ARTICLE / KITCHEN TIPS

The Complete Guide to Salmon: Preparing & Cooking Salmon

Part three of our comprehensive guide on salmon focusing on how to prepare and cook salmon. From grilling to sheet pan to simple baked salmon, it is the most versatile fish to add to your recipe rotation.

How do you prepare salmon for cooking?

Before cooking salmon, rinse it with cold water and then pat it dry with a paper towel. Try to dry it as thoroughly as possible.

How do you debone salmon?

Salmon fillets you get at the grocery store sometimes contain pin bones; small, needle-like bones. You can do the following to remove them:

1. Start with a pair of fish bone tweezers. Run your fingertips across the center of the flesh side of the salmon fillet to find any protruding pin bones.

2. Grasp the exposed end of the bone with the tip of the tweezers. Place your other hand firmly against the flesh near the base of the bone.

3. Pull the bone out in one clean, strong movement in the direction it’s pointing. Repeat until all pin bones are removed.

4. Repeat on the other salmon fillet until all bones are removed.


How do you clean salmon?

If you happen to pick up a whole salmon that hasn’t yet been gutted, it’s fairly easy to do if you have a proper fish boning knife. All you do is find the pelvic fin and press down on the salmon’s belly. Pierce the belly and slice into it lengthwise and the guts should peek out. Take the fish to the sink and pull the guts out, and use the knife to detach anything still hanging on. Rinse the inside thoroughly.

How do you fillet salmon?

Follow these steps to fillet salmon at home:

  1. Remove the head: Taking the knife behind the head and gill plate, slice, angling the knife slightly toward the head of the salmon to get all of the meat.
  1. Remove the sides: Turn the knife to cut down one side of the backbone to the tail end of the salmon, lifting up the belly side to avoid cutting through it. You should now have one side of salmon. Flip the salmon and repeat on the other side – leaving the head with the backbone to be tossed or used in stock.
  1. Finish the fillet: Slice through the top and bottom of the sides of salmon to remove the bone strip at the top and the belly at the bottom. Slice the fillet into smaller pieces as desired or cook an entire side of salmon by baking or smoking.

You can try this at home, remember that even when you select a whole fish, most fishmongers will fillet it for you in the store.

Winning ways to flavor salmon

Salmon works well with many ingredients. Below are some ideas:

  • Salmon + Chives: Chives provide toned down onion flavor and an enticing pop of color. If you don’t have chives on hand, try shallots for a subtle garlic-onion flavor that works well in sauces or marinades.
  • Salmon + Lemon: This is a classic combination. Lemon can stand alone with salt and pepper, however it also marries well with other popular salmon recipe ingredients like fresh herbs, garlic, butter, and olive oil.
  • Salmon + Mustard: From Dijon to whole grain styles, mustard delivers a tangy, tart flavor that balances the richness of salmon. Mustard works especially well as a glaze with a little sweetness from honey or maple syrup.
  • Salmon + Olive Oil and/or Butter: Olive oil is an ideal fat to drizzle on, pan roast, or even poach salmon in. Butter also makes an undeniably delicious crispy crust and gives flavor alone or when combined with white wine and fresh herbs.
  • Salmon + Tomato: Tomatoes cut through the delectably rich salmon flavor.
  • Smoked Salmon + Crème Fraîche + Dill: This classic combination works especially when paired with eggs.
  • Salmon + Lime: Lemon is a classic flavor pairing with salmon however lime deserves a little of that limelight.
  • Salmon + Lentils: This protein-packed power duo makes a hearty and satisfying dinner or lunch.
  • Salmon + Apples: Apples provide a sweet and crunchy contrast to rich, buttery salmon.
  • Salmon + Barbecue Sauce: The sweet, tangy flavor of barbecue sauce perfectly complements the bold flavor and meaty salmon texture.

How long do you cook salmon?

In an oven preheated to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, it should take a 1-inch thick salmon fillet 7 to 8 minutes to cook to the safe internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

How do you cook salmon with the skin on?

If you want to cook salmon on the stovetop, heat a pat of butter in a skillet over medium heat. Place the salmon in the pan skin side up and cook it for about 4 minutes. Flip it over and cook it skin side down for another 2 minutes.

What is the best way to bake salmon?

The best way to bake salmon is to preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and place your oven rack in the middle of the oven. Pat the salmon dry with a paper towel. Season the salmon and coat a baking dish with cooking spray. Place the salmon in the baking dish skin side down. Place the dish in the oven and bake it for about 4 minutes for each half-inch of thickness. The safe internal temperature for salmon is 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

What temperature do you bake salmon?

Bake salmon in an oven preheated to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

How long do you bake salmon in the oven?

The time salmon takes to cook depends on the thickness. It takes about 4 minutes to cook salmon for every 1/2 inch of thickness.

How long do you broil salmon for?

To broil salmon, skin side down, it will take 4-5 minutes to cook for each 1/2 inch of thickness.

What is the best way to grill salmon?

For grilling, you’ll want skin-on salmon steaks. Make sure your grilling grate is clean and oiled. Preheat the grill to medium-high. If you have fillets, season them with salt and pepper and grill them skin side up.

How long do you grill salmon for?

Grill your salmon on the BBQ for about 6 minutes before flipping it to finish the cooking for another 4 minutes. The internal temperature should reach 145 degrees Fahrenheit for a fully cooked piece of salmon.

How do you cook salmon on a pan?

If you’re pan-frying salmon on the stovetop, make sure you have a very hot pan and salmon that is not too cold. When your pan is hot, add the olive oil — you’ll know it’s ready when the oil shimmers when you move the pan. Put the salmon in the pan skin side down. Let it cook for 3 minutes on the first side before flipping it and cooking it for another 4 minutes on the other side.

How do you poach salmon?

To poach salmon, use a flavorful poaching liquid. White wine works very well if you want to keep it simple, but if you want a very light and flavorful liquid, poach it in a court-bouillon. It combines fresh vegetables in water to flavor the fish.

How long do you poach salmon?

Once your poaching liquid has reached a simmer, place the salmon in the pan and simmer for about 25 minutes.

How do you steam salmon?

To steam salmon, you need a large pot and a stainless steel or silicone steamer. Fill the bottom of the pot with water at a 1-inch depth and bring it to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to a simmer. Place the salmon on the steamer and place it in the pot and cover it. Let it steam for 7 minutes.

How do you make salmon patties?

Salmon patties call for cooked salmon, eggs, breadcrumbs, and crunchy vegetables like celery and onions. Those are all combined and formed into patties to be baked or pan-fried.

How do you cure salmon?

Curing salmon, basically means heavily salting salmon as a preservation method. The salmon is covered with salt, sugar, and other spices your recipe calls for. It’s then wrapped in plastic and refrigerated with weights on it for several days.

How do you make smoked salmon?

To smoke salmon, you’ll first pack it into a dry brine for at least 4 hours. You’ll then rinse the salmon, pat it dry and it’s ready to smoke. If you’re smoking the salmon in your oven at home, you’ll want to create a small smoker with a pot (and lid) and smoking wood chips — oak and hickory are good, but mesquite has too strong of flavor. You’ll want to soak the chips in water first and then lay them out in roasting pan lined with aluminum foil. You’ll then spray a cooling rack with cooking spray, lay it over the wood chips, and then lay the salmon on the rack. Place the roasting pan on the oven burner and heat it on high until the chips start to smoke. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pan tightly with a lid or foil so that the smoke gets trapped inside with the salmon. Let it smoke for 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool. Slice the salmon and serve.

Is smoked salmon cooked?

Smoked salmon is cooked slowly but with smoke surrounding it.

How long do you smoke salmon?

It only takes about 30 minutes to smoke salmon.

Can I microwave salmon?

You can cook salmon in the microwave in 3 to 4 minutes, but oven-baked salmon produces a better cooked salmon. You can also reheat salmon in the microwave, but it produces a terrible odor.

What sides go with salmon?

Salmon goes well with fresh, light flavors like citrus fruits and spring vegetables, so you can serve sides with salmon like asparagus, spinach, an arugula salad, or fresh green beans. Pasta salad seasoned with a vinaigrette works well, or Mediterranean sides like couscous or tabbouleh go very well with salmon.

How do I know when salmon is done?

The most accurate way to know salmon is done is by using a digital thermometer to take its internal temperature which should register at 145 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are not using a thermometer, you can tell if salmon is done when it flakes easily with a fork.

How long does it take to cook salmon?

How long it takes to cook salmon depends on your cooking method. It takes about 30 minutes to smoke it or poach it. Roasting or baking it takes about twenty minutes and about 3 to 4 minutes in the microwave gets it done.

What is the appropriate internal temperature of salmon?

When you’re cooking fresh salmon, the internal temperature should reach 145 degrees Fahrenheit before being served. To reheat salmon (and anything else) the safe internal temperature should be 165 degrees Fahrenheit before serving.