Salmon has hearty, firm flesh that makes it an excellent choice for grilling. In this easy recipe, we add fresh, bright flavor to the fish with a compound butter: Mix softened butter with lemon zest, garlic, and plenty of black pepper, then chill. When you’re ready to grill the fish, give it a simple seasoning of salt, pepper, and vegetable oil. After about 10 minutes on the grill, the salmon will have crispy skin and a moist interior ready to be topped with a melty pat of the flavorful butter.
Game plan: The butter can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and frozen for up to 1 month. Use any left over to spread on buttermilk biscuits, toss with hot pasta, or top roasted asparagus.
To keep the fish from sticking to the grill, once the grill is hot, use the scraper to remove any residue from previous grilling sessions. Then follow the instructions here for oiling the grill right before cooking.
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), at room temperature
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (from about 2 medium lemons), zested lemons reserved
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic (from about 2 medium cloves)
1 teaspoonkosher salt, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
4 (6-ounce) skin-on salmon fillets
Vegetable oil, as needed
Place the butter in a medium bowl and mash it with a rubber spatula until it’s very spreadable. Add the zest, garlic, and measured salt and pepper and mix until thoroughly combined.
Transfer the butter mixture to a sheet of plastic wrap. Shape it into a log by rolling it up in the plastic wrap, then twist the ends and fold under to seal. Place in the refrigerator to harden before using, at least 30 minutes. Cut the zested lemons in half and set them aside.
Heat a grill pan or outdoor grill to medium high (about 375°F to 425°F).
Pat the salmon dry with paper towels. Coat both sides of the fillets with oil and season generously with salt and pepper.
When the grill is ready, rub the grates with a towel dipped in the vegetable oil. Place the salmon on the grill skin-side down, cover the grill, and cook undisturbed until grill marks appear and the skin is starting to crisp, about 2 to 3 minutes. Using a flat spatula, carefully flip the fillets over. Place the reserved lemons cut-side down on the grill. Cover the grill and continue to cook until the salmon is just opaque in the center and the lemons have grill marks, about 2 to 4 minutes more.
To serve, cut 4 (1/4- to 1/2-inch-thick) rounds of the lemon-pepper butter (you will have some left over). Immediately place a round on top of each piece of fish and serve with the grilled lemon halves to squeeze over the salmon.