My family celebrates birthdays, mother's days, and father's days by cooking the celebrated person's favorite foods. This year's father's day was a little unconventional because our guest of honor, my Dad, happily provided the main dish: a lovely jack king salmon that he caught earlier in the week.
Jack King Salmon | Generally king salmon are salmon who spend about 3-8 years out in the ocean before they come back into rivers and streams to spawn. When they find the sharp end of your line they are generally about 24-36 inches long. A jack king salmon has only spent 1-3 years out in the ocean and are much smaller in size; less than 24 inches. | side note: I am not an expert in this subject so I kept this generalized.
The catch to all this: he wanted it cooked whole. I've never done that before, but of course the cooking team was up to the challenge. The menu: whole grilled salmon, grilled corn, baked beans, salad, and lemon bars to finish it off. There are plenty of ways to season the fish, we kept it simple and used what we had on hand: garlic powder, paprika, salt, cumin, chili powder, tiny bit of cayenne pepper. You could easily use thinly sliced lemons and fresh herbs for a good bouquet to stuff the fish with.
Daunting is a good word for the concept of cooking a large (10-13ish pound) fish on the grill. How do I flip it, will it cook all the way, will it just fall through the grills? Hopefully the process we figured out will help you on your whole fish grilling adventures. We started on the grill and the first fish flip worked out fairly well. When it came time for the second flip we ran into some trouble. The fish was so tender that it began to fall apart a little. So we rolled it on to some heavy duty foil and that seemed to work out perfectly when we came to flip it the next time. Also, when we took it off we already had a tent made to let the fish rest for a few minutes and sit in the herbed drippings. The end product was so amazing. The meat was rich and juicy, falling apart, the edges of the
Make sure your fish is very clean inside and out. Rinse it and pat dry with a towel.
Make 1/2" slices perpendicular to the length of the fish about three inches width apart down both sides. If you are doing a larger fish (20 lbs), make deeper cuts at about 3/4".
Oil the inside and outside of the entire fish with olive oil.
Make a rub or herb bundle.
Fresh herbs: lemon, thyme, oregano, rosemary. Thinly slice the lemons and place in one layer on the bottom side of the cavity. Bundle the herbs and place in side as well. Place another layer of lemons on top of the herbs. So you have a sandwich of sorts: 1 side of fish, a layer of lemon, a bundle of herbs, a layer of lemon, 2nd side of fish.
Rub: 1/2 tbs salt, 2 tbs garlic powder, 1 tbs paprika, 1 tbs cumin, 1 tbs chili powder, 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper. Sprinkle the rub on the inside and outside of the fish evenly with all of your rub mix.
You can tie the fish around the middle a couple times with butcher string if you like. We didn't have any, so did without. It worked just fine.
Heat the grill on medium. You'll want to keep it about 300 degrees F. Not too high because this fish is so large you don't want the outside to be well done before the inside is cooked.
Place a large piece of heavy duty tin foil down on the grill. Make sure it is long enough for the entire length of salmon. If the salmon is especially wide and you have the skinnier tinfoil you may need to link two pieces together to make sure you have adequate square footage to roll the fish over. (We started this straight on the grill and figured out the tinfoil works best during our second flip attempt).
Place the salmon on the foil and leave for about 10 -15 minutes. Roll or flip the salmon over keeping it on the tin foil. Keep in place for another 10-15 minutes.
Start checking the temperature. For the Salmon you will want 120 degrees for a little rare and 130 for done. You may be done after the second flip. If you need more time, flip for a third time and keep cooking for another 10-15 minutes
The overall cooking on the grill will take about 30-45 minutes depending on how large your fish is.
When done take the salmon off and let it rest for about 5 minutes. It is easiest if you use the foil as a hammock to transfer over to a platter.
And then there was dessert: