Salmon fillets are versatile and delicious, but they cook quickly and require a bit of technique to get right. They are generally prepared by baking, broiling, grilling, pan-searing, or poaching them. Adding a marinade is a common way to infuse the fish with extra flavor. Whether you’re a novice in the kitchen or an experienced cook, there’s no reason to fear salmon. Skip to Step 1 to marinate your salmon, and then move on to the appropriate following method depending on how you want to cook your salmon.
Makes 4 servings
- 4 salmon fillets, 6-oz (170 g) each
- 1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) garlic salt
- 3 Tbsp (45 ml) lemon juice
- 2 Tbsp (30 ml) olive oil
- 1 to 2 cups (250 to 500 ml) water (for poaching only)
[Edit]Marinating the Salmon Fillets
- Combine the garlic salt, lemon juice, and olive oil. Whisk the three ingredients together in a small bowl and transfer to a 1-gallon (4-liter) resealable plastic bag.
- You can also use a glass dish covered with aluminum foil instead of the plastic bag.
- Coat the salmon. Place the salmon in the marinade and seal the bag. Turn the bag several times to coat all sides of the salmon.
- If using a glass dish, turn the fillets in the marinade several times to coat all sides, then cover the dish with a lid or aluminum foil.
- Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Place the bag with the marinade and salmon fillets in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Salmon, like all fish, is not as dense as red meats and poultry. As a result, it does not need to be marinaded for long in order to absorb flavor.
- Remove the salmon from the refrigerator at least 10 minutes prior to cooking. Doing so raises the temperature, allowing it to cook more evenly throughout.
- Preheat the oven to 400℉ (200℃). Prepare a baking sheet with shallow sides by covering it with nonstick aluminum foil.
- Coat the pan with nonstick cooking spray if you don’t have aluminum foil on hand.
- Transfer the salmon to the prepared baking sheet. If the salmon fillets have skin on them, lay them skin-side down on the sheet.
- Position the fillets in a single layer, spaced evenly.
- Bake for 15 minutes. Place the baking sheet on the middle rack in the oven and cook the salmon until done.
- When done, you should be able to easily flake the salmon apart with a fork. The middle should also be opaque.
- Serve at your desired temperature. Salmon fillets can be served warm out of the oven or after they have cooled to room temperature.
- Preheat the broiler. Allow the broiler to heat up for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Most broilers only have an “on” setting, but if yours has separate “high” and “low” settings, set the broiler to high.
- Transfer the fillets to a broiler pan. Place the fillets on the interior rack inside the pan with the skin-side facing down, if applicable.
- Arrange the fillets in a single layer and space them apart evenly.
- If desired, coat the rack with nonstick cooking spray before putting the salmon on it. This is usually unadvised for fatty meats, but not much will drip off the salmon as it cooks. As such, using cooking spray can drastically reduce the amount of salmon that gets stuck to the broiler pan rack.
- Broil for 10 to 12 minutes. Place the broiler pan 5 1/2 inches (14 cm) away from the top heating element and cook the salmon until done.
- The salmon is done when you can effortlessly flake the fillets with a fork. The center should be opaque.
- You can turn the salmon once during cooking to ensure even browning, but it is not necessary. Moreover, flipping salmon fillets can be difficult to do and may cause the salmon to fall apart in the oven prematurely.
- Serve. Broiled salmon can be served hot out of the oven or at room temperature.
- Preheat the grill. You can use both gas and charcoal grills to prepare salmon fillets.
- If using a gas grill, preheat the grill to 450 degrees Fahrenheit (232 degrees Celsius).
- If using a charcoal grill, spread a layer of charcoal onto the bottom of the grill and light. Allow the coals to burn and smolder for 30 minutes.
- Wrap the salmon fillets in aluminum foil. Place each fillet in the center of a piece of aluminum foil. Bring the sides up and fold them together, sealing the packet. Press any raised aluminum foil flat.
- If using nonstick aluminum foil, place the salmon fillets on the nonstick side.
- Transfer the packets to the grill and cook for 14 to 16 minutes. Flip the packets once, at the 7 or 8 minute mark, using grill tongs or a heat-proof spatula.
- Checking the fillets for doneness may be difficult since the foil will be hot to the touch. You may need to wait until after you pull the fish from the grill. If the fillets do not flake easily with a fork or if the center is not opaque, seal the foil again and return to the grill.
- Let sit before serving. Allow the salmon to sit off the grill and in their foil packets at room temperature for 5 minutes, then serve.
- Preheat a skillet or sauté pan over high heat. The pan should get hot, but it should not begin to smoke.
- If desired, you can spray a thin coating of cooking spray on the pan or coat it in 1 Tbsp (15 ml) of olive oil before heating it. This step is not necessary if you marinated the salmon fillets or brushed them with olive oil, though.
- Place the fish in the preheated pan. Cook for 3 minutes before flipping each fillet over and cooking for an additional 3 to 4 minutes.
- Use a fish spatula to turn the fish. Do not use tongs, since the salmon will likely break apart prematurely if handled with tongs during the cooking process.
- The salmon is done when you can flake the center apart with a fork and when the entire fillet is no longer translucent.
- Allow the salmon fillets to cool slightly before servings. After removing them from the heat, you should let the fillets rest at room temperature for 5 minutes before you serve them.
- Bring the water to a simmer on the stovetop. Place the water in a saucepan with tall sides. Heat over medium heat until the water starts to gently simmer.
- If desired, you can salt the water as it heats up. You can also add one chopped shallot or green onion and several flavorful sprigs of fresh dill, rosemary, or other herbs to the water. This is an especially common way to flavor poached salmon, and is actually more commonly used than marinating.
- Add the salmon fillets to the pan. If they still have skins, place the fillets skin-side down. Cover and cook for 5 to 10 minutes.
- If the salmon flakes apart easily with a fork and is no longer translucent inside, it has finished cooking.
- Serve warm. Remove the salmon fillets from the heat and let rest for 3 to 5 minutes before serving.
- If desired, you can prepare a second, separate batch of the marinade and use it as a sauce or glaze. To use it as a glaze, coat grilled, pan-seared, or broiled salmon halfway through the cooking process with the mixture using a pastry brush. To use it as a sauce, thicken it on the stovetop by cooking the marinade over medium-high heat until it reduces and thickens.
- If baking or pan-searing the salmon fillets, you could also skip the marinade and coat the fish with a layer of fresh herbs, such as parsley, basil, and dill.
- Experiment with the marinade ingredients as desired, using different combinations of oil, acid, and seasoning. Acids usually include vinegars and citrus juices, and seasonings can be dry or wet. For instance, you could create a marinade using soy sauce, rice vinegar, olive oil, and brown sugar. You could also use a vinaigrette dressing, which already combines vinegar, cooking oil, and seasonings.
[Edit]Things You’ll Need
- 1-gallon (4-liter) resealable plastic bag or glass dish
- Nonstick aluminum foil
- Cooking spray
- Baking sheet
- Broiler pan
- Fish spatula