The true secret to enjoying salmon is not in the recipe, but in knowing how to cook this rich, delicious fish! Here's how to cook salmon in the most popular ways. And a simple lemon vinaigrette that is a nice, tangy finish.
- 4 salmon fillets, brought to room temperature
- Avocado oil, olive oil, butter, or ghee
- About 1 teaspoon of sea or kosher flake salt
- About ¼ teaspoon ground white pepper, optional
- 1 lemon, quartered into wedges for garnish, optional
- Fresh herbs such as Italian parsley or dill, leaves removed and chopped, optional
Additional Ingredients for Baked Salmon
- 5-6 stems of fresh herbs such as Italian parsley, thyme, rosemary, or dill
- 2 lemons, one sliced into wedges and the other into quarter-inch slices
Additional Ingredients for Pan-Roasted Salmon
- ¼ to ¾ cup of avocado or olive oil, for the pan
- 1 to 2 tablespoons of Wondra, all-purpose flour, cornstarch, tapioca, or arrowroot starch
Simple Lemon Vinaigrette
- ¼ cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice, from about 1 to 2 large lemons
- ¾ cup of olive or avocado oil
- ½ teaspoon of kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon of honey, optional
- 2 to 3 tablespoons of fresh, chopped parsley or dill leaves, optional
For the Lemon Vinaigrette
- Combine all of the ingredients but the chopped herbs in a small bowl and whisk together.
- Taste the dressing to see if you'd like to adjust the amounts of salt, lemon juice, or oil to your liking.
- Stir in the fresh chopped herbs and set aside while you cook the salmon.
- Briefly whisk the vinaigrette again right before serving.
- Store leftover vinaigrette in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Lemon & Herb Baked Salmon
- Preheat the oven to 375° F. Line a baking pan with foil, or parchment paper. Or grease a bare pan well with a high-heat oil or cooking spray.
- Remove the leaves from half of your chosen herbs, chop the leaves finely, and set them aside.
- Place the salmon fillets skin-side down on the pan a few inches apart. Drizzle each with a bit of oil.
- Season the flesh generously with sea salt and a little ground white pepper, if you like. Scatter the lemon slices and the remaining intact sprigs of fresh herbs around and on top of the salmon.
- Bake the fillets until the internal temperature measured with a probe thermometer is a few degrees shy of 130° F for medium, or 145° F for well done. Without a thermometer, look for a darkening of the flesh and for it to begin to flake. Baking average-size fillets at 375° F should take between 10 and 15 minutes.
- Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, and any reserved, fresh, chopped herbs. Serve with the lemon vinaigrette.
- Prepare your grill to medium-high heat. For a charcoal grill, this is when the flames have mostly subsided, and the coals are glowing. When the grill is hot enough, you shouldn't be able to hold your hand comfortably over the grates for more than a couple of seconds.
- Clean the grates well with a grill brush and carefully rub or spray on a high-heat oil like avocado.
- Place the fillets skin-side down, and fight the urge to move the salmon.
- Grill the salmon until the flesh begins to flake, which won't take more than ten minutes on a hot grill. Aim for an internal temperature of 145° F for well-done salmon, and around 125° F to 130° F for medium-rare to medium-well doneness.
- Using a large, sturdy spatula or fish spatula, remove the salmon from the grill.
- Serve with a squeeze of lemon, the lemon vinaigrette, and/or more fresh, chopped herbs.
Pan-Roasting or Shallow-Frying
- Preheat a thin layer of avocado or olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Aim for a coating of oil that is an eighth of an inch high. If you want to shallow fry your fish, add enough oil to come halfway up the largest fillet once it's in the pan.
- On a cutting board, a prep tray, or a large plate, coat both sides of the salmon fillets in a very thin dusting of all-purpose flour, Wondra-brand flour, cornstarch, or tapioca flour. Sifting the flour over the fish with a fine-mesh strainer can help you create an extremely thin coating.
- Season the fish generously with ground kosher or sea salt and ground white pepper, if you like.
- The oil is ready when it shimmers and appears to thin out slightly.
- Fry the fillets flesh-side down first just until a light brown crust develops. Adjust the heat down if necessary to prevent burning and keep the oil from smoking.
- Carefully flip the fish with a sturdy spatula, and finish cooking with the skin-side down until the flesh turns opaque and flakey. Or you reach your preferred doneness measured with a meat thermometer (145° F for well-done salmon, and around 125° F to 130° F for medium-rare to medium-well doneness).
- Garnish with more fresh, chopped herbs, a squeeze of lemon, and the lemon vinaigrette.
Whether you're buying sockeye salmon or another variety, look for the brightest color salmon in the case. The deeper the color, the richer the flavor. The flesh should be smooth and bright, and visibly moist. When researching the most sustainable choices, I refer to the Seafood Watch maintained by the non-profit Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Without a thermometer, you can tell salmon is done when the flesh becomes opaque and flakes easily, but is still visibly moist. If the flesh is oozing coagulated albumin (that white stuff), you may have taken it a bit too far. If you own a digital meat thermometer, the textbook temperature of doneness for fish as set by the Food & Drug Administration is 145° F when inserted into the thickest part of the fillet.
If you don't have a health reason like pregnancy to consider, you can take salmon off the heat when the internal temperature is around 130° F for medium-well doneness. If you enjoy rare or medium-rare doneness, stop cooking once the thickest part of the fillets reaches 125° F.
On Oven Temperature
Since salmon has sturdier flesh than more delicate white fish, it can handle higher roasting temperatures. Anywhere between 350° F and 400° F will give you a nice, baked salmon dish. But of course the hotter the oven, the faster it cooks. I lack patience (and so do my kids at dinner time), so I tend to cook on the hotter side.
Be aware, that the hotter the temperature, the more albumin (white stuff) you will see seep out during baking. Coating the fillets or basting them throughout can help minimize the appearance of albumin. A healthy drizzle of oil, maple syrup, or even teriyaki sauce or miso can help keep the mysterious white stuff at bay. And all add lovely flavor!
On the Nutrition Information
The Nutrition Information below is based on the recipe above for a four-ounce baked salmon fillet drizzled with a couple of tablespoons of lemon vinaigrette. If you choose to fry your salmon, you will add significantly more fat to the nutritional profile of the dish.
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