Barbecuing a Whole Salmon

Updated on March 10, 2020
Paul Edmondson profile image

Paul is a barbecue enthusiast. He is currently grilling and smoking on a Komodo Kamado Ultimate 23.

Whole, Grilled Salmon
Whole, Grilled Salmon

Grilling an Entire Salmon

Grilling an entire salmon is easy and will feed a large dinner party. A whole salmon is the entire fish in one piece that has been cleaned. It usually comes with the head removed, but some fish markets sell it with the head. The ideal size for barbecuing is between eight to twelve pounds.

If you are interested in smoked salmon, I would try this recipe.

Rate the Whole Salmon Recipe

3.3 stars from 204 ratings of Barbecue whole salmon

What Type of Salmon Is the Best to Grill?

In this recipe, we grilled a Copper River salmon that was a little under eight pounds. Wild-caught salmon from Alaska is the "Best Choice," according to Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program and the Marine Stewardship Council. Alaskan Pacific salmon is managed very well; officials keep a close watch on the salmon ecosystems as well as the fisheries. Look for Alaskan, wild salmon with the following names: Chinook, Coho, Chum, Keta, King, Pink, Red, Silver & Sockeye Salmon, and Sake.

If possible, don't choose farmed Atlantic salmon; it is under the "avoid" category.

Cook Time for Barbecued Whole Salmon

Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 45 min
Ready in: 1 hour 5 min
Yields: An 8 lb. salmon serves 16 adults


  • 8 to 12 lbs whole, wild-caught, Alaskan salmon
  • 4 tablespoon course salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 lemons, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch dill
The first step is washing the salmon under cold water and patting it dry on the inside and outside with paper towels
The first step is washing the salmon under cold water and patting it dry on the inside and outside with paper towels

Washing the Salmon

Run the entire salmon under cold water and thoroughly rinse the inside and outside of the fish. Pat it dry on the inside and outside with paper towels. Dispose of the paper towels once the fish is dry.

Slice slits in Salmon
Slice slits in Salmon

Slice Slits in the Outside of the Salmon

Once the fish is dry, using a very sharp knife, slice 3/4 of an inch deep slits that run about three inches long as shown in the photo. Create three to four slits on each side of the salmon.

The slits are used to create an opening from the outside of the fish to get seasoning and basting juices into the meat.

Salt and pepper the inside of the salmon
Salt and pepper the inside of the salmon

Add Salt and Pepper to the Inside of the Salmon

Using the salt and pepper, season the inside of the salmon. It's important that the salt and pepper are the first seasonings added to the fish. This helps the meat absorb the flavors of the other seasonings added later.

Lemon and dill on the inside of the salmon
Lemon and dill on the inside of the salmon

Add the Dill and the Lemon to the Salmon

Laying the fish down, put down a layer of dill on the inside of the salmon. Next, take lemon slices and create a layer of lemon. To create a richer flavor, add a few pads of butter on top of the lemon slices. Add another layer of dill over the lemons and close the salmon.

Slits filled with salt and pepper, dill and lemon
Slits filled with salt and pepper, dill and lemon

Fill the Slits with Seasoning

With the salmon closed, add the following to the slits on the outside of the salmon:

  • Salt and pepper
  • A little dill
  • Lemon slices

Repeat these steps on both sides of the salmon.

Whole salmon on the grill
Whole salmon on the grill

Put the Salmon on the Grill

Preheat the barbecue to 300 degrees. This recipe was tested on gas grills, charcoal grills, and Kamados (including a Big Green Egg). Unlike other barbecue recipes, this barbecued salmon works well on all grill types because the salmon meat is very lean and has minimal drippings.

You can either place the entire salmon on the grill or add a baking fish tray to hold the salmon.

Tinfoil covered paddles for flipping the salmon
Tinfoil covered paddles for flipping the salmon

Baste and Flip the Salmon Every 15 Minutes

To make the basting sauce:

  1. Melt 1/2 of a cube of salted butter in a pan
  2. Add 1/2 tablespoon of salt
  3. Add a 1/4 can of beer (3 ounces)

Every 15 minutes brush basting sauce on the salmon and flip the fish.

Flipping an entire salmon is a bit tricky. Use two cardboard paddles that are about 12 inches long and 6 inches wide covered in tinfoil. As shown in the photo, slide one of the paddles under the salmon and use the other paddle to flip the salmon gently over. Be as gentle as possible; salmon can be flaky and easily fall apart.

Grilled whole salmon
Grilled whole salmon

Serving Grilled Whole Salmon

A whole salmon will take about 45 minutes to one hour to grill. It's done when it's pink on the inside, with the edges cooked (usually looks lighter in color) and the skin is crisp. On an instant-read thermometer, it should be pulled from the grill between 120 degrees for rare salmon and 130 degrees for medium. Let the salmon sit for ten minutes and then serve.

How to Cut a Whole Salmon for Serving:

  • To create fillets, take a very sharp knife and, starting at the end of the fish, slice the meat away from the bone in one large sheet. Start at the head and move the knife to the tail. The knife must be very sharp.
  • To create steaks, take a large sharp knife and slice all the way through the fish across the width about every 1/2 inch.

whole salmon barbecue dinner
whole salmon barbecue dinner

The Whole Salmon Barbecued Dinner

An entire salmon that is eight to twelve pounds will serve a group of 12 to 20 good eaters. Recommended side dishes include:


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Paul Edmondson profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Edmondson 

      2 years ago from Burlingame, CA

      Many people prefer the head cut off the fish when it's served If folks won't appreciate the fish head, go ahead and cut it off.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      We got a whole salmon from the fishing pier at Half Moon Bay and froze it. (Not ideal.) Do you think I should cut the head off before grilling this weekend? Thx!

    • suziann50 profile image


      3 years ago

      I cannot wait to try this recipe. Thank you for the amazing information on how to achieve the perfect Salmon dinner.

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 

      5 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Next time you throw a salmon on the BBQ, let me know. I'll be over on the first plane

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 

      5 years ago from Canada

      This page made me hungry, LOL. I haven't had a whole BBQ'd salmon for years...

    • trusouldj profile image

      LaZeric Freeman 

      6 years ago from Hammond


    • Carl8033 profile image

      Carl Junior 

      7 years ago

      That salmon looks extra delicious, great job :)

    • Paul Edmondson profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Edmondson 

      7 years ago from Burlingame, CA

      Try reducing the heat and using a stone (similar to a pizza stone) to shield the direct heat. Putting a little oil down on the stone will also help. Then grill the fish on the stone. Many barbecuers only grill fish this way.

    • portables profile image


      7 years ago

      I've found it really hard to keep the temp. down enough so that it doesn't burn on the outside but stay raw in the middle!

    • Paul Edmondson profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Edmondson 

      7 years ago from Burlingame, CA

      I've done trout wrapped in foil, but not salmon. I'll give it a shot.

    • profile image


      7 years ago from UK

      Looks mouth-watering. As an alternative, have you tried the 'back-woods' method ?. Prep the fish as in your hub, but instead of grilling, wrap fish in wet newspaper (or tin foil) and place on a fire. This will steam the fish in it's own juices.

      Before anyone asks, the newspaper needs to be wet to stop it burning.

    • pooja2109 profile image

      Pooja S 

      7 years ago from Toronto

      Really need to try this summer...

    • newusedcarssacram profile image


      7 years ago from Sacramento, CA, U.S.A

      Grilling a whole Salmon, sounds amazing…

    • indian cooking profile image

      Sonia Sood 

      7 years ago from Mumbai

      Never tried this... But would love to. Pinning this Hub for reference.

    • ytsenoh profile image


      7 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

      Oh my goodness. Everything about this, from the language to the images to the directions -- all pretty incredible. Can't wait to make this!

    • CZCZCZ profile image


      7 years ago from Oregon

      Just delicious. We love to cook a whole salmon for a group of friends and family after an awesome weekend of fishing. This is a wonderful way to do it and have an impressive presentation.

    • vespawoolf profile image

      Vespa Woolf 

      7 years ago from Peru, South America

      This is a simple yet elegant idea for feeding a crowd. I like the step-by-step photos since handling and cooking a whole fish can be overwhelming for those who don't have experience with it. Salmon is my favorite fish, so I personally would love to try this! Voted up and shared.

    • iguidenetwork profile image


      7 years ago from Austin, TX

      This is surely to be delicious! I love barbecues but I haven't tried grilling a salmon nor eaten a grilled salmon, but it's a nice idea you have. Thanks for posting. :)

    • PaoloJpm profile image

      John Paolo B.Magdaluyo 

      7 years ago from Philippine

      Wow! staring at your pictures made me hungry. Great hub, voted up! looking forward trying it sometimes.

    • Gordon Hamilton profile image

      Gordon Hamilton 

      9 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

      I love the idea of grilled salmon, Paul, though I have never tasted it, as we quite simply don't get the weather here in Scotland to arrange outdoor grilling. Where it is done, it's always as a last minute arrangement, with fresh salmon not always available. I agree with you absolutely that it should never be frozen.

      I hope you don't mind me asking but I am curious as to why you removed the head from the salmon prior to cooking it, or did you perhaps buy it that way? I would usually cook any whole fish with both the head and tail intact, to help the fish keep its shape. There is also an incredibly tasty little bit on trout and salmon that not a lot of people know about and which must be classed as a chef's privilege. It is right on the top of the snout/nose and is plucked off after cooking between the thumb and forefinger. An old gamekeeper once told me the name for it but I'm afraid I can't remember. Feel for it and you'll find it.

      Have you ever tried salmon cooked in a fish kettle/poacher? Due to the nature of the cooking process, the salmon is eaten cold but it is so moist, so tender and so delicious that the wait is more than worthwhile. I used to have an old friend who fished the Tay and the Tweed rivers here for salmon and gave me them fresh, as I only do saltwater fishing these days. This was the way I used to cook them.

      I look forward to reading about how your frozen salmon turns out.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 

      9 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      This looks absolutely delicious. Have added a salmon to my list today do grill later this week.

    • K9keystrokes profile image

      India Arnold 

      9 years ago from Northern, California

      Great food pictures! They make us want to get that Salmond on the grill tonight! Thanks for sharing your grilled salmon secrets Paul.


    • Paul Edmondson profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Edmondson 

      9 years ago from Burlingame, CA

      I know Jonathon put one whole salmon in the freezer so he should be ready for guests. I have to say, I never freeze fish. It tastes so much better fresh:)

    • MyMastiffPuppies profile image


      9 years ago

      Sounds and looks delicious! What time should we be there to eat? Voted up, useful and awesome...

    • Paul Edmondson profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Edmondson 

      9 years ago from Burlingame, CA

      It's coming soon. Jonathon shot it in one take. Natural.

    • Paul Edmondson profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Edmondson 

      9 years ago from Burlingame, CA

      Dude, it's coming. Jonathon did it in one shot. He's a natural:)

    • jamestedmondson profile image


      9 years ago from San Francisco

      I would like to see the video of which you speak.

    • profile image

      AC Witschorik 

      9 years ago from Victoria, Mn.

      Great hub, love to BBQ and love Salmon, I'm going to give your recipe a try

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      9 years ago from London, UK

      That sounds great and so well detailed how to do it. Super hub. Thank you.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      It looks amazing!!! I love salmon prepared that way.

    • bfeaver profile image


      9 years ago from Central California

      Liked your pictures and recipe for cooking the salmon. I wrap in foil. I squeeze lemon juice and sprinkle brown sugar over the fish and then cook in the BBQ for about tweny minutes. It is very good...I want to try your method...looks great!

    • HunterGiftBaskets profile image


      9 years ago from Newcastle, Hunter Valley, Australia

      Great to see and am savoring my next attempt! Like gavlax and smoking this is just another string to the bow.

    • dallas93444 profile image

      Dallas W Thompson 

      9 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

      I live in Pismo Beach and have a cabin cruiser at Port San Luis, Avila Beach. As you know, salmon "season" is here... Good ideas and gbreat timing! Voted up and awesome!

    • Sinea Pies profile image

      Sinea Pies 

      9 years ago from Northeastern United States

      Great pictorial! And that table looks so nice.

    • kakashi profile image


      9 years ago

      Looks so delicious!

    • rebekahELLE profile image


      9 years ago from Tampa Bay

      Yum! Love the pics. It looks and sound delicious, as well as your side dishes. Thanks for sharing!

    • CASE1WORKER profile image


      9 years ago from UNITED KINGDOM

      i think you have a slightly bigger barbie than we have- still it looks very appetizing

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 

      9 years ago from Jamaica

      I must say I was a little bit skeptical at first. Salmon isn't very popular here in Jamaica, only the imported fillet. I love dill, so that really got my attention. I guess you can do any large fish this way, I'll have to try it.

    • Beth100 profile image


      9 years ago from Canada

      I'm sooo hungry now!!! Your photos grabbed my stomach, and it still hasn't let go! Could you please pass me the salmon?? :)

    • Paul Edmondson profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Edmondson 

      9 years ago from Burlingame, CA

      We definitely went through some wine with the salmon. Mainly Pinot Noir.

    • Druid Dude profile image

      Druid Dude 

      9 years ago from West Coast

      Excellent! Mmmm. Good chefing. I simply never have the occasion. Done a lot of deep pit work in the past. A tasty chablis from the Willamette Valley ...and BAM!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)