What Are the Best Tips for Cooking Salmon?

Lori Kilchermann

When it comes to cooking salmon, the best tip is to do anything you like but avoid overcooking the fish. Salmon can be enjoyed fried, baked, broiled or steamed, however, when cooking salmon, it is commonly suggested that the skin be left on the fish. This ensures that the meat stays together until it is time to serve it in individual portions. Regardless of the method used when cooking salmon, approximately 10 minutes per inch (2.54 cm) of thickness will ensure a fish that is not overdone and will flake apart exactly as it should. If steaming or poaching, cook the fish just until it turns pale and then it can be served with a favorite garnish; it will not be overcooked and will retain all of the fresh flavor that salmon is famous for.

Salmon canapés with crème fraîche, caviar and dill.
Salmon canapés with crème fraîche, caviar and dill.

Salmon is a large, freshwater fish that is popular in nearly all areas of the world. In the Midwestern United States, it is often referred to as Great Lakes tuna because it can be substituted in nearly every recipe calling for tuna fish. When cooking salmon, it is very easy to overcook the flesh, which can leave the salmon dry and tough. A good test for doneness when cooking salmon is to see if the fish will flake apart. Properly cooked salmon will flake apart nicely.

An Atlantic salmon.
An Atlantic salmon.

If possible, ask the fish vendor to cut your salmon from the center of the fish. This will ensure that the cut is evenly thick along its length. Thinner parts of a fillet or salmon steak will cook faster than the thicker areas and will be difficult to cook evenly. One tip to cooking salmon that is of uneven thickness is to fold the thin area over to make it as close as possible to the thickness of the rest of the fish. This will enable individuals to cook the entire fish to the same degree of doneness.

Many people find lightly smoked salmon delicious.
Many people find lightly smoked salmon delicious.

Salmon is a lean fish, so there is not much natural fat that will melt off during the cooking process. When cooking salmon by frying the fish, a pat of butter melted in the pan will provide enough fat to avoid sticking. The best tip here is to allow the butter to get very hot, but avoid heating the pan to smoking hot. When the butter is very hot, chefs can add the salmon, skin side down, and sear the fish. When cooking salmon with this method, cooks can turn the fish and continue cooking until the color changes approximately halfway through the fish, then turn and finish until the entire fish is of the same color and serve.

A fillet of salmon can be grilled or broiled.
A fillet of salmon can be grilled or broiled.
Grilled salmon with vegetables is a healthy meal choice.
Grilled salmon with vegetables is a healthy meal choice.
Salmon and other fish can be baked with vegetables and a rich mornay sauce.
Salmon and other fish can be baked with vegetables and a rich mornay sauce.

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Discussion Comments

mrwormy

I like to thaw out my salmon fillets the night before I use them. I've cooked salmon from a frozen state before, but I don't think they're quite as flavorful. My preferred method is to pan fry the salmon steaks with plenty of butter in the non-stick skillet. Sometimes I'll use olive oil in place of the butter.

I know people say that salmon is best when it is undercooked, but I happen to like it well-done, too. I'll pan fry salmon fillets until they are thoroughly cooked and then let them cool. I'll make up a traditional cold pasta salad and add in chunks of the cold salmon to add a different flavor and texture.

Inaventu

I buy frozen salmon fillets from a grocery store, and I have discovered I don't even need to thaw them before cooking. I will heat my oven to around 400 degrees F, then pull out several frozen salmon pieces from the freezer. I'll place them on a shallow baking sheet covered with a layer of aluminum foil.

I'll sprinkle each fillet with seasoned salt or a seafood seasoning blend and then put a pat of butter on top. I'll put the fillets in the oven, uncovered, for precisely 13 minutes. The butter will keep them moist during the cooking process. When I take the salmon out of the oven, it is usually perfectly cooked.

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