Let's make grilled BBQ Salmon using the same technique as the oh-so-popular BBQ chicken! Grilling salmon and basting with BBQ sauce is super delicious, quick and oh-so easy. It's ready in just about 20 minutes, so it's perfect for a quick weeknight dinner or a fancier Sunday supper.
Grilling the fresh salmon and brushing on some sweet and tangy BBQ sauce results in a flavor explosion that is going to make your taste buds super happy. The sugars in the sauce start to caramelize and create a fantastic glaze.
Now let's fire up the grill and scroll on down to the recipe for how to make BBQ grilled salmon. Just be sure to make extra, as it's even delicious served cold for lunch the next day with a salad and some BBQ vinaigrette.
To Marinate (or Not)?
Marinating the salmon before it hits the grill is totally optional. Using just a little of your favorite dry spice rub will add some extra flavor and help form a crust on the fish. Marinating in BBQ sauce will add a little flavor, but it will also burn pretty easily, so I will usually skip marinating with a sugary BBQ sauce.
If you are eager to get started early, you can season it with some kosher salt a few hours before cooking, which will act as a dry brine, seasoning the salmon all the way through and enhancing the natural flavors.
What You Need
- Quality Salmon - I recommend wild salmon from Alaska. Learn more in the Salmon 101 Quick Guide.
- Fish tweezers for removing the pin bones.
- Fish spatula - Great for getting under the skin to remove the filets in one piece.
- High-temp silicone basting brush for brushing on the sauce.
- BBQ sauce - Making your own is awesome, but your favorite store-bought version will work great too.
- Instant-read thermometer - the best way to precisely tell when the salmon is finished cooking.
- A little oil is required - Brushing some oil on the fish before grilling helps keep it from sticking to the grill.
- Grill with the skin side down, and there's no need to turn it if you cook with the lid closed.
- Watch out for the burn - BBQ sauce has sugar and can burn on the grill. This isn't an issue if you grill with the skin-side down and don't flip the salmon.
- Wild salmon cooks more quickly than farmed salmon because of its lower fat content.
- Salmon is best cooked to an internal temp of 125° to 130° F (140° F for well done).
- Want it a little smoky? You can add some wood chips (I recommend Alder wood) to your grill's fire.
- You can definitely bake the BBQ salmon in the oven if grilling isn't an option.
Perfect Sides for Salmon
- Grilled Potatoes
- Creamy Mashed Potatoes
- Grilled Broccolini
- Simple Sauteed Corn
- Heirloom Tomato Salad
- Potato Salad
- Wine pairing: With salmon, you can go white or red. Since the flavors of this dish are a little bigger with the sauce, go with a nice pinot noir.
BBQ Salmon Recipe
- 4 salmon filets (preferably wild with the skin on)
- 1 tablespoon neutral cooking oil (such as canola oil)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- ¼ cup BBQ sauce (plus more for serving)
- Chopped fresh herbs such as chives, cilantro or parsley (optional)
- Preheat grill to medium-high (400° F / 204° C).
- Brush the salmon filets with a little oil and season liberally with Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.
- Place salmon skin-side down onto the grill over direct heat and cook for about 4 to 5 minutes with the lid closed.
- Brush on a layer of BBQ sauce on the flesh side of the salmon and continue to cook with the lid closed until the internal temperature of the salmon reaches 125° to 130° F (140° F for well done), about 10 to 15 minutes total depending on the size of the filet. Verify temperature with an instant-read thermometer.
- When the desired doneness is reached, use a spatula to carefully remove the salmon fillets from the grill. Sprinkle on some fresh herbs for garnish if desired and serve immediately.
- Wild salmon cooks more quickly than farm-raised salmon and the thickness of the filet can change the cook time.
- Use a probe thermometer to check doneness.
- Grill the entire time on the skin side; there is no need to flip.