6 Foolproof Ways to Cook Salmon at HomeMay 19, 2020
Are you a salmon lover who only orders it at restaurants… because you don’t know how to cook salmon at home? You’re not alone. Thankfully, you can easily replicate every perfectly seasoned, flaky, and tender salmon recipe right in your own kitchen. Cooking salmon at home may look intimidating, but it’s actually very simple. Soon, you’ll be able to reap the benefits of eating fish like salmon any time you want! (Hello, omega-3s!)
We’ve compiled step-by-step instructions for six different preparations, so you can learn how to cook salmon no matter how you prefer to eat it. (We’re partial to this Sesame Salmon with Fennel and Orange Salad.)
For all methods, you’ll use one (4-ounce) salmon fillet per serving. Whether you’re cooking a healthy meal for one, meal prepping for a few days, or serving dinner to your whole family, the instructions are the same.
Heads-up: Leave the sashimi to the pros. Always make sure your salmon is fully cooked before eating it. Salmon is ready when it flakes easily with a fork and reaches an internal temperature of 145°F.
How to Cook Salmon in the Oven
How to Bake Salmon
Baking is one of the most approachable, fuss-free methods for cooking salmon.
- Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean up. Place the salmon skin-side down on the foil. (Skip the cooking spray. The skin will stick to the foil, so you can easily slide a spatula under the flesh before serving. Genius!)
- Lightly drizzle with your cooking oil of choice and sprinkle with seasonings. (You won’t need more than a teaspoon of oil per serving.)
- Place the salmon in the oven, then set the temperature to 400°F. (Yes, the oven is cold! There’s no need to preheat with this foolproof salmon method.)
- Bake for 25 minutes, until the salmon is fully cooked.
How to Broil Salmon
Short on time? Try broiling salmon instead.
- Preheat the broiler and place an oven rack about 6 inches below the heat.
- Line a baking sheet with foil, then season your salmon as desired.
- Broil for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the salmon is fully cooked.
You can also try the popular parchment paper method, like this Salmon en Papillote from Food, Pleasure & Health.
How to Cook Salmon on the Stove
Cooking salmon on the stovetop makes the skin crispy, which you can leave on or take off. Registered dietitian Maria Adams, MS, MPH, RDN, loves serving pan-seared salmon to her family, since it’s packed with nutrition and super easy to make.
“Salmon is on our menu almost weekly because everyone loves it, including the kids, and it’s a great way to get our omega-3s,” she says.
How to Pan-Sear Salmon
To achieve the perfect sear, use a seasoned cast-iron skillet.
- Heat the skillet over medium-high heat, then add 1 teaspoon of your preferred cooking oil (or use cooking spray).
- Once the pan is hot and the oil is shimmering, place the salmon fillets skin-side down in the pan. Season with salt and pepper (or your favorite seasoning blend).
- Reduce heat to medium. Cook for 4-5 minutes, then flip the salmon over. Cook for a few more minutes, until the flesh easily flakes with a fork.
How to Poach Salmon
Poaching is a method that gently cooks food in a liquid flavored with herbs, spices, and/or aromatics like garlic or onions. You can use water, low-sodium broth, or a 50/50 mix of white wine and water. It sounds impressive but is easy to master.
For best results, choose skinless salmon (or remove the skin yourself).
- Place a sauté pan large enough to hold all your salmon fillets over medium-high heat.
- Add a shallow amount of liquid. Add aromatics like sliced shallots, minced garlic, or herbs. (Aim for about ½ inch of liquid. You’ll need about 1 cup for a medium pan.)
- Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer.
- Add the salmon, then season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 8 minutes or until the salmon flakes easily.
How to Cook Salmon on the Grill
One of the best ways to achieve the perfect salmon fillet is grilling it over fiery hot grates.
Keep these tips in mind:
- The grill needs to hold a consistent temperature of 450°F throughout cooking.
- Avoid opening the lid while grilling.
- If your grill isn’t hot enough or doesn’t hold temperature, the skin will stick and be hard to remove.
- Worried about flipping the salmon? Skip that step. It will brown nicely and fully cook just fine!
Follow these steps:
- Preheat a grill to medium-high.
- Season your salmon fillet(s) with salt and pepper.
- Place them skin-side down on the hot grates.
- Grill for 6-8 minutes, until the skin is crisp and the fillet doesn’t resist when you flip it.
- Cook on the other side for 1-2 minutes, to add grill marks and a nice, deep brown color. (That’s optional.)
Can You Air-Fry Salmon?
Sure can! Air fryers are so versatile — they’re basically mini convection ovens, so they “bake” salmon even faster than your traditional oven.
- To prevent sticking, coat the bottom of the air-fryer basket with cooking spray or place the salmon on a small sheet of foil. (With the foil, you might want to add a minute or two to the cooking time.)
- Spray or drizzle your salmon with a high-heat cooking oil like avocado oil, then season with salt and pepper or your seasonings of choice.
- Place the salmon in the air-fryer basket. Cook at 400°F for 8 minutes, until fully cooked.
Can You Make Salmon in a Pressure Cooker?
The answer is also “yes”! You can even cook frozen salmon in your pressure cooker or Instant Pot, says registered dietitian KeVion Miller, RDN.
“It’s just a cool experience, a healthy protein choice — and it’s done in less than 15 minutes,” she says.
To cook salmon in an Instant Pot:
- Add ½ cup water to the pot, then place the metal rack inside.
- Season your salmon, then place on the rack.
- Cook on manual/high pressure for 3 minutes, then release the pressure.
Pro Tips for Perfect Salmon at Home
- Don’t bother removing the skin. Cooking salmon with the skin on keeps it from drying out. Plus, it’s much easier to slide a spatula under the fish to remove the skin once it’s cooked. (Two exceptions: Poached and pressure-cooked salmon work best with skinless fillets.)
- Don’t choose the wrong cut. Opt for center-cut salmon fillets, which are uniformly thick for more even cooking.