Published July 1, 2004.
A burnt, stuck-to-the-grill crust and flavorless interior are the reality of glazed salmon. With 50 pounds of salmon and gallons of briquettes, we set out to solve both problems.
"Sticky" is the operative word here, as more often than not glazed salmon grips the grill grate for dear life and can be torn off only in many tiny pieces. Not that it is actually worth getting off the grill, mind you, because each of those tiny pieces is usually charred beyond recognition.
Truly great glazed salmon off the grill is a thing of beauty, both inside and out. As if working double duty, the sweet glaze not only forms a glossy, deeply caramelized crust, but it also permeates the flesh, making the last bite of fish every bit as good as the first. This was the salmon that we wanted to re-create--sweet, crisp, moist, and oh-so-flavorful.
After testing, there was no doubt that marinating gave the salmon flavor. Soy sauce was chosen for its ability to season the fish through and through, while vinegar (another standard marinade ingredient) was omitted, as it broke down the salmon until it was too fragile to hold its shape on the grill. We hoped the marinade would also work as a glaze of sorts, with the sugars caramelizing once they hit the hot grill. However, the marinated salmon failed to produce any kind of crust. We tested more viscous sweeteners, such as maple syrup, honey, and molasses. While the molasses was rejected for its bitter flavor, the maple syrup and honey worked like a dream. With a thicker marinade, the sweet flavors clung to the salmon rather than dripping through the bars of the grate, and a crust (however thin) was beginning to form. The next step was to brush the marinated salmon with a much thicker glaze--a winning combination of soy sauce and maple syrup--very similar to the marinade. Doing this over a single-level fire resulted in charring, but using a two-level fire, piling the hot briquettes one-high on one side and two-high on the other, worked. We seared the marinated salmon over the high heat, then brushed the salmon with some of the glaze and pulled it to the cooler side of the grill to cook through.list of recipes