Perfect-Every-Time Grilled Salmon Fillets with Crispy Skin

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Learn how to grill salmon this summer! My meticulously tested Perfect-Every-Time Grilled Salmon recipe is the best place to start. Using skin-on salmon fillets means there's no need for special equipment, like a cedar plank or aluminum foil, and ensures the fish grills up perfectly without sticking. Just season the salmon with a BBQ dry rub and grill until flaky with beautifully crispy skin – easy as that!

An all-purpose recipe you can turn to all summer, ready in 30 minutes or less!

Four grilled salmon fillets topped with pineapple salsa rest atop a light blue plate that sits atop a light gray surface. A bowl of pineapple salsa, a pepper mill, a yellow linen napkin, and a green drinking glass surround the plate at center.
Photography by Gayle McLeod

Tender and Flaky, Everyday BBQ Salmon that Grills Up Like a Dream

Confession: I’ve always felt intimidated by learning how to cook salmon on the grill – even after many years of hosting the PWWB Grilling Series! Fish is notorious for sticking to the grill grates and overcooking over high heat.

I knew if I started working on a grilled salmon recipe, I wouldn’t stop until the results were perfect. So, after many months of obsessive recipe testing, I’m proud to say this flaky, tender grilled salmon with skin is as good as it gets. ✨

Seasoned with a simple dry rub and quickly grilled until flaky and tender, this Perfect-Every-Time Grilled Salmon is an all-purpose recipe for summer!

Many grilled salmon recipes prepare a whole fillet or call for equipment like a cedar plank or foil packets. These methods all work well, but honestly feel a little fussy on a low-energy weeknight.

Throughout recipe testing, I realized there’s no need for fancy equipment if you use skin-on salmon fillets. The skin acts as a natural barrier on the hot grill, protecting the delicate flesh from sticking or burning on the grates.

The salmon ends up being perfectly flaky and tender, all with deliciously crispy skin, and it’s ready in only 10 minutes. From there, you can enjoy it on its on or pair it with any of your favorite fresh side dishes. A new staple for your summer dinner rotation!

Love Easy Salmon Dinners? ⇢ Be sure to try my Crispy Furikake Salmon and Spicy Salmon Taco Bowls, two weeknight-friendly recipes ready in 30 minutes or less! 🐟

3 Skin-On Salmon Fillet Prep Tips

Many grilled salmon recipes prepare a whole salmon fillet, which is great for backyard BBQs or parties. This recipe uses individually portioned salmon fillets instead – perfect for weeknight dinners and much more budget-friendly! Through recipe testing, I found that 6 ounce, 1-inch thick salmon fillets are best for grilling.

Salmon fillets on parchment paper surrounded by spices, dried herbs, and olive oil.
For easy grilling, choose uniform salmon fillets; 6-ounce portions that are about 1-inch thick work perfectly.
Salmon fillets on a small yellow baking sheet. The salmon is skin side up, being coated in oil with a wooden pastry brush.
Pat the salmon dry, then generously coat with oil to prevent it from sticking to the grill grates as it cooks.

Before firing up the grill, be sure to take care of a few quick bits of prep…

  1. Remove any scales or pin bones from the fish. A stainless steel ring scaler makes de-scaling super easy. You can pull out any hard pin bones from the flesh with tweezers or fingers. Better yet, ask your local fishmonger to take care of all this for you!
  2. Pat the fish dry with a paper towel. Removing moisture helps the seasoning soak into the flesh.
  3. Coat with oil. Slather both the salmon skin and flesh with oil—and be extra generous with the edges nearest the skin! Avocado oil has a high smoking point, which is excellent for a hot grill.

My Go-To Grilled Salmon Dry Rub

I tested many seasoning options for learning how to grill salmon. Marinades and glazes were always delicious, but a simple BBQ dry rub ended up being my favorite. It’s quick to throw together with pantry staple ingredients, and the smoky-sweet flavor pairs well with just about any summer side dish.

An overhead shot of a stoneware bowl of dry rub ingredients atop a grey and white surface.
This grilled salmon dry rub is a quick mix of brown sugar and staple spices like chili powder and smoked paprika.
Salmon fillets on a small yellow baking sheet seasoned with BBQ dry rub.
Mix up the smoky-sweet spice blend and sprinkle it over the salmon, giving the fish a generous dusting.

This grilled salmon rub is a riff on my All-Purpose BBQ Dry Rub. It’s a quick mix of spices I always have in my pantry: brown sugar, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, and salt. The balance of flavor is perfect and the brown sugar caramelizes on the grill, adding next-level char to an already delicious piece of fish.

To season the fish, sprinkle the BBQ grilled salmon rub on the fillets, pressing the spices into the flesh using your hands. Avoid seasoning the edges closest to the skin. Why? ⇢ This helps prevent the salmon from sticking to the grates! The brown sugar in the BBQ rub will caramelize on the grill grates, making it a little harder to release the fish.

Other Easy Grilled Salmon Seasoning Variations

  • Many dry rub or spice blends work well with this recipe. Try it with taco seasoning, Cajun seasoning, a Mediterranean spice blend, or a Jamaican jerk seasoning. Whatever spice blend you choose, you’ll need about 3 heaping tablespoons.
  • Feel free to soak your salmon in a quick marinade instead! Check out my 15 Go-To Grilling Marinades for a variety of easy, globally-inspired flavors.

How to Grill Salmon with Skin (Plus Tips to Prevent Sticking!)

Grilling skin-on salmon keeps things quick, simple, and weeknight-friendly. You can cook a perfect piece of flaky salmon on the grill in about 10 minutes – no cedar plank or foil packets required!

Two seasoned salmon fillets facing skin side down grill atop gas grill grates.
Grill the salmon skin side down. After about 8 minutes, the salmon will be medium-rare with crispy skin.
Two grilled salmon fillets facing skin side up grill atop gas grill grates.
For grill marks and delicious caramelization, carefully flip the salmon and cook a few minutes longer.
1

Preheat the grill. You can grill salmon on either a gas or charcoal grill. Preheat your grill to medium-high, direct heat (about 450-500 degrees F), then give the grates a good clean. Learn more! My Grilling 101 Guide covers everything you need to know about setting up your grill.

2

Grill the salmon skin down. Before adding the salmon to the grill, spritz a wad of paper towels with cooking spray, grab it with grill tongs, and brush it over the grates. Greasing also helps prevent the salmon from sticking! Add the fish skin side down and perpendicular to the grates, then close the lid. The skin gets nice and crispy, acting as a natural barrier to the flaky salmon. How long to grill salmon? ⇢ Aim for 8 minutes for a beautiful medium-rare.

3

Optional! Flip to sear the fish. I like to quickly flip the grilled salmon to add some grill marks and caramelized char. To do so, peel the fillet from the grates with grill tongs and carefully flip with a spatula, cooking a few minutes longer.

Four grilled salmon fillets rest atop a light blue plate that sits atop a light gray surface. A bowl of pineapple salsa, a wooden pepper mill, a yellow linen napkin with utensils resting atop, a small terracotta colored pinch bowl filled with salt, and a green drinking glass surround the plate at center.
The grilled salmon fillets are ready once they’re flaky and tender with crispy skin.

Grilled Salmon Temperature Guide

This grilled salmon recipe aims for a tender, slightly pink medium-rare (about 110-120 degrees F). You can cook it longer to your liking. At about 130-140 degrees F, your salmon is well done, firm, and fully cooked. Remember, the salmon temperature will continue to rise as it rests!

Serving Suggestions

If you love the crispy fish skin, definitely leave it on! But if it’s not your thing, no worries—the skin has done its job keeping the salmon nice and tender, so you can remove it before serving if you prefer.

A side angle shot of grilled salmon fillets rest atop a light blue plate that sits atop a light gray surface. A bowl of pineapple salsa and a small terracotta colored pinch bowl of salt surround the plate at center.
This grilled salmon is great on its own and it’s a stunning centerpiece for any summer cookout. Pair with grilled veggies, baked beans, pasta salad, and more!

I love pairing flaky, crispy grilled salmon with a fruity Grilled Pineapple Salsa or Fresh Mango Salsa. Add some cilantro lime rice or a quick Mixed Greens Side Salad to make it a simple, stunning weeknight dinner!

This BBQ grilled salmon is also versatile enough to pair with any of your favorite summer sides. For an epic backyard cookout, serve grilled salmon with Brown Sugar Baked Beans, Sundried Tomato Pasta Salad, or potato salad.

Got Leftovers? ⇢ Grilled salmon with skin is also fantastic repurposed into fish tacos, a salad, or a rice bowl. It’s the perfect summertime lunch! You can keep the leftover fish in your fridge for up to 2 days.

An overhead shot of a grilled salmon filet served atop white rice with pineapple salsa on top in a light blue colored plate. The plate sits atop a light gray textured surface. A fork rests atop the plate and the plate is surrounded by various plates, bowls, dishes, and a gold yellow linen napkin.
Or, serve it in a quick weeknight rice bowl with Grilled Pineapple Salsa!

I can’t wait for you to try these Perfect-Every-Time Grilled Salmon Fillets! I tested this recipe to perfection to make sure it was easy, beautifully tender and flaky, and super weeknight-friendly – I think you’ll love it just as much as we do.

If you do give them a try, be sure to let us know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo and tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. We LOVE seeing your PWWB creations! ♡ Happy grilling!

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Four grilled salmon fillets topped with pineapple salsa rest atop a light blue plate that sits atop a light gray surface. A few dishes, a pepper mill, a yellow linen napkin, and a green drinking glass surround the plate at center.

Perfect-Every-Time Grilled Salmon Fillets with Crispy Skin

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  • Author: Jess Larson
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: serves 4
  • Category: Main Dish, Seafood Recipes
  • Method: Grilling & Smoking
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

I’ve always felt a bit intimidated by learning how to cook salmon on the grill. So, after months of obsessive recipe testing, I’m proud to say that these Perfect-Every-Time Grilled Salmon Fillets are as good as it gets!

Rather than using a cedar plank or aluminum foil packets, this recipe uses skin-on salmon fillets to create a natural barrier between the fish and the hot grill, protecting the delicate flesh from sticking or burning on the grates. After about 10 minutes, the salmon is flaky and tender with deliciously crispy skin – so easy!

I’ve kept seasoning really simple here, using a quick BBQ dry rub made with brown sugar and pantry staple spices, but this is a wonderfully versatile recipe that you can make with any spice blend or marinade you love. Be sure to check the out the blog post, above, for more inspiration. ♡ Happy grilling!


Ingredients

Scale
  • four 6-ounce skin-on salmon fillets, about 1-inch thick (approx. 1 ½ pounds total)
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil or high smoke point vegetable oil of choice
  • kosher salt and ground black pepper, to season
  • brown sugar BBQ dry rub (below)
  • nonstick cooking spray, for grilling

for the brown sugar BBQ dry rub:

  • 2 tablespoons lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 heaping teaspoon kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Grill prep: Prepare the grill for medium-high direct heat grilling, about 450-500 degrees F. Once preheated, clean the grates well with a wire brush.Weber Genesis II Propane Grill on a deck.
  2. Salmon prep: Meanwhile, as the grill preheats, prepare the salmon fillets. If present, remove any scales from the skin and pin bones from the flesh. Use paper towel to pat the entire surface of the salmon fillets as dry as possible. Brush the skin with oil, then season with a good pinch of kosher salt and ground black pepper as desired. Flip the salmon fillets over, flesh side facing up, and generously brush oil over the entire surface of the salmon, taking extra care to ensure the edges of the fillets nearest the skin are well oiled.Salmon fillets on a small yellow baking sheet. The salmon is skin side up, being coated in oil with a wooden pastry brush.
  3. Season the salmon: Add all listed dry rub ingredients to a small bowl and mix to combine well. Generously sprinkle the dry rub the salmon fillets, using your hands to gently press the rub into the surface of the flesh. To help prevent the salmon from sticking to the grill grates, do your best to avoid seasoning the sides of the salmon fillets, especially the edges nearest the skin.Salmon fillets on a small yellow baking sheet seasoned with BBQ dry rub.
  4. Grill the salmon skin-side down: Just before placing the salmon on the grill, generously spritz a wad of paper towel with nonstick cooking spray. Use grill tongs to run the paper towel over the grill grates to prevent sticking. Place the salmon fillets on the grill, skin side facing down, arranging them perpendicular to the grill grates. Close the lid and grill 8 minutes.Four seasoned and grilled salmon fillets facing skin side down grill atop gas grill grates.
  5. Optional: Flip to sear the flesh: The salmon should be nearly ready at this point, but for pretty grill marks, carefully flip the fillets. I find it’s easiest to use grill tongs to very carefully peel the edges of the skin from the grill grates, then slide a thin grill spatula underneath the fish. Gently flip, then close the lid and grill 1-2 minutes longer or until the salmon is cooked to your liking.Four grilled salmon fillets facing skin side up grill atop gas grill grates.
  6. Serve: Remove the grilled salmon fillets from the grill and serve immediately with your favorite sides of choice – check the blog post, above, for more inspiration. Enjoy!Flaky grilled salmon is served atop white rice with pineapple salsa on top in a light blue colored plate. The plate sits atop a light gray textured surface.


Notes

Jess’ Tips and Tricks:

  • Choosing salmon for this recipe: For best results, opt for salmon fillets that are uniform in size and thickness. Through recipe testing, I found that 1-inch thick fillets are ideal for grilling – the skin gets beautifully crisp without charring and the fish stays super tender.
  • Salmon prep: If scales are present on the skin, you need to remove them before prepping the salmon as described in Step 2. I find it’s easiest to place the fish in a plastic bag and use a stainless steel ring scaler; of course the folks behind your local seafood counter can also take care of this for you – just ask!
  • Quick note on doneness: As written, this recipe yields medium-rare salmon fillets, or an internal temperature of about 125 degrees F. Feel free to take your salmon a little further by cooking a little longer in Step 5. For precise results, determine doneness with an instant read thermometer; you can also knick the flesh with a knife and peek to see if it’s as opaque as you like through the center.

Easy Recipe Variations:

  • With a goal of making this recipe as all-purpose as possible, I opted for a brown sugar BBQ dry rub since it’s quick to make with pantry ingredients, it grills up beautifully, and the resulting salmon is super versatile. That said, the grilling method works with any number of different seasonings. For dry rubs and spice blends: use 3 heaping tablespoons and season as described in Step 3. For wet rubs and marinades: brush the marinade over the top of the salmon fillets, doing your best to avoid the sides near the skin. Check out my 15 Go-To Grilling Marinades, a collection of easy marinades for everything from lemon herb salmon to Korean-inspired bulgogi salmon.

Storage and Reheating:

  • Store leftover grilled salmon in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Leftovers are great served cold, though you can also reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop until warmed through.

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Hi there, I'm Jess!

If there’s 1 thing to know about me, it’s this: I am head-over-heels in love with food. I’m on a mission to make weeknight cooking flavorful, fast, & fun for other foodies, & PWWB is where I share foolproof recipes that deliver major flavor with minimal effort. Other true loves: pretty shoes, puppies, Grey’s Anatomy, & my cozy kitchen in Minneapolis, MN.

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