Sweet and Saucy Charcoal-Grilled Salmon with Lime-Jalapeno Glaze

From America's Test Kitchen Season 8: Fish on the Grill

Why this recipe works:

Salmon is perfect for glazing and grilling, but try to do both things at once and the fish desperately wants to stick to the grate. The promise of sweet, smoky glazed grilled salmon makes this recipe very appealing, but how could we make getting there less frustrating?

Of all the glazes we… read more

Salmon is perfect for glazing and grilling, but try to do both things at once and the fish desperately wants to stick to the grate. The promise of sweet, smoky glazed grilled salmon makes this recipe very appealing, but how could we make getting there less frustrating?

Of all the glazes we tried, tasters preferred the concentrated sweetness of a jelly-based glaze, which also had just the right consistency to coat and cling to the salmon. But no matter how much we scrubbed the grill grate or how well we oiled it, the sticky, sweet glaze adhered to the grill and wouldn’t let go. We came up with a simple solution: placing our salmon on the grill in individual pieces of aluminum foil. We were able to get great grill marks, full smoke flavor, no sticking, and, if we removed the skin (which most people discard anyway), we could glaze both sides of the salmon. The extra glaze, enriched with butter, even caramelized in the foil “boat,” adding another great dimension of flavor.

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Serves 4

Use any brand of heavy-duty aluminum foil to make the grill trays, but be sure to spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray. Alternatively, you can use Reynolds Release Nonstick Aluminum Foil and skip the cooking spray.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup jalapeno jelly
  • 1/2 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves, including stems
  • 1 teaspoon grated lime zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 2 scallions, chopped rough
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 salmon fillets (each 6 to 8 ounces and 1 1/4 inches thick), skin removed (see Step by Step)
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. 1. Process jelly, cilantro, lime zest, lime juice, garlic, and scallions in food processor or blender until smooth. Heat glaze in small saucepan over medium heat until just bubbling, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer 1/4 cup glaze to small bowl to cool slightly. Stir butter into glaze remaining in saucepan, cover, and set aside.

    2. Light large chimney starter filled with charcoal briquettes (about 100 coals); burn until coals are covered with fine gray ash, about 20 to 25 minutes. Pour coals over three-quarters of grill; set cooking grate in place, cover, and let grill heat up for 5 minutes.

    3. Following photos, use heavy-duty foil to make four 7 by 5-inch trays. Coat trays with cooking spray. Season salmon with salt and pepper, brush each side of each fillet with 1/2 tablespoon reserved glaze (without butter), and place skinned side up on trays.

    4. Place trays with salmon over hot fire and grill until glaze forms golden brown crust, 6 to 8 minutes. (Move fillets to cooler part of the grill if they darken too soon.) Using tongs, flip salmon and cook 1 minute. Spoon half of buttered glaze on salmon and cook until center of each fillet is still just translucent, about 1 minute. Transfer salmon to platter and spoon remaining buttered glaze over it. Serve.

Technique

No More Sticking

Few culinary pitfalls are as irksome as fish stuck to the grill. Fish baskets leave no attractive grill marks, and the fish often sticks to the basket. We had better luck with homemade foil trays coated with cooking spray.

1. Cut out four rectangles of heavy-duty aluminum foil and crimp the edges until each tray measures 7 by 5 inches.

2. Place one seasoned and glazed salmon fillet, skinned side up, on each foil tray.

3. After the glaze forms a golden brown crust around the edges of the fish, use tongs to flip each fillet.

4. Spoon half the buttered glaze over the salmon while it's on the grill so the glaze can thicken slightly.

Technique

Removing Skin from Salmon

Many grilled salmon recipes use skin-on fillets, but we prefer to trim off the skin for our Sweet and Saucy Grilled Salmon, making a flavorful, glazed crust possible on both sides of the fish. A good fishmonger should be able to remove the skin for you. If that's not possible, you'll need to do the work yourself. Armed with a sharp knife and a little know-how, skinning salmon is a breeze. (A flexible boning knife works best, but if you don't have one a chef's knife works as well.)

1. Using a sharp boning knife, insert the blade just above the skin about 1 inch from one end of the fillet. Cut through the nearest end, keeping the blade just above the skin.

2. Rotate the fish and grab the loose piece of skin. Run the knife between the flesh and the skin, making sure the knife is just above the skin, until the skin is completely removed.

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