Smoke-Grilled Salmon with Fennel and Tarragon

Smoke-Grilled Salmon with Fennel and Tarragon

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Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 4
Adding hardwood chips or chunks to coals when grilling will infuse food with a delicious smoky flavor. Choose the type of wood to match the food you are grilling. Hickory and oak are intense in flavor and taste best with beef, pork or chicken. Mesquite, alder and fruit woods are lighter and can be used with chicken, fish or shellfish. Soak a handful of chips in water for 30 minutes, then drain and sprinkle them directly on the coals or enclose them in a perforated aluminum foil packet and place on a gas burner just before adding the food.


  • 1 whole salmon, 5 to 8 lb., cleaned by the
      fishmonger, or whole salmon fillet, skin
      intact, 3 to 4 lb.
  • Olive oil or vegetable oil for coating
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced,
      feathery green tops reserved for garnish
  • 4 or 5 fresh tarragon sprigs, coarsely chopped,
      or 1 Tbs. dried tarragon
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • Wood chips or chunks, soaked for 30 minutes
      and drained


Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for indirect grilling over medium-high heat.

If using a salmon fillet, remove any pin bones with sturdy tweezers. Coat the salmon with oil. Cut a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil large enough to wrap the salmon. If using a whole salmon, place it in the center of the foil and score it 4 or 5 times diagonally through the skin. Put half of the lemon, onion, fennel bulb and tarragon inside the fish and arrange the rest on top. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper. If using a salmon fillet, place it, skin side down, in the center of the foil and arrange the lemon, onion, fennel and tarragon down the center. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Fold the foil over the salmon and crimp the edges to seal.

Sprinkle the wood chips on the coals, or add in a perforated foil packet to a gas grill. Place the foil-wrapped salmon on the unheated portion of the grill, cover the grill and cook. After 35 minutes for a whole salmon and 25 minutes for a fillet, open the foil and check for doneness by cutting into the fish or testing with an instant-read thermometer. The salmon should be opaque throughout and flake easily when prodded with a fork, or register 125°F on an instant-read thermometer. Continue to cook as needed with the foil opened and the grill covered, 10 to 25 minutes more for the whole salmon, 5 to 15 minutes more for the fillet. Cooking times will vary depending on the size of the fish, the heat of the fire and the desired degree of doneness. Do not overcook.

Transfer the foil and fish to a large platter. Lift the fish gently with a long spatula and slide the foil out from underneath. Garnish with the reserved fennel tops and serve immediately. Whole salmon serves 8 to 10; salmon fillet serves 4 to 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Grilling, by Denis Kelly (Simon & Schuster, 2002).
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