Barton Seaver: Grilled Alaskan King Salmon Recipe

Justin O’Neill produces NG’s weekly radio program, National Geographic Weekend, with host Boyd Matson. Hear it on on SiriusXM satellite radio, subscribe to the iTunes podcast, or get the show streamed to your smartphone with the Stitcher Radio app.

On this week’s edition of National Geographic Weekend, NG fellow Barton Seaver tells host Boyd Matson about a recent trip he took to Alaska’s Stuyahok River. A chef and conservationist, Barton speaks eloquently about the pleasures of good food, prepared with high quality ingredients. Barton went to Alaska to observe the effects of the controversial proposed Pebble Mine on Alaska’s fisheries and the local salmon run. But since he was in the neighborhood, Barton couldn’t resist fishing his way from the mountains, through the tundra, down to the forests of Alaska, catching and releasing anything he didn’t eat.

Here is Barton’s description of the salmon fishing, on National Geographic Weekend. Interview

Even in the wilds of Alaska, Barton traveled with enough ingredients to prepare each catch with world class flair. Here’s one of the recipes he used, which can also be found in his book For Cod and Country.

More of Barton's recipes can be found in his book "For Cod and Country" (Katie Stoops/For Cod and Country)

Grilled Alaskan King Salmon with Tarragon Butter

The addition of orange to this dish accentuates the deep, rich flavor of the salmon. Tarragon and all sorts of seafood are a near perfect pairing; try this butter with the fish or shellfish of your choice. If you like, double the butter; any leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week. You can also wrap up little nuggets of the butter and freeze them; they’ll keep for up to a year.

Serves 4




3 tablespoons butter, softened

Grated zest of 1 orange

2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Four 5-ounce portions wild Alaskan king salmon fillet


For the tarragon butter, in a small bowl combine the butter, orange zest, and tarragon. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Using the back of a fork, mash it together until well mixed, and set aside.

For the salmon, prepare your choice of a charcoal or gas grill, concentrating the fire onto one side of the grill. Grill the salmon skin side down over the hottest part of the fire for 3 minutes to give it nice grill marks. Rotate the fish to the coolest part of the grill and continue to cook for another 12 minutes or so. Salmon is a fish that can be eaten at different temperatures. I prefer it to be cooked through, which is when the flesh is an even color throughout. This can be checked by gently separating the fillet with a knife so the inside is visible.

Gently remove the salmon from the heat and top each fillet with a pat of the tarragon butter. Serve immediately.

(recipe from For Cod and Country, reprinted with permission from Sterling Epicure)

Human Journey


Meet the Author
Justin O'Neill produces the weekly radio program National Geographic Weekend with host Boyd Matson. Check it out on on SiriusXM satellite radio (XM channel 133 Sundays at noon), subscribe to the iTunes podcast, or stream it directly to your smartphone with Stitcher Radio.