Grilling a Whole Salmon

I'll be honest: Grilling a whole salmon is more than a little tricky. It's much easier to fillet the fish and grill the individual fillets. But a whole grilled salmon can be an amazing sight. It's sure to enthrall your guests. You'll need a grill whose grate is long enough to accommodate the whole fish; keep in mind you'll need to roll it from front to back. One salmon serves at least 15 and as many as 30 people.

  • The herbs will give off a great aroma as the fish cooks.
  1. Start by purchasing the freshest whole salmon you can find. Make sure it's completely packed in ice, doesn't have too strong an odor and has eyes that are clear and full. Check the gills, too, to make sure they're bright and red.
  2. At home, cut away all the fins except the tail.
  3. Store the salmon on ice until 30 minutes before cooking, then remove it and let it rest at room temperature.
  4. Rinse and dry the herbs, and combine them in a bowl.
  5. Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat.
  6. When the butter melts, skim off the dairy foam that rises to the surface.
  7. Add the garlic and some salt and sauté the garlic very slowly.
  8. Remove the garlic after several minutes placing it in a small bowl. Mash it into a fine paste. Reserve the butter.
  9. Just before cooking, season the fish cavity generously with salt and pepper, then pack the herbs into the cavity.
  10. Heat the grill to medium-high and make sure the grate is brushed clean.
  11. Oil the grill grate lightly. Place the whole fish on the back part of the grill on one side with the spine facing you. Place it so it can be rolled over onto its other side.
  12. Shut the grill and let it cook undisturbed for 8 minutes.
  13. Using a spatula turn the fish over on the grill in one motion. Some skin may separate from the fish; this doesn't matter, but try not to let any flesh come off.
  14. Use the tongs to peel away the salmon skin from the cooked side of the fish, which is now facing you. It should peel away easily.
  15. Brush the exposed fillet with butter, smear it with some of the garlic paste, and season it well with salt and pepper.
  16. Cover the grill another 8 to 10 minutes.
  17. Reduce the heat to low and repeat steps 13, 14 and 15.
  18. The fish is done when it loses it translucence.
  19. To remove the fish, slide a cookie sheet or long metal spatula.
  20. The cooked flesh will separate easily from the rib bones; you should be able to carefully pull off serving portions using the tongs and spatula. Be careful, though, because salmon fillets have two sets of bones. There are the rib bones on the inside, plus a smaller set that extends straight into the fillet.
  • 1 whole salmon, dressed, with skin, head and tail
  • 2 whole bunches sage
  • 2 whole bunches thyme
  • 1 whole bunch rosemary
  • 1/2 lb. butter
  • 1 head garlic or 12-15 cloves
  • fresh cracked black pepper
  • kosher salt

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