This method will never leave you with a dry, rubbery fillet.

By Darcy Lenz
January 20, 2021
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Listen, I get it. Cooking fish is admittedly intimidating. I'd prefer not to mention how many times I've had to scrape the skin off the grates of my grill because my fillets were just not cooperating with me that day. Pan-searing fish can be a pain too — you're looking at a whole lot of oil splattering all over your stovetop, and it takes some practice to perfect how long you need to sear on each side in order to cook your fish exactly how you like it. Steaming salmon in parchment (en papillote) is a pretty easy way to cook fish, however that method lacks pizazz, for me. TBH it kind of makes me feel like I'm on a diet — not my favorite.

That's why I always choose to slow roast my salmon. Not only is this method incredibly easy, but it yields a result that I think is more delicious than any other cooking method. No need to worry about crisping up skin or meticulously standing over a skillet trying to guess when the fish is done. Plus, there's a million different ways you can get creative and gussy it up for year-round, slow-roasted salmon enjoyment. Sounds pretty good, huh?

So here's how it's done. As the name implies, this is going to take a little bit longer than quickly grilling or pan-searing, but it shouldn't take any longer than 45 minutes. Ultimately, the cook time will depend on the thickness of your fillet and how you like your fish cooked. The ideal oven temperature for this method is 275°F — it's hot enough that it will cook your fish through, but not so hot that it will impart any caramelization on the fish.

I like to pick a glass baking dish that accommodates the size of my fillet(s). The first choice to make when it comes to slow roasting is what else you'd like to put in the pan with the fish. You can always skip this if you're just looking for a basic fillet, but this is where I like to have fun with aromatics and other ingredients. In the winter, it's nice to cook the fish over a bed of sliced winter citrus, maybe a head of sliced fennel, and some chiles. In the summer, you can use fresh tomatoes, garlic, and basil. Use whatever is in season and whatever sounds good to accompany your fish — just keep in mind that whatever you're roasting is only going to be at 275°F for 45 minutes at the most, so avoid hearty vegetables like potatoes, squash, and other root vegetables, as these will not finish cooking in time.

Once you've got your aromatics in the baking dish, season everything with salt, pepper, and any other dry spices that you think would play well. Got some hard herbs on hand? Throw in a sprig or two of thyme, rosemary, or sage. Dill always pairs nicely with fish, too. Next, you can lay down the fillet. I prefer to take off the skin before roasting because this method is not going to yield crispy skin. In fact, it'll be flabby. I'm sorry I had to use that vile word but I need to be up front about what you're asking for if you put fish skin in a 275°F oven, okay? You can ask the fish monger to take off the skin, or you can do it yourself by gently and slowly pulling it back, making sure not to tear the fillet. If you're nervous about taking the skin off, you can still slow roast the salmon while the skin is on, just make sure to discard the skin before serving the fish. Because remember, it's flabby.

After the fish is in the baking dish, season it generously with salt and pepper. Now, what comes next might be the most crucial point in your slow roasting journey. Drizzle the fish generously with olive oil — I'd say about ⅓ cup per pound of salmon will be sufficient. I know that sounds like a boat load of oil, but it's necessary. The addition of this fat will create a super rich, creamy fillet and prevent the fish from drying out in the oven. Because everyone knows that the only thing worse than flabby fish is dry fish. Once your fish is nice and oiled up (weird thing to say but stick with me), pop it in the oven.

Knowing when your fish is done is entirely up to you. If you prefer to have your salmon fully cooked through and flaked, then look for a little bit of white liquid to start leaking out of the fish — for a thick fillet, this will happen closer to 40 or 45 minutes. If you prefer medium-rare (a pink center) then don't wait for the white liquid to appear — pull the fish when the flesh is slightly opaque. For a thick fillet, that will be close to 30 or 40 minutes. If you have a thin fillet, then shave a few minutes of those cook times. If you're not sure, you can always prick the thickest part of the fillet to take a peek at the interior. If you have a thermometer, an internal temperature of 120°F is medium-rare and 145°F is fully cooked through.I like to serve a large fillet by breaking it into hefty pieces and serving it over a bed of whatever I cooked it with. A simple rice pilaf on the side always hits the spot. If you're wondering whether this method can be used on all fish, I would only recommend it for a fattier fish, like mackerel or trout. If you're ready to conquer fish cookery once and for all, then it's time to add slow roasting to your arsenal of methods. Simple, delicious, and sure to please.