This BBQ Salmon Recipe is ready in under 10 minutes and is simplicity at its best! It's a super fast way to serve salmon using your air fryer with very minimal effort (oven and grilling instructions included) - Juicy, tender perfection!
This BBQ salmon recipe is embarrassingly simple, and I was a bit hesitant to share this recipe. But, it's quick and easy and comes in handy on busy weeknights like the air fryer chicken tenders when you are short on time.
Salmon is ideal for a quick weeknight dinner with Yukon gold mashed potatoes, due to its short cooking time like for the creamy salmon pasta. Within 10 minutes, you can have perfectly cooked fillets. Its versatility allows for a variety of flavors and seasonings, like the air fryer salmon recipe.
It makes a fabulous nutritious option packed with protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and essential vitamins and minerals.
I like to use frozen salmon because they are usually flash-frozen shortly after being caught, ensuring that it retains its quality and freshness. Freezing preserves the freshness of the fish, locking in its flavors and nutrients.
If you are buying fresh fillets, look for vibrant, shiny skin and firm flesh. The skin should be tightly adhered to the fillet, and the flesh should be moist, not dry or discolored. Avoid fillets with any signs of browning, dullness, or excessive liquid.
What's the difference between grilling and bbq? Grilling typically involves cooking food quickly over direct heat, usually at high temperatures, like grilled chicken thighs. The food is placed on a grill grate directly above the heat source so it cooks super fast.
In contrast, barbecue is a slower and indirect cooking method that involves cooking food over lower heat, which typically involves smoking or slow roasting. BBQ salmon is cooked in the air fryer, mimicking the indirect cooking method, as the heat circulates around the protein and cooking it faster and without firing up your grill.
Why this recipe works?
I brush the fish with barbecue sauce as I reach the halfway point of cooking. The intense heat quickly works its magic, causing the sauce to rapidly caramelize, resulting in a beautiful browning effect and a glossy, glazed BBQ salmon.
I keep the seasoning simple and use smoked paprika to add a hint of smokiness, and salt and pepper cut the sweetness in bbq sauce, adding a complex flavor.
Scroll down to the recipe card below for full information on ingredients and amounts.
- Salmon - I like to use fillets with skin for the BBQ salmon recipe because it helps the fish to hold together much better when removed from the air fryer without breaking apart.
- BBQ sauce - Use your favorite type - spicy, sweet or mild!
- Olive oil - Helps the spices adhere to the BBQ salmon.
- Seasoning - I use a simple blend of salt, pepper, and paprika.
Tip: Fillets often come in odd size pieces of uneven thickness. To ensure even cooking, like in air fryer tilapia, it is important to choose salmon fillets that have a consistent thickness. This way, all the fillets will cook simultaneously, preventing the thinner pieces from becoming overcooked while waiting for the thicker ones to be fully done.
How to make?
You can find full printable recipe below, but here is a quick overview of the procedure along with step-by-step photos.
- Brush your salmon with a thin coating of olive oil.
Tip: Pat dry your fillets with paper towels to remove excess moisture. This allows the seasoning to adhere to the fish.
2. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and smoked or regular paprika evenly on the flesh.
3. Place them in a preheated air fryer and cook for 4 minutes at 400 degrees.
Tip: Preheat your air fryer before adding your salmon, it speeds up the cooking time and gives a good sear, and seals in the juices.
4. Open your air fryer and brush a liberal coating of barbecue sauce on the fish and continue cooking at the same temperature for an additional 4 to 5 minutes or until done.
Pro tip: Gently test it with a fork to check for doneness - It should easily flake apart with gentle pressure. Cooking time for BBQ salmon varies based on the thickness of the fillets and the specific air fryer model being used.
How to cook in the oven?
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Arrange salmon fillets on a baking sheet, brush with olive oil, and sprinkle seasoning on top.
- Bake for 5 minutes, remove from the oven, brush the sauce, and continue baking for another 6 to 9 minutes until the salmon is opaque and flaky when pulled apart with a fork. You can broil at the last minute if desired.
How to cook in on the grill?
- Prepare the grill for indirect cooking over medium heat and close the lid to heat.
- Prepare the fish as instructed; cook it flesh side down (skin side up).
- Cook for 3 minutes or until golden, then use tongs to turn carefully.
- Brush the flesh with Sauce, then close the BBQ lid.
- Cook for 3 - 4 minutes, basting one more time halfway through, if desired or until the internal temperature is 130F.
Storage and reheating
Refrigerate BBQ salmon leftovers for 2 to 3 days in a covered container. Please place them in a 375-degree air fryer to reheat and cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until warmed through.
- Make sure that fillets are even in size so they cook simultaneously.
- Preheat your air fryer - This helps to cook the fish evenly and seals in the juices.
- Keep an eye on timing. All appliances cook differently when it comes to size and temperature. Also, the time depends on the thickness of the fish. So make sure to check for about a couple of minutes before preventing it from burning on top.
- Switch up your seasoning. Feel free to use your favorite seasoning blend.
- Use your favorite BBQ sauce. I like to use Kinder's mild sauce.
While the FDA recommends an internal temperature of 145°F for cooked salmon, you’ll find that most chefs prefer salmon at 127°F. This is medium-rare, which means the fish is just cooked through and not raw and is at its optimum juiciness.
If you'd like to be safe, then cook it to 145°F, which is not as juicy but still cooked through but not overcooked.
You can use frozen salmon. However, it is generally recommended to thaw it before cooking for best results. Thawing allows for even cooking and helps prevent the outer layer from overcooking while the center remains undercooked. It also ensures the seasoning and sauce stick to the fish without sliding off.
Use fillets with skin on to prevent them from sticking to the basket. Also, preheating the air fryer before placing the salmon in it can help create a non-stick surface.
More air fryer dinners
- Preheat the air fryer to 400°F.Tip: Preheating speeds up the cooking time and gives a good sear, and seals in the juices.
- Rub each fillet with olive oil and season with paprika, salt and pepper. Place the salmon in the air fryer and cook for 4 minutes. Tip: Pat dry your fillets with paper towels to remove excess moisture. This allows the seasoning to adhere to the fish.
- Open air fryer and brush a thick layer of BBQ suace on top of each fillet. Continue cooking for an addional 3 to 5 minutes, or until cooked through. Pro tip: Gently test it with a fork to check for doneness - It should easily flake apart with gentle pressure.
- Serve with addional BBQ sauce on the side.
Nutritional information, based on third-party calculations, should be seen as estimates, not guarantees, as various factors like product types, brands, processing methods, and more can alter the nutritional content in recipes.
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