Grilled Tasmanian salmon

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Grilling or smoking for me is by far the most preferred way to cook fish. There’s something utterly primal in the combination of fish and fire, since, mind you, this is just the way our great great ancestors used to cook it, right after pulling the fish out of the waters… The sea was the taste, the smoke was the spice and the fire was the soul.

Salmon is one of the most noble creatures of the sea and it deserves the noble and most traditional treatment – open fire!

Ever since I came to Australia I’ve preferred the Tasmanian salmon to it’s Norway sibling. Up until recently I was positive Tasmanian salmon belongs to the Pacific salmon species, but only lately I came to know that Tasmanian salmon farms grow Atlantic salmon and ocean trouts. It is probably due to the pristine and remote, relatively isolated, waters the salmon from Tasmania is so much better and tastier (in my opinion) than the Norwegian one.

Grilling fish can be one of the easiest cooking methods, if you bear in mind couple of classic pitfalls that can make your grilling experience not as easy as you’d like…

First of all – fish sticks to the grates. Yes, always. And the best way to avoid it is oiling – generously oil the fish, skin side especially, in addition to oiling your grates – that will make sure the touch points of the fish skin with the grates will be charred enough almost right away.

Second – once the fish is on the grill, don’t, just do not move it for at least 5-7 minutes. Moving is the best way to make skin torn and look nasty.

Third – always combine direct with indirect grilling. Start the fish on the skin side, right above the fire, cook it for about 5-7 minutes and  then move aside and cover, to “bake” the fish indirectly. Yes, I know I said not to move it, so if your grill is gas, simply turn off the burner under the fish, but if you’re char grilling – it’s best to lift the grate together with the fish and move the coals aside. Well, if that’s not possible either, then use tongues and spatula, lift the fish straight up (no dragging over the grates) and then vertically lower it on the place where you want it to be.

All right, enough theory, let’s get to business!

  • 4 fillets of salmon, skin on, about 250g (approximately 1/2 lb) each.
  • Coarse salt – few pinches
  • Coarsely ground black pepper – enough to sprinkle over
  • Olive oil – 6-8 tbsp
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon (or lime)

First of all, using your fingers, check the fillets – sometimes there are small bones left in. Should you find any, use the fish tweezers to remove them.

Now, as I said earlier, generously oil the fish, both skin and flesh sides. Then sprinkle the flesh side with salt, pepper, and eventually with the lemon juice.

Remember – lemon juice is acidic, and acid “cooks” the fish. Put the lemon juice on the fish just few moments before you place the fish on the grill. 

Grilling temperature – medium. Place the fish on the grill, directly above a burner or coals, close the lid and let it cook for about 6-7 minutes.

Switch to the indirect method – either turning off the burner, or moving coals – and continue grilling with the lid closed for about 10-12 more minutes, depends on how done you like your fish.

That’s it! Carefully lift the fish using the tongs and spatula and serve.

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