How to Cook Salmon

Here’s how to cook salmon! Master how to bake it in the oven, broil, grill, poach or pan sear it to perfection.

Salmon is one of the most popular fish in America: yet it can be intimidating to cook! How do you get it to the perfect tender, flaky consistency? How do you know when salmon is done, and why does it sometimes taste fishy? What about that white stuff that sometimes appears after you cook it? Here are all our tips to mastering how to cook salmon. Pick your favorite method below, then scroll below the list for a few tips on choosing the best fish, that white stuff, and more.

How to cook salmon: 5 best methods!

How to buy a great piece of salmon

What’s key in all these ways to cook salmon? You need a high-quality piece of fish. There’s no way to “fix” poor quality salmon: even drowning it with a sauce. Keep in mind: lower quality salmon can taste very fishy and have a mushy texture. You can use frozen salmon, but we’ve found that fresh salmon tends to taste better and be higher quality. Here’s how to buy a great piece of salmon:

  • Buy wild caught salmon. Fish that is wild caught in your country is usually a sustainable choice. There are also quality options in well-regulated farms; see Seafood Watch Consumer Guide. Buy it fresh from the fish counter if you can; frozen works too.
  • Look for US caught (if you’re in the US). 90% of the seafood we eat in the US is imported. Imported seafood runs the risk of being overfished, caught under unfair labor practices, or farmed in environmentally harmful ways.
  • Coho is a good choice for great flavor. We tend to like Coho salmon for its mild flavor: it’s a good middle of the road option in terms of price. Of course, King salmon is incredible but it’s on the expensive end. Atlantic salmon is typically farmed salmon, so we tend to avoid it: however, we have found some good quality Atlantic salmon fillets at the fish counter.

How to know when salmon is done

How to tell when salmon is done? First, buy a food thermometer! It’s the best way to get a precise reading on whether it’s cooked. There are many types of salmon (Coho, Atlantic, King, etc.) that all come in different thicknesses, so each piece will cook differently. No two pieces of fish are alike, so the exact timing will vary every time you cook it. Here’s how to know when salmon is done:

  • The internal temperature should measure 125 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit in the center for medium cooked salmon. If you prefer medium rare, you can stop cooking at 120 degrees. Make sure you insert the probe into the thickest spot. The fish will continue to cook after you remove it from the heat. To ensure full safety, the FDA recommended temperature for seafood is 145 degrees, or well done.
  • Alternatively, flake it with a fork to assess doneness. Cook the fish until the salmon just starts to flake when pricked with a fork.
  • Either way, be careful not to overcook. There’s nothing worse than a dry piece of fish. Keep an eye on it and don’t overdo it! There’s no going back.
See also  Poached Salmon

How long to cook salmon

Every piece of salmon is a different type and thickness, so the timing will range every time you cook it. But for what it’s worth, here are the approximate cook times for these methods:

Salmon Cooking Method Cook Time (depends on thickness)
Pan Seared Salmon 4 to 8 minutes on medium high heat
(2 to 3 minutes skin side up, then flip for 2 to 5 minutes more)
Baked Salmon 13 to 16 minutes at 325 degrees Fahrenheit
Broiled Salmon 4 to 5 minutes for very thin, or 7 to 10 minutes for 1-inch thick salmon
Grilled Salmon 5 to 10 minutes on medium high heat (375 to 450 degrees)
(3 to 5 minutes skin side up until grill marks appear and it releases from the grates, then flip and cook 2 to 5 minutes more)
Poached Salmon 7 minutes for thin salmon and 10 minutes for thick salmon

What’s the white stuff on salmon when cooked?

What’s that gooey white stuff that sometimes appears on the surface of the fish after it’s cooked? The white stuff is perfectly normal: it’s coagulated protein that seeps to the surface while cooking, called albumin. The amount of albumin varies greatly depending on the fish, so it’s not something you can control. (Read more here.) It’s safe to eat, but it does look less than appetizing on top of a beautiful fillet. Here are a few ways to reduce the albumin when you cook salmon:

  • Cook it at a lower temperature to cook it more gently (325 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Brine the salmon in a salt and water solution before baking

More salmon resources and recipes

Want more? Here are a few more resources related to this popular fish:

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Description

Here’s how to cook salmon! Master how to bake it in the oven, broil, grill, poach or pan sear it to perfection.


  • 1 1/2 pounds or 4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets, wild caught if possible
  • Olive oil 
  • Salt and pepper
  • Lemon wedges


  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Varies
  • Cuisine: Seafood
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Keywords: How to cook salmon