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July 2, 2007 / Tony

Grilled Whole Salmon

Grilling a whole salmon is a challenging but exceptionally satisfying dish.  The results are delicious and the preparation will really stretch your cooking repertoire.  I made this during my last days of living in Chicago.  My very good friend Ryan was an invaluable helper in the process.I started with two 10 pound salmons.  That was a ton of fish but considering that part of that weight was inedible and I had a fair number of guests attending the party, I thought it was an appropriate amount.  (Plus the fish was free from the fish purveyor of the restaurant I was working at then.)  The first step, as the fish was already gutted, was to scale the fish.  This simply entailed some time and elbow grease as you have to scrape the skin from tail to head until all the scales are gone.  Here’s a photo of Ryan hard at work:

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After that, the fish needs to be stuffed.  My method was to cut the flesh horizontally about four times per side and stuff those cuts with dill and lemon.  I also stuffed the inside of the fish with the same, along with giving it a healthy dose of Kosher salt and pepper.  I then trussed the fish up so it would all stay together and rubbed it with olive oil.  It was at this point where I used two cooking methods because my grill was only big enough to hold one fish.  On the grill, I used an indirect method of heat.  It looks like this:

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It’s my standard set up for cooking large cuts of meat over indirect heat: Coals on the side and the meat in the middle.  I then covered the grill and let her go until it was done.  The other fish was wrapped in parchment paper and then in aluminum foil.  I baked this fish until I thought it was done.  I imagine it was at 350 degrees but I don’t really remember exactly. 

The problem I had was of overcooking.  It was a big piece of fish that I was cooking and I really had no idea of when the fish was completely done all the way through.  I admit, I overcooked both of them.  The fish was slightly dry and a little too firm for my taste.  Yet, the grilled fish had a wonderful smoky flavor that went well with the acidity of the lemons and the lightness of the dill.  The baked fish had an even firmer texture but was more fragrant from the dill and more delicate in flavor.  Both were still fun to eat and delicious.  As soon as I get another opportunity to do this, I will try it again. 

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