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Grilled salmon is salmon that has been cooked over coals or a gas flame and is one of the oldest fish preparations known. Although salmon has a strong and distinct flavor, many recipes for grilled salmon use a brief marinade beforehand to help accent the taste of the fish. The cooking times and styles vary depending on the cut, with the use of the whole fish involving a completely different method altogether. One of the challenges that many cooks face when attempting to make grilled salmon is the delicate nature of the fish, which can easily burn and stick to a grill or fall apart and drop onto the coals. Finished grilled salmon is often served with slices of lemon or a dipping sauce such as aioli.
Some grilled salmon recipes call for the fish to be marinated before it is cooked. This not only helps to create a unique flavor, but assists in developing a crust on the fish as it cooks and the sugars in the marinade caramelize. One of the differences between marinating salmon for grilling as opposed to marinating other meats is that the salmon cannot be left in the marinade for long. The flesh of the fish will start to chemically cook the longer it sits in an acidic liquid, which can cause the final grilled fish to be tough.
In most cases, salmon is grilled over medium-high heat for only a few minutes each side. This helps to keep the inside of the fish moist while also browning the surface. The skin is frequently left on to provide some structure to hold the shape of the cut. A whole grilled salmon is not cooked in this way, but instead is roasted slowly over low heat to allow the entire dense fish to cook thoroughly. Salmon is a type of fish that benefits greatly from being taken off the grill just before it has completed cooking, allowing the residual heat in the cut to complete the process.
One of the main problems with grilling salmon is that, as it cooks, the fish becomes lighter and flakier than when it is raw. If part of the salmon sticks to the grill, then it can be pulled away and start to break apart the flesh, leaving it to burn or fall directly into the grill. Several methods of cooking are used to combat this problem and give unique results, including cooking the salmon on a plank made of cedar that imparts a smoky taste as it cooks.
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