8 Easy Ways to Cook Salmon
Salmon hits the dinner-time trifecta. It's delicious, easy to prepare, and good for you. Salmon is a fatty fish with plenty of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and an abundance of vitamins, including B vitamins and the antioxidant vitamin E.
And versatile? You bet. Salmon tastes great when baked, broiled, or tossed on the grill; smoked, poached, or cast into stews; fashioned into fish cakes and burgers, added to salads or whipped up into dips and spreads. This fish does it all. Here are a few easy ways to prepare salmon for any recipe.
How to Pick Fresh Salmon
When shopping for fresh salmon, it should never smell fishy. The flesh should be bright and moist and not discolored along the edges. If you're buying a whole salmon, its eyes should be bright and clear; the skin should be silvery, shiny, and resilient to the touch.
8 Ways to Cook Salmon
1. How to Pan-Fry Salmon
Pan-frying or pan-searing is one of the best ways to cook salmon fillets. It's quick, easy, and gives the fish that perfect crispy, crunchy skin. A simple pan-fried salmon is the secret to a flavorful and healthy weeknight dinner in 30 minutes or less.
- Season the salmon fillets with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, add butter or oil and the salmon fillets skin-side down. Heat to medium-high and cook for about 5 or 6 minutes.
- Gently use a wide spatula to flip the fish and cook skin-side up for 3 to 5 minutes or until done. Finish with a little squeeze of lemon.
Tip: To test salmon for doneness, use the tip of a knife to peek between the flakes of fish. It should be a slightly darker pink at the center. You can also insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the fillet; aim for a temperature of 125 degrees F.
More pan-seared salmon recipes to try:
2. How to Cook Salmon in the Oven
Oven roasting always does the trick for an effortless, no-nonsense way to cook salmon. Baked salmon is excellent for parties or meal prep since you can fit multiple pieces of salmon and vegetables in one dish and cook everything simultaneously.
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Season salmon with salt and pepper, and place skin-side down in a lightly greased baking dish or sheet pan.
- Bake in the oven for about 12 to 15 minutes. No need to flip the fish.
For new oven-roasted salmon ideas check out: The Best Healthy Baked Salmon Recipes.
3. How to Broil Salmon
The oven broiler is a hands-off but don't-stray-from-the-kitchen way to cook salmon fillets. Be sure to keep an eye on the oven when using this method because broiled salmon can turn to blackened bits in the blink of an eye.
- Preheat the oven broiler, and set the top rack about 6 inches from the heat source.
- Season the salmon fillets and place them on a lined sheet pan or untreated cedar plank soaked in water.
- Cook salmon under the broiler for 5 to 7 minutes on each side or until the flesh flakes easily with a fork.
- If the outside of salmon has cooked, but you prefer the center more well done, turn off the broiler and let the salmon rest in the oven for a few more minutes.
Turn up the heat with these broiled salmon recipes:
4. How to Take Salmon From Skillet to Oven
Can't decide between stovetop or oven-roasted salmon? Do both. Oven finishing is a technique many restaurants use to achieve salmon with a golden and crispy on the outside and flaky on the inside every time.
- In an oven-proof skillet, add olive oil or butter and seasoned salmon, skin-side down. Heat to medium-high and cook for 3 minutes.
- Transfer the skillet to a lowish-heat oven, about 275 degrees F, and cook for 20 minutes.
- Using an oven mitt, return the skillet to the stovetop and cook on high heat for about 3 minutes or until the skin is crispy. If time is of the essence, raise the oven temp to 400 degrees F and cook for 10 minutes for the roasting phase.
5. How to Grill Salmon
Grilled salmon is a good reason to fire up the grill in any season. Cooking salmon over an open flame gives the fish that signature smoky flavor and perfectly caramelized crust, plus zero kitchen clean-up.
- Heat the grill to high heat, and lightly oil the grates.
- Place season salmon fillets skin-side down on the grates and grill for 10 to 15 minutes, turning once, until easily flaked with a fork.
Get a year's worth of bbq salmon recipes: 12 Ways to Enjoy the Best Grilled Salmon.
6. How to Poach Salmon
Poaching is a lighter way to cook salmon by simmering the fish in a broth, water, or wine instead of heavy seasoning and cooking fats to create tender, flaky, naturally flavored fillets.
- In a large non-stick skillet or heavy pot, add a poaching liquid (white wine or stock) water with a pinch of salt, whole peppercorns, and a bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce simmer for 5 minutes.
- Gently lower the salmon into poaching liquid so the fillets are fully covered (add more water if needed).
- Bring to a slow boil, reduce heat to medium and poach until salmon flesh is firm, about 15 to 20 minutes.
For more poached salmon recipes:
7. How to Cook Salmon in Parchment
We could also call this salmon en papillote, but we'd have to charge a dollar more. It sounds elegant, but en pappillote is just French for "wrapped up in parchment." This foolproof baking method uses steam to cook flavorful salmon fillets inside a parchment paper or foil envelope. Toss a few veggies in with the salmon and make an entire portion in one easy-to-clean-up packet.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Fold a piece of parchment paper in half, open it and place a salmon fillet skin side down on one side of the paper. Season the salmon with salt, pepper, slices of lemon, and sprigs of fresh dill, and drizzle with olive oil.
- Fold the parchment paper over the salmon, and then fold the edges inward a few times to seal the parchment packet closed. Place the salmon packet on a sheet pan, and bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes.
8. How to Cook Salmon in the Air Fryer
Air frying salmon is an easy and versatile way to make healthy, flavorful, flaky salmon fillets with an incredibly crispy crust in under 15 minutes. The air fryer can be used to make almost any salmon recipe. Simply follow the steps, and when ready to cook, pop your salmon in the air fryer instead of the suggested method.
- Preheat the air fryer to 370 degrees F and spray the air fryer's basket with cooking spray.
- Season the salmon, and place fillets in the basket, skin-side down, top each with a lemon slice. Air fry salmon until cooked through, about 15 minutes.
Try these creative air fryer salmon recipes:
How to Store Salmon
Fresh salmon is best when eaten the same day you buy it. But it will stay for a day or two, tightly wrapped in plastic and stored in the coldest part of the fridge.
You can freeze salmon for up to 6 months. To thaw, take it from the freezer to the fridge the night before you intend to eat it. Or, if time is an issue, submerge fillets in cool water; frozen fillets should be thawed entirely in about an hour or two. Never thaw salmon at room temperature because bacteria can build up in the thawed outer portions even as the center remains frozen.
Tip: If you find a good deal on flash-frozen wild salmon fillets, buy a bunch; store them in your freezer, and thaw them during the workweek for quick meals. No time to thaw? Here are tips on how to cook with frozen seafood.