Tips for BBQing a whole salmon

The BC Day long weekend is just a few days away. You’re having 10 people over for a BBQ. What’s a quick, easy, and impressive main dish? A whole fresh salmon on the BBQ, of course!


I’m no chef, but I’ve BBQd a lot of fish! Here are my top tips for BBQing a whole salmon. I hope they’re helpful!

  • rinse the fish inside and out and pat dry
  • make several slash cuts on both sides of the thickest part of the body to encourage even cooking
  • stuff the body cavity with whatever you like! I like to make a paste of olive oil, chopped garlic, and chopped fresh herbs like dill. Smear this paste over the inside of the body cavity. Place a few dabs of butter along the length of the body. Add lemon slices, salt, and pepper.
  • Brush the BBQ with oil and pre-heat to around 400F
  • Lay the whole salmon on a piece of tin foil on the BBQ
  • The size of the fish will determine how long to cook it — 10 min/ inch of thickness at the thickest part is a good rule of thumb. So, for a 5lb salmon, expect about 40 min of total cooking time.
  • After about half the total cooking time, wearing oven mits, pull the tin foil out from under the salmon, using it to flip the whole fish to it’s other side away from you and straight onto the oiled grill. In the example of a 5 lb fish, flip after 15-20 min. Cook for another 15-20min.
  • Check the thickest part of the fish early. You want to remove the salmon from the BBQ when this part is still quite rare (around 125F) as the heat in the bones will continue to cook the salmon even after it’s removed from the BBQ. The belly parts will cook faster and you don’t want to overcook them too badly!
  • When done, use two spatulas to carefully remove the whole salmon from the grill to a serving platter or cutting board and let sit covered with foil for a few minutes.
  • When ready to serve, I like to use spatulas to flip the belly of the salmon open like a book. Find the spine bone at the tail end and pull it out of the fish. The rib bones will come out along with the spine in one piece. It will flake up the fish a bit, but I don’t mind. Some bones may still be in the fish, so warn your guests to watch for them, but you now have a whole salmon ready to portion and serve to your guests. Folks who prefer their salmon more rare should be served from the dorsal and head ends while those who like their fish more well done will prefer pieces from the belly and tail.

Here’s a great blog post with some photos and additional tips from Dulcet Cuisine.

Got other tips for cooking a whole fish for a crowd? We’d love to hear from you and see your photos! Share them here or on facebook, instagram, or twitter using the hashtag #skipperotto, or email them to us at [email protected]!

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