How to Cook Salmon Like a Pro
Full of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, salmon is a tasty and healthy source of key nutrients and protein. Though many people reserve salmon for special occasions or only eat it at restaurants, it’s incredibly easy to make at home. Plus, salmon doesn’t take long to cook, making it a fantastic option for weeknights.
There are countless ways to cook up a fresh fillet of salmon, but we’re going to go over 3 basic methods to help you get started, with a few extra tips along the way.
How to Buy Salmon
For delicious results, it’s always best to start with a great cut of fish. When shopping for salmon at your local store, always look for salmon that’s moist and vibrant. Be sure to give it a good sniff, too. A light, salty aroma is to be expected, but your fish should never smell overly fishy.
If you’re not sure when you’ll be cooking your salmon, it’s OK to purchase frozen fish. Frozen foods sometimes get a bad rap, but frozen fish is just as good or better than what you’ll see at your local seafood counter. In fact, many fishing rigs freeze their catch the same day it’s caught, which can maximize its freshness and quality.
While you’re shopping, you’ll likely see salmon divided into two groups: wild-caught and farm-raised. Though there’s been some debate about the merits of each method, the truth is that both can be done sustainably to produce healthy, nutritious fish. At The Kroger Co. Family of Stores, we’re dedicated to improving the sustainability of seafood and other foods, so you can shop wild-caught and farm-raised options worry-free. And if you want to learn more about seafood sustainability, you can read about our contributions here.
How to Bake Salmon
Ready to get cooking? This mostly hands-off method might just be the easiest way to cook up a perfectly flaky salmon fillet. Start by preheating your oven to 350°F. Place the salmon on a lined baking sheet with the skin down, then bake for 12-15 minutes until it flakes easily with a fork. This is a simple way to produce reliable results every time, and it works for any variety of seasonings or preparations.
Try topping your salmon with lemon slices or minced garlic, or you can brush the tops of each fillet with mustard or olive oil and spices. You can also add vegetables to the same tray that the salmon will bake on for a one-pan meal, like in this recipe for Sheet Pan Garlic Salmon and Broccoli. You can use any vegetables you like, but you may have to pre-cook them in the oven depending on how long they take to bake. Once they’re close to finishing, they can be moved to the side to make room for the salmon, then the entire meal can finish baking at once.
How to Cook Salmon in a Pan
Pan-frying your salmon is a fantastic way to get a nice sear on your fish and crisp up the skin. All you need is a little attention and good timing, and you’ll have a restaurant-quality meal that’s ready in hardly any time at all.
First, choose a good cast iron or nonstick pan and coat it with butter, olive oil or another fat of your choice. Warm it over medium-high heat until the pan is hot. (This is a very important step, since the fish won’t cook as well if you start it in a cold pan.) Once the pan is hot, add the fillets with the skin facing up and cook for about 6 minutes. After 6 minutes, the fish should release easily, and you can flip each fillet and cook for another 4-6 minutes until the skin is crispy.
To add even more flavor to your salmon, you can add herbs or aromatics like thyme, garlic or shallots to the pan. Citrus pairs well with fish, so lemon or orange wheels are also a welcome addition. In this recipe for Blueberry Salmon, fresh berries and garlic are added to the pan after the salmon is cooked to create a bright, tangy sauce to pair with the fish.
How to Grill Salmon
Grilling is a great way to cook salmon, plus it has the extra benefit of adding smoky flavor to your dish. To cook salmon right on the grill, you’ll want to start by pre-cutting your fish into portions. It can be difficult to maneuver a larger fillet of salmon on the grill, so cutting it into serving sizes helps keep things simple and easy. Next, season your fish and oil the grill grates, then set the grill to medium-high heat. Place the salmon skin side-down and cook for about 6 minutes, then flip and cook for another 4-6 minutes. The salmon should release easily from the grill grates. If it doesn’t, let it cook for another minute or two before trying again. You don’t necessarily need a recipe to grill up some salmon, but we love this one for Grilled Salmon and Couscous.
Another option when grilling salmon is to create foil packets. Foil packets enclose each portion of salmon with aromatics and vegetables, creating an easy, pre-portioned, all-in-one meal. Start by measuring out a piece of aluminum foil big enough to fold over a portion of salmon and your other ingredients. Place the salmon in the center of one side and surround it with your chosen additions. Dill and lemon slices are great for adding flavor, and sliced zucchini or bell pepper are both vegetables that will cook quickly at the same pace as the salmon. It’s also helpful to add a pat of butter or drizzle of olive oil. Once you’ve arranged and seasoned everything, fold the aluminum foil over the food and crimp the edges together securely. Place each packet on the grill and cook over medium-high heat for about 12 minutes.
Now that we’ve covered 3 basic ways to cook up a delicious salmon dish, it’s time to put your new knowledge to the test. We’ve got a variety of baked, pan-fried and grilled salmon recipes for all tastes and skill levels. Plus, once you’ve got these basic techniques down, you can try your hand at more creative methods like air frying or sous vide cooking. Check out our recipe collection here, and click through to each recipe to easily add ingredients to your shopping cart or list. Find more easy meal ideas and healthy living inspiration on our Meal Solutions Page and Nutrition Page.