How to Cook Salmon

Article by: Allrecipes staff  |  Picture by: Allrecipes
How to Cook Salmon
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Learn how to cook salmon with ease. Read on for tips on pan-frying, poaching, baking and barbecuing salmon to perfection.

Salmon in brief

Why salmon?
Not only is salmon delicious, but it's also good for you! Heart-healthy salmon is full of omega-3 fatty acids, plenty of protein and an abundance of vitamins, including B vitamins, and the antioxidant, vitamin E.

Choosing salmon
Fresh salmon should never smell fishy. The flesh should be bright and moist and not discoloured along the edges. If you're buying a whole salmon, its eyes should be bright and clear; the skin, silvery and shiny, and resilient to the touch.

Storing salmon
Salmon is best enjoyed the same day you buy it. But it will keep for a day or two tightly wrapped in cling film and stored in the coldest part of the fridge.

Freezing salmon
Freeze raw salmon for up to 6 months. To thaw, take it from freezer to fridge the night before cooking. If time is an issue, submerge fillets in a bowl of cool water, changing the water periodically; frozen fillets should thaw in an hour or two.

Wild or farmed?
Wild salmon is a preferable choice if it comes from a sustainable source. Unfortunately, Atlantic salmon populations have been in decline for decades and are not considered sustainable. Pacific salmon populations are currently faring much better, and wild Alaskan salmon is considered a 'Best Choice' by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

Farmed salmon has three obvious advantages over wild salmon: it's available year round, it's less expensive and the supply is plentiful.

However, there is a downside to a large-scale industrial system that packs fish into cramped saltwater pens like feedlots of the sea. Farmed salmon are given pesticides and antibiotics to protect them against the diseases that come from living in such close quarters. Salmon sometimes slip their confines, escaping into the ocean to mingle with wild salmon, corrupting the gene pool and introducing wild salmon to vigorous strains of diseases with which their immune systems cannot cope. Waste and feed problems can also lead to fish and water contamination.

Of course, not all aquaculture systems are alike, and there are many producers of farmed salmon who impose strict standards to ensure that they are raising salmon in a way that protects the salmon, environment and consumer alike. Ask your fishmonger for information about the fish-farming practices of the salmon available in your market, or look for MSC labelled salmon in your supermarket.

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Poached salmon

Salmon is already a healthy choice, and with poaching you ensure it stays that way. Poaching salmon is quick and easy and a great way to enjoy the essence of the fish instead of complicating it with fussy preparations.

Poaching involves dropping the salmon into simmering liquid - white wine does a nice job - and cooking for a matter of minutes, if poaching salmon fillets. To calculate poaching time, use 5 minutes per 450g as a guide, or refer to your favourite recipe.
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Baked salmon

Baking salmon is another easy choice. You can bake salmon in a foil or parchment parcel, so that it steams in its own juices, or you can bake it uncovered in a baking dish with a simple glaze or breadcrumb-based crust.
Check your salmon often
Overcooked salmon is a tragedy we'd all like to avoid! Ensure you check your salmon regularly so it doesn't dry out. As soon as it flakes with a fork, it's ready to serve.
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Pan-fried salmon

Pan frying salmon yields super flavourful results, especially if you achieve a nicely caramelised crust. But it is perhaps a trickier method, especially for those of us who are nervous about beautiful fillets sticking to the pan. The trick is to heat a heavy-bottomed frying pan with some oil till it is smoking hot, and to lay the fillets skin-side down in the pan without overcrowding it.
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Barbecued salmon

Being a firm fish, salmon is a great choice for barbecuing. As with pan frying, you want to heat your barbecue to high and place the salmon skin-side down on an oiled cooking grate. Once you notice the salmon fillet is opaque around the edges, flip it over and continue to cook for just a minute or two, or until it flakes easily with a fork.
More salmon inspiration

Find loads more tasty ideas in our Salmon recipe collection.
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