Grilling Perfect Salmon with Honey Melt®
I am originally from Seattle, Washington, home to some of the best seafood in the country. Wild salmon is my favorite fish of all – the most flavorful, salmon is a local food with a long cultural tradition that is an integral part of the Pacific Northwest at the most basic ecologic level.
Fatty, full of vitamins and omega-3s, I love eating wild salmon in almost any form: grilled, smoked, pan-seared, sushi, and sashimi. Nutritious, delectable, and easy to cook, and yet there are so many ways salmon can go wrong. Farmed salmon are best avoided for many reasons. Overcooked salmon looms large as a chewy, dry reminder of what it could have been. Breaks my salmon-loving heart.
There are no salmon-haters, only those who have never experienced correctly prepared salmon: fresh, flaky, flavorful, moist.
The secret lies in selecting the right salmon and serving it slightly underdone.
Only exceptionally fresh WILD salmon should be eaten (e.g., within 24-48 hours of being caught). If it has a fishy odor, the salmon is no longer fresh and will have an off-taste. Fresh salmon has NO smell. Ask when it was caught; confirm they received the whole fish, and not pre-filleted, so you know are buying freshly filleted salmon. If you cannot trust your local store to properly handle salmon in the meat case, buy it the same day they receive and fillet the fish. It should look firm and bright, not dull. If in doubt ask to smell it first – your nose will tell the entire story.
Choose belly fillets (with the thickest flesh) instead of the tails. Belly fillets have more fat and the thickness gives the fish better consistency. King (a.k.a. Chinook) is the fattiest and finest of all, and my personal favorite.
Once in a while the butcher will open up a king salmon and discover it’s a “white” king – this is an exquisite treat. The flesh is cream-colored instead of pale pink and has a higher fat content giving it an incredible flavor. (I was told once the difference in the flesh color is due to a slightly different diet from the others.)
Look for nice, pronounced fat lines.
Fresh is better than frozen. Fresh has better consistency. Frozen is okay if you can’t get fresh.
Alaska, British Columbia, and Washington have more sustainable salmon fisheries than other locations.
GRILLED SALMON WITH HONEY MELT
2 tbsp Honey Melt® Organic Spread
Healthy pinch of sea salt
Fresh ground pepper to taste
Juice from ½ juicy lemon
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 scallion, finely sliced, including the green
1 salmon fillet (2/3 lbs, or two servings), preferably belly
How to Cook (NOT Overcook) Salmon
I am a purist about my salmon and believe that less is more. A truly fresh, quality piece of wild king doesn’t need to be dressed up with intense sauces. It can and should stand on its own with careful enhancement.
1. Make a pan out of aluminum foil by doubling up layers of foil large enough to hold your fillet. Place the foil onto a cookie sheet. Lay the fillet onto the foil with the skin side down.
2. It will be easier to thoroughly cover your salmon with Honey Melt if it’s a little soft. Once your Honey Melt has softened slightly, generously coat your salmon filet with Honey Melt.
3. Take a generous pinch of salt and sprinkle the flesh side of the fish. Follow up with some fresh ground pepper to taste (but not too much).
4. Squeeze the juice from 2 lemon quarters into a small bowl. If you are using a “dry” lemon, then juice the all of the lemon into your bowl.
5. Crush the garlic into the lemon juice and swirl around a little bit so the garlic flavors mix nicely with the lemon juice.
6. Pour your garlic-lemon juice over the salmon, making sure the lemon juice and Honey Melt are contained in the foil.
7. Pour the finely sliced scallion over the salmon and snugly around the sides.
8. Depending on your mood, you have two options: resting on a cookie sheet, either carefully fold the aluminum foil on itself so it creates a sort of “salmon calzone” (for a slightly poached effect) – the slides are not sealed, but folded up to contain the ingredients, and the top foil is folded tightly over itself. Or, you can leave the foil open but shaped enough up to keep all of the ingredients contained. Allow this to marinate for 20 minutes or so. Meanwhile, preheat your grill on “high” while your salmon marinates.
9. When the salmon and grill are ready, carry your salmon to the grill on a cookie sheet and slide the foil off of the cookie sheet and onto the grill. Cover with the lid, turn the grill down to medium-low heat, and grill the fillet for ~7 minutes per 1 inch of thickness. My salmon was about 0.5 lbs, 1.5 inches thick and 8 minutes was perfect.
10. Here’s how to tell when your salmon is done:
• The top is slightly brown and/or tiny bits sticking up get a little charred (with foil open).
• A little whiteness appears at the sides from the fat.• A wooden spoon pressed on top gives back a little resistance but not too much.
• MOST IMPORTANTLY: gently cut into the thickest part with a butter knife. You should have some translucent, raw-looking fish. Don’t be afraid of the darker pink! This fish is easily parted with a butter knife. If it was truly raw, then the flesh would not be able to separate and would need another moment on the grill. Otherwise, do NOT cook the salmon any longer! The fish is most moist and delicious when you leave this translucent area as is.
Photo evidence: This salmon is perfectly done! I chose to have a slightly poached effect with the foil on top folded over itself; it smells amazing and is delicate and delicious to eat.
Serve salmon simply with a summer salad or side of steamed vegetables (I made a simple summer salad out of mango, avocado, and watermelon). The skin of the salmon is delicious and nutritious – you can lightly sear the salmon skin in a pan after gently removing any leftover grey flesh. The skin burns easily so you want to fry it on medium-low heat and only long enough to get a golden crispness to the bottom, which will be for only a moment or two.
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