Since You Asked: Grilling fish all about the rules

I'm planning a trip to Alaska to fish for salmon. I've been told I'll likely catch enough fish to send some home. I want to make sure that when I grill it, the salmon doesn't turn out dry or bland. What is your advice?

— Charlie O., Medford

There's little chance Alaskan salmon could turn out bland, but cooking it until dry — overcooking, actually — can happen before you realize. Salmon is a firm-fleshed fish, but it cooks quickly.

Our July 4 story on grilling advocated leaving the skin on fish fillets to protect the flesh and to ensure easy removal from the grill. When fish is done, slip a spatula between the flesh and the skin and leave the skin on the grate.

Grilling fish in a lot of gloppy sauce makes it more prone to sticking. So confine flavoring to a squirt of lemon juice or a bit of flavored butter when it's done, maybe drizzles of olive oil or maple syrup for the last few minutes of cooking.

First, start with clean grill grates. If you didn't clean them after the last cookout, wait until they're hot and give them a good rub with a heavy grill brush or even a ball of foil. Then either grease the grate with wadded-up paper towels dipped in oil or brush some oil on the fish.

Measure the fillet's thickness by pointing your index finger down next to the fish. The first line of your joint is 1 inch. A general rule is 10 minutes of cooking per inch thickness — total, not per side.

Lay the fish skin-side down on the grates and don't move it for at least five minutes. If there is any resistance when you try to turn it, wait for another minute. And really, there is no reason to flip fish to the other side if you cover it for a few minutes to finish cooking.

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