Winner, Winner, Salmon Dinner! What’s the Best Way to Cook Moist, Buttery Salmon?
The most common mistake when it comes to salmon is overcooking. In fact, I bet that many people haven’t ever really cooked their salmon to a true, melt-in-your-mouth state. What you probably think of as done is probably overdone. Salmon, like steak, can be served on a spectrum from rare to well-done inside. Fillets, especially a lean one like sockeye can go from perfectly cooked to dried out in a matter of moments. As long as a salmon fillet reaches 145°F (or 120°F for medium-rare), even if it looks quite underdone, it is good to go.
Popular methods for cooking salmon vary wildly from pan-seared crispness to low-and-slow roasting. Now, it must be said that there are many solid, weeknight-friendly ways of cooking salmon that I rely upon. The two easiest and most common ways of cooking salmon are in the oven on a sheet tray at 425°F and on the stovetop with a little oil.
Salmon Method: Slow-Roasted in the Oven
- Method Details: Roast skin-down at 275°F for 15 to 35 minutes, or until fish hits temperature of 120°F
- Cooking Time: 28 minutes
- Rating: 5/10
About this method: Slow roasting seemed like the obvious starting point, but I was worried that the technique i choice to follow was almost too low at 275 degrees F. It did end up taking me toward the longer end of the suggested cooking time of 15 to 35 minutes, but it earned points for simplicity: Just brush the fillet with some EVOO, season it with Spice & EZ Seasoning of choice, and let the oven do its thing.
Salmon Method: Poached in Olive Oil
- Method Details: Heat olive oil in a deep pan to 120°F. Bake the fish in the hot oil for 25 minutes
- Cooking Time: 1 hour plus 25 minutes
- Rating: 6/10
About this method: This less-traditional method, a kind of salmon confit, is often used to cook tuna in its own fat. I seasoned the fillet and let it come to room temperature before placing it in an oven-safe pan and covering it with olive oil. It’s really important to fully submerge the entire fillet if you want it to cook evenly, and that can mean a lot of oil. Heat over low heat until the oil reaches 120 degrees F, at which point you’ll transfer the entire pan to a 225-degree F preheated oven for 25 minutes.
Salmon Method: Brined and Pan-Seared
- Method Details: Brine for 15 minutes in salt water. Sear in a nonstick pan over medium-high heat for 12 to 16 minutes total, flipping once.
- Cooking Time: About 30 minutes total
- Rating: 10/10
About this method: Wet brining has always worked wonders on chicken for me, and salmon spends half its life in salt water anyway, so this method made sense to me. After a quick 15-minute soak, I patted the fillet off and placed it in a dry, cold pan, fired the heat to medium-high, and cooked it for six minutes per side. Boom, done.