumb is not to flip salmon for at least six minutes if your grill temperature is 450°-500° F.

How do you know when salmon is done on the grill?

The best way to check whether your salmon is done on the grill is to press down on it with a fork gently. If the salmon flakes easily along the white lines of the flesh (fat strips), it means your fish is done.

Another way to determine whether your salmon has finished cooking is to measure its internal temperature with the help of an instant-read thermometer. If your Thermapen registers a temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit, your fish has cooked to perfection.

How long should salmon be cooked on each side?

The general rule of thumb is to cook salmon for six to eight minutes at 450-500 degrees F per inch thickness of salmon. If your salmon is one inch thick, you don’t need to flip the sides. Just place the fillets on the cooking grates and remember the time mentioned above and the temperature guidelines.

If your salmon is two inches thick, you should flip the sides after six to eight minutes. Place the salmon skin-side down on the cooking grates and grill until golden brown for six to eight minutes. Now flip the salmon using a spatula and cook for another six to eight minutes. If you allow this much time for each side of the fish, it cooks to perfection and detaches easily from the grates.

How long does salmon take to cook in foil on the grill?

Cooking salmon in foil requires medium heat and a somewhat prolonged time. The ideal temperature to cook salmon in foil is around 375 degrees F. Preheat the grill to the said temperature, close the lid, and allow the salmon to cook for around 14-18 minutes.

The 14-18 minute cooking time is based on one-inch thick pieces of salmon. If your salmon fillets are more than one inch thick, you may need more time to cook your fish to perfection.

Does salmon take longer in foil?

Yes, and for some reason. Salmon in foil needs more time to cook because, in this case, your fish cooks over indirect infrared heat. Aluminum foil doesn’t let most of the convectional heat pass through. As a result of indirect infrared cooking, your salmon’s sealed juices don’t escape and are retained in the fillets. Salmon is more yummy and delectable when cooked in foil.

What temperature should grilled salmon be?

As per FDA and USDA guidelines, the internal temperature of your salmon should register 145 °F (62.8 °C) before it’s ready to be consumed by a human. The guidelines also suggest allowing a rest time of around three minutes to let the carryover heat do its work, resulting in more brownish fillets.

Does salmon with skin take longer to cook?

Practically, grilling salmon with skin takes the same time as salmon with skin removed. It’s because the actual cooking time depends on the salmon thickness and grill temperature. Since fillets with skin are slightly thicker than those without skin, you can raise your grill’s temperature or prolong cooking time to perfectly grill salmon fillets with skin. However, don’t increase the temperature by more than 15-20 degrees or cooking time by more than a few extra seconds. Otherwise, you’ll end up overcooking your salmon.

To summarize, make subtle adjustments to your cook time based on the thickness of salmon fillets with skin.

How long does it take to grill salmon without skin?

The actual cooking time depends on the thickness of salmon fillets, regardless of whether they’re with skin or with skin removed. The general rule goes that you need to cook salmon for six to eight minutes at 450-500 degrees F per inch thickness of the fish. Salmon skin doesn’t affect the overall grill time if you follow the time and temperature guidelines for each inch of fish.

Is it safe to eat salmon skin?

Salmon skin is as safe for humans as salmon flesh. Salmon skin contains the highest concentration of omega-3 fatty acids in the fish. These fatty acids are scientifically proven to decrease triglyceride levels in your body and reduce the risk of heart disease.

In the end, it boils down to individual preferences. If you don’t like the taste of salmon skin, you can remove it before cooking and grill its flesh. You can also cook salmon with skin and later remove it before eating.

Final Thoughts

If you’re wondering how long to grill salmon, a complete check on temperature and cooking time can ensure healthy cooked fish. Good luck with your favorite recipe for Salmon!

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