Think salmon is dry? Stop overcooking it! This Baked Salmon Temperature Guide has everything you need to know to cook moist, succulent salmon every time.
Perfectly cooked salmon is a thing of beauty.
It’s moist, tender, flaky, and almost melts in your mouth.
Overcooked salmon is a chore. It’s dry, chewy, and will make you want to swear off fish.
Follow these tips to determine the correct salmon internal temperature, as well as approximate bake times at various oven temperatures for both a whole side of salmon and individual portions (fillets) of salmon.
Salmon Health Benefits
Salmon is an excellent addition to a balanced, healthy diet.
- Salmon is low in saturated fat, high in omega-3s (which are essential for brain function), and a great source of protein, potassium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, iron, other nutrients (read more about salmon health benefits here).
- In fact the FDA recommends eating at least 8 ounces of fish per week, which for most adults is one to two servings.
Salmon is good for you. This post will teach you how to make it taste good too!
What Is the Proper Temperature for Salmon?
What temperature salmon is done cooking depends on who you ask and your personal preference.
- According to the FDA, salmon is considered cooked when the thickest part reaches 145 degrees F. This will give you very, very firm (some would say dry) salmon.
- According to Cook’s Illustrated, 125 degrees F is the preferred temperature for farmed salmon if you like your salmon to be mostly firm with a fair amount of silkiness. Wild salmon should be cooked to just 120 degrees F, as it is leaner and more prone to drying out.
- According to my mother-in-law, you should cook salmon until it is so dry, the only way to cut it is with a steak knife.
After trial and error, I have consistently found that the best temperature for salmon is 135 degrees F.*
- As soon as the salmon registers 135 degrees F on an instant read thermometer inserted at the thickest part of the fillet, remove it from the heat source, then let it rest.
- As the salmon rests, its temperature continues to rise. Resting allows any juices to incorporate back into the fish.
- Salmon cooked to 135 degrees F and allowed to rest will be medium, moist, and safe to eat.*
Salmon Temperatures by Doneness
Another way to think about salmon temperature is by rare, medium-rare, medium, and well-done. My preference is medium/medium-rare.
Remove the salmon from the heat at each of the below temperature ranges, according to your preference.
- Rare Salmon. Less than 120 degrees F.
- Medium-Rare Salmon. 125 degrees F to 130 degrees F.
- Medium Salmon. 135 degrees F to 140 degrees F (the sweet spot!).
- Well-Done Salmon. 145 degrees F or more (please don’t do this).
How to Know When Salmon is Done
Best Way: Use an Instant Read Thermometer
The best, most reliable way to know your salmon is done is to use an instant read digital thermometer.
An instant read thermometer is a critical tool in the kitchen.
It will save you from overcooking fish and meat. I even use it to determine when banana bread is done.
- This one is less than $15 and is quick and accurate.
- This one is lightening fast and dead accurate. It is an excellent investment if you cook often.
To use your instant read thermometer to check the salmon for doneness, insert the tip into the thickest part of the fish. Make sure you are in the fillet’s center and not touching the pan.
Back Up Method: The Poke Test
If you don’t have an instant read thermometer, you can see if salmon is done by gently pressing down on the top of the fillet.
- Its flesh should easily separate when gently pressed with a fork or your finger (called flaking).
- Further, if you peek inside the salmon, the center should no longer appear raw.
But really—please buy an instant read thermometer.
Salmon Cook Temperatures and Times
How long to cook salmon will depend upon the size and thickness of your fillet, if it is wild-caught or farm-raised salmon, and if you are cooking a single large portion of salmon or individual fillets.
- As you might expect smaller, thinner fillets cook more quickly than thicker ones.
- Wild salmon cooks more quickly than farmed salmon since it has less fat.
Please use the below as a high-level guide for baking salmon in the oven, on either a sheet pan or in a baking dish.
I’ve included temperatures ranging from 350 degrees F to 450 degrees F. Note that the time will vary based on the size and thickness of your salmon. Check early! Better safe than sorry.
Frequently Asked Salmon Baking Questions
15 to 18 minutes for a 6-ounce fillet or 20 to 25 minutes for a 1 3/4-pound side.
12 to 16 minutes for a 6-ounce fillet or 18 to 21 minutes for a 1 3/4 pound side.
11 to 14 minutes for a 6-ounce fillet or 15 to 18 minutes for a 1 3/4-pound side.
9 to 12 minutes for a 6-ounce fillet or 14 to 15 minutes for a 1 3/4-pound side.
8 to 10 minutes for a 6-ounce fillet or 11 to 13 minutes for a 1 3/4-pound side.
If you are cooking individual frozen salmon portions, place them in a baking dish, cover the dish with foil, then bake at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake 8 to 10 minutes more.
Grilled Salmon and Stovetop Pan Salmon Temperatures
More Tips to Avoid Overcooking Salmon
While the best way to avoid cooking salmon is to remove it from the heat when it reaches 135 degrees F on an instant read thermometer, there are a few other tips that can help keep it moist.
- Use a Foil or Parchment Packet. Cooking the salmon inside a foil or parchment paper packet insulates the salmon as it cooks, giving you moist results. See this Baked Salmon in Foil for a stellar recipe; this Fish En Papillote works well for individual fillets.
- Choose Thicker Fillets. Thicker fillets are harder to overcook than thinner fillets (though they can still absolutely overcook, so keep an eye on them).
- Use a Fattier Variety of Salmon. While I prefer wild caught salmon for its benefits such as less calories and more vitamins, farmed salmon has the advantage of more fat to keep it moist.
- Stuff It. The filling in this Stuffed Salmon helps insulate the fish; further, if you do overcook it, the filling will cover up some of the dryness.
- Wrap in Puff Pastry. This Salmon Wellington is surrounded by buttery puff pastry, which makes the fillet irresistibly moist.
- Add a Sauce. If you’ve overcooked your fish, try adding a sauce. Browned butter with a squeeze of lemon and herbs is always a good option. See this Salmon Meuniere for a salmon recipe that yields its own pan sauce, or this Miso Salmon for a sweet and salty glaze.
Favorite Salmon Recipes
You can find dozens of salmon recipes here. There’s a method and flavor profile for everyone!
Here are a few of our most popular baked salmon recipes. These are also excellent ideas if you are looking for ways to season salmon:
- Honey Glazed Salmon (pictured above)
- Pesto Salmon (pictured earlier in the post)
- Teriyaki Salmon
- Salmon Pasta
- Salmon Salad
- Buffalo Salmon
- Balsamic Glazed Salmon
- Bourbon Glazed Salmon
- Honey Garlic Salmon
- My personal favorite Salmon Seasoning
More Frequently Asked Questions
If you want the salmon that’s lowest in calories and highest in nutrients, then wild-caught Pacific salmon is the best kind of salmon to buy. Look for king, coho, sockeye, pink, or chum salmon.
If your salmon has gone bad it will smell slightly sour and fishy. Other signs that your salmon has gone bad are mushy, flimsy flesh and discoloration (grey spots, dark spots, or milk-like reside).
Don’t panic if you see a white liquid coming from your salmon. This is a protein called albumin that can escape from the salmon when it’s cooked. It is harmless and safe to eat.
There is a variety of king salmon that has a lighter-colored, almost white flesh instead of the classic orange, pink, or reddish hue. This type of king salmon is beloved for its melt-in-your-mouth texture, so enjoy this rare find!
The gray stuff on the bottom of salmon is fat. It’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids, perfectly fine to eat, and tastes like the rest of the salmon fillet. If you prefer to remove it, you can simply scrape it off before serving.
As long as your recipe does not specify whether the skin should be on or off, it’s up to you. Leaving the skin on provides a barrier between the heat and your fish, giving slight protection from overcooking. You can easily remove it once you’re done cooking. However, if you don’t want to mess with removing the skin after you’re done cooking or would like the skin removed for presentation purposes, then cook the salmon with the skin off.
Unless your recipe specifically calls for covering the salmon (for example, if you are using the foil packet method), you do not need to cover it.
I hope this post is helpful in answering your questions regarding salmon cook times and temps.
If you have further questions, let me know in the comments below. I will do my best to answer them. Go forth and cook great salmon!
Simple, Perfect Baked Salmon at 400 degrees F
- 1 1/2 pounds salmon 1 single portion (side of salmon) or 4 6-ounce fillet portions
- 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Seasonings of choice salt, pepper, seafood seasoning, Cajun seasoning, etc.
- Fresh herbs, lemon wedges optional for serving
- Place a rack in the center of your oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a 9×13-inch baking dish with parchment paper. Pat the salmon dry, then arrange in the center of the pan (if using portions, make sure they do not touch).
- Drizzle the salmon with the oil, then add seasonings of choice.
- Bake salmon at 400 degrees F for 11 to 14 minutes for 6-ounce fillets or 15 to 18 minutes for a single side, until it registers 135 degrees F on an instant read thermometer inserted at the thickest part of the salmon. Remove from the oven and let rest 5 minutes. Serve warm with a sprinkle of herbs and squeeze of lemon as desired.
- TO STORE: Salmon is best enjoyed the day that it is made, but can last 1 to 2 days in the refrigerator. Make sure it does not smelly fish.
- TO REHEAT: Salmon dries out easily when reheated, so try it room temperature in a salad, add it to Homemade Fried Rice, scramble it with eggs, or use it to make Salmon Patties.
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**Consuming raw or undercooked salmon or other seafood or shellfish may increase your risk of foodborne illness, especially if you have certain medical conditions.**