When it comes to grilling, I find that many folks avoid salmon — or any fish — because it can stick to the grill or turn out dry from too much cooking.
One reason for overcooking could be that many recipes say to cook fish until it flakes easily. I have found that by that time, it's overdone and dry. Other recipes say to follow the Canadian rule of 10 minutes of cooking time per 1-inch thickness of fish. Paired with brining, that practice generally works for me.
I like salmon when you can break off pieces gently with a fork. Because we are in the middle of wild salmon season, I'll share my tricks.
One technique I use covers part of one of the above concerns and all of the other. Whether you bake, broil, grill or cook salmon in the skillet, brine it first. It's a sure-fire way to make sure the salmon turns out moist. The brine, a mixture of water, salt and sometimes sugar, sort of plumps the salmon, adding seasoned moisture to it.
It's easy enough that you can brine the salmon for a minimum of 30 minutes or up to 1 to 2 hours, but no longer. Once you've brined the salmon and follow a
timed cooking method, it shouldn't turn out dry.
To prevent fish from sticking to the grill, it's a good idea to first oil it a bit.
Make sure your grill is hot. To oil the grates, fold several pieces of paper towel — you should have a thick wad of it -- into about a 3-by-3-inch square. Dip much of that square into a bowl of flavorless oil, such as canola, and, using long handled tongs, rub the oiled towel on the grates.
Close the lid and let it heat again for a few minutes.
Use salmon fillet with skin on and place it on the grates flesh side down. The piece of salmon will immediately cling to the grates. And it will continue to cling tighter until it's cooked enough to release its grip. Once this happens, you should be able to slip a spatula underneath it easily and turn it over. The time it takes to do this depends on how thick the fish is, but it can be about 7 minutes. That's a bit longer than the general rule of thumb of cooking fish 5 minutes per side (10 minutes total time for 1-inch-thick fish). So once you flip it, grill it just a few minutes more. When the salmon is done, slip a spatula between the flesh and the skin, leaving the skin on the grate.
Grilled Salmon with Salsa and Pineapple
Serves: 4. Preparation time: 15 minutes. Total time: 45 minutes.
If you buy a whole salmon filet and cut it into individual portions, cut them from the center or thickest part. Save the thinner portions, such as the tail, for another use. From and tested by Susan M. Selasky in the Free Press Test Kitchen.
1 pounds center-cut salmon filet
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon all-purpose seasoning
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
FOR THE SALSA:
5 mini red bell peppers
6 pineapple slices, about ½-inch thick
¼ cup sliced green onion
¼ cup diced red onion
FOR THE SALAD:
8 cups mixed field greens
Red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
Preheat the grill to medium. Cut the salmon into about four even 4-ounce portions or desired size. Place the salmon on a plate and rub with about 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season with the paprika, all-purpose seasoning, salt and black pepper. Set aside.
Brush the bell peppers and pineapple slices with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and season the peppers with salt and pepper.
When the grill is hot, place the peppers and pineapple on the grill. Grill the peppers and the pineapple slices until you get nice grill marks on each side of the pineapple and all sides of the peppers. Remove from the grill. Chop the peppers and half of the pineapple and place in a bowl with the green onion and red onion. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. Cut the remaining pineapple in slices to serve with the salmon.
For the salad, place the greens in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil and red wine vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Divide salad among four serving plates.
Place the salmon pieces on the grill, flesh side down and grill about 5 minutes depending on the thickness. When the salmon releases from the grates easily, turn it skin side down and grill another 5 minutes. The salmon should be flake easily — not come apart in shreds.
Remove it from the grill by sliding a spatula between the salmon and the skin. Place the salmon the salad greens and top with about 2 tablespoons of the salsa and serve with grilled pineapple.
Nutrition information: 437 calories (42 percent from fat), 21 grams fat (3 grams sat. fat), 38 grams carbohydrates, 28 grams protein, 394 mg sodium, 70 mg cholesterol, 6 grams fiber.