Adapted from Bill Gillespie | Hot & Fast BBQ | Page Street Publishing, 2021

Salmon was the first category I ever won an award for when I first entered the world of competition cooking. In fact, it was the very first contest I entered. I received a fourth-place call on my grilled salmon, and I’ve been hooked on competition cooking ever since.

It’s fifteen years later, and I’m still at it! The FDA recommends that salmon be cooked to a 145°F (63°C) internal temperature; however, you run the risk of overcooking it at this temperature. No one really likes dry, overcooked salmon, so that’s why I like to cook it to 130°F (54°C) and then give it 5 minutes to rest. Cooking salmon to this temperature ensures the fish is tender, moist and superbly flavorful.

This recipe is simple, yet it just might provide the most perfectly cooked and delicious piece of salmon you’ve ever had!–Bill Gillespie

Maple Smoked Grilled Salmon FAQs

What’s that white stuff that cooked out of my salmon?

The white stuff you often find cooking out of your salmon is albumin, a naturally occurring protein that is liquid in raw fish, but coagulates when cooked. It’s harmless, but not the prettiest sight. When you see it appearing on the top and sides of your salmon, you are likely cooking the salmon at too high a temperature.

What is in BBQ dry rub seasoning?

Generally, dry rubs contain garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper, paprika, chili powder, cayenne, or all three – something for a bit of heat, and sometimes brown sugar for a bit of sweetness. Dry rub and BBQ seasoning recipes can be adjusted to your tastes very easily. Consider adding dry mustard, rosemary, cumin, maple sugar, or any of your favorite herbs and spices.

We love this Texas Dry Rub for its smoky flavor. If you’re making your own rub for this recipe, or if you’re purchasing a pre-made rub, we recommend staying away from dry rubs with a lot of added sugar. The maple syrup contributes a good amount of sweetness, so any added sugar is unnecessary and can make your salmon taste too sweet.

What is the difference between maple syrup and pancake syrup?

Pure maple syrup is simply maple tree sap that’s been boiled down to a thicker consistency. When recipes call for maple syrup – this is what they are referring to. Pancake syrup is made with artificial flavors and corn syrup, and while suitable for pancakes and waffles, shouldn’t be confused for the real thing.

What should I serve with grilled salmon?

A cool side would be lovely – and if you’d like to carry the maple flavor throughout the meal, this coleslaw with maple syrup is just what you’re looking for. Roasted vegetables such as broccoli, beets, butternut squash, or Brussels sprouts would all be fantastic, or even just simple grilled corn on the cob and a baked potato. You really can’t go wrong.

Two pieces of maple smoked grilled salmon on a white plate with a fork and knife on the side.

Maple Smoked Grilled Salmon

5 / 4 votes
A combination of sweet maple syrup and maple wood give this easy grilled salmon its sweet, smoky flavor.
David Leite
CourseEntree
CuisineAmerican
Servings4 servings
Calories437 kcal
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Total Time1 hour

Ingredients 

  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup, divided
  • 2 pounds salmon, cut into four 1/2-pound (227-g) portions, each about 1-inch (25-mm) thick
  • 2 tablespoons of your favorite bbq dry rub
  • 1 chunk sugar maple wood or 1 cup maple wood chips

Instructions 

  • Place the salmon skin side down on a rimmed baking sheet. Brush half of the maple syrup all over each piece of salmon. Sprinkle the dry rub all over the salmon. Transfer to the fridge and let chill for about 30 minutes.
  • While you’re waiting for the salmon to set up, fire up your charcoal grill to 350°F (177°C), and place a foil-lined water pan below the grill surface. This recipe requires one fully lit chimney of charcoal. Dump the fully lit chimney into the center of the charcoal ring, reassemble the cooker and let it come up to temperature. (Alternatively you can use a gas grill with a smoker box or smoke pouch).
  • Place the salmon on the top grate of the grill, add your smoke wood and cook the salmon until it reaches an internal temperature of 130°F (54°C) for medium, 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of your salmon. (If you like your salmon cooked a little more, bring the internal temperature to 140°F (60°C), 20 to 25 minutes, but I wouldn’t go higher than that or you run the risk of the salmon being overcooked and dry.)
  • After about 10 minutes of cooking, brush the tops of each piece of salmon with the remaining 1/4 cup maple syrup.
  • Once your desired temperature is reached, remove the salmon from the grill and let it rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Adapted From

Hot and Fast BBQ on Your Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker

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Nutrition

Serving: 1 portionCalories: 437 kcalCarbohydrates: 28 gProtein: 45 gFat: 15 gSaturated Fat: 2 gPolyunsaturated Fat: 6 gMonounsaturated Fat: 5 gCholesterol: 125 mgSodium: 104 mgPotassium: 1216 mgFiber: 0.2 gSugar: 24 gVitamin A: 143 IUVitamin C: 0.2 mgCalcium: 91 mgIron: 3 mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2021 Bill Gillespie. Photo © 2021 Ken Goodman. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This maple smoked grilled salmon is an easy and delicious recipe that could be the star of your summer entertaining menu! Pair it with an orzo or crispy smashed potato salad and some green beans and you are ready to go!

We used the Trader Joe’s coffee garlic rub, which paired well with the maple and smoke flavors.

Served it with baked sweet potatoes, peas and a salad.

I enjoy having fish for lunch or dinner; however, salmon’s strong flavor deters me. This method, using maple syrup and a dry rub of my choice, cooked with a mild hint of smoke, was quite good.

The sweetness of the syrup coupled with the heat and spices of the rub, camouflaged the stronger flavor of salmon that I personally don’t care for. I also believe using a thermometer is the best way to make sure the fish is cooked to perfection. This recipe would also be delicious for other types of fish.

Well, I must admit it right here and now…this was the BEST salmon I’ve ever had. It was also the most simple, no fuss, no muss to prepare.

To make my life even easier I had the fish monger cut it for me. Bonus points right there. After allowing it to sit in the fridge uncovered for 30 minutes, I cooked my salmon to 130°F and gave it 5 minutes to rest. These steps resulted in my salmon being as “tender and moist” as promised.

Since I wanted quick and easy, I reached for some Cajun spice which did the job perfectly.

To make this more special, I served this maple smoked grilled salmon with steamed vegetables in parchment to rave reviews by the toughest food critics I know. There were no leftovers. Enough said.

Originally published July 12, 2022




About David Leite

David Leite has received three James Beard Awards for his writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.


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Recipe Rating




6 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I made this salmon for dinner tonight and got thumbs up from my family as the best salmon I ever made! I used a homemade simple homemade bbq rub with the maple syrup and used applewood chips for the smoke flavour…. Salmon was moist and the smoke penetrated throughout. Thanks so much…I will be making this again soon!!

    1. Thank you, Shelley! We are thrilled this was such a hit in your house. Please let us know what you make next.

  2. I am just experimenting with smoking a brisket by wrapping it in thick uncoated butcher paper.

    I wonder how you think that method would apply to smoking salmon. Anyway, I’ll have the paper and may give it a try. If nothing else, it should keep the flesh together.

    Incidentally, I notice you’re not recommending the very high temperature of a recent entry on grilling salmon. Thoughts?

    1. We haven’t tested a butcher paper method with salmon, rainey. If you try it, we’d love to know how it turns out.
      Our testers had great results smoking this salmon and some enjoyed the salmon cooked to a lower temperature and others preferred it a little more done!

      1. I was actually referring to the suggestion of grilling at very high temperatures of the heat source as the “How To Grill Salmon” entry advised.

        I will have to go get a side of salmon but I’ll be happy to let you know how wrapping in paper works when I do. God knows I now have enough on that 5# roll to find lots of ways to use it…

        1. rainey, grilling at high heat is a fantastic method and I encourage you to try it. Please let us know how the butcher paper works with the salmon, I’m very curious.