Healthy and flavorful, salmon is one of our favorite proteins to serve, no matter the occasion. From fancy to simple, this versatile fish is now a staple in our kitchens. In less than 20 minutes you can have a healthy, nutritious, and delicious dish at the table that most (if not all) your guests will love, and that also pairs with almost any side imaginable. How to bake salmon is one of the most often asked questions by foodies, so we'll be exploring that, as well as many other ways to cook salmon.
Salmon can be cooked in almost every possible way – poach it, sear it, grill it, bake, sous vide it to abandon, there is really no wrong answer to the question: how to cook salmon. However, let’s explore the different cooking methods for salmon, and review the pros and cons of each.
The perfect doneness for salmon is, in most people’s opinion, medium. That means it should be opaque (which is how you tell fish is cooked), and flaky. This is, of course, a matter of opinion, but a very dry salmon fillet loses a lot of the flavor and buttery texture we love so much in this fish. One caveat: If you’re pregnant and for children, we recommend well-done proteins, always. If you have a food thermometer, go for 120/125 degrees F (always test the thickest part of the fish).
How to cook salmon
This is the most efficient and easiest way to cook salmon we could find. Using a heavy pan, place the salmon skin-side down for about five minutes on high heat, then flip to finish. You get perfectly crisp skin, and a tender texture. It’s fast and satisfiying.
Broiling salmon is also easy and quite efficient – all you need is to turn your oven to broil, oil the skin side of the fillet and place in an oven-safe pan until done. This delivers a tasty dinner in a few minutes, almost effortlessly. The only caveat is that it doesn’t deliver the juiciest salmon, and the skin doesn’t crisp as nicely as a sear.
You can steam salmon, yes! This is perhaps the healthiest way to cook an already super healthy protein, so go for steamed salmon if you’re looking for bonus health points. To cook salmon in a steamer, just place in a steamer basket or electric steamer. The cons of steaming salmon is that doesn’t develop any of the crispy outside that most salmon-lovers love, but it does yield a more buttery texture than searing or broiling.
Salmon en Papillote
This French method of enveloping fish in parchment paper is one of the best ways to cook salmon. To do it, just wrap it in paper and roast at 400 F until done. Besides being a sophisticated and pretty presentation, salmon en papillote yields super juicy, super flavorful fish, with the added benefit that the “envelope” can contain any other flavorings you’d like to add – orange slices, ginger rinds, garlic, rosemary, and the list goes on – the steam beautifully cooking everything together. The cons of this method is that it’s hard to tell when the salmon is done, but practice makes perfect, and once you get the hang of it and your oven, you’ll be able to figure out the timing.
How To Bake Salmon
Slow-roasting or baking salmon is not only easy, it also allows you to cook it with different ingredients – vegetables, herbs, sauces, etc. Baking must be on low so you don’t overcook the salmon, and also because harsh cooking makes salmon less tender. This cooking method takes about 30 minutes, depending on your oven, and you want to shoot for 275 F approximately. Place the salmon on a nonstick pan, lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil – makes cleaning easier. The salmon develops a texture that’s velvety and buttery, with just a bit of crispiness. All in all, perfect to make several fillets at once, or even the whole salmon. How long to bake salmon? That depends on the thickness of the fillets, so don't stray to far from the oven.
Grilling salmon is an easy and flavorful proposition, and a great addition to your grilling repertoire. If you have a skin-on salmon fillet (or the whole fish), just place it on a clean grill, skin side down, topped with herbs or citrus fruits. If you have skinless salmon fillet, use aluminum foil or a cedar plank. It’s a great alternative or addition to steaks for summer cookouts, and salmon fillets cook in about 10 minutes.