How to Cook Salmon – Tips and Recipes to Make Perfect Salmon Every Time
Salmon is my go-to for easy, healthy weeknight dinners and for nights when I want to impress dinner guests alike. Salmon is incredibly versatile, delicious, and waaayyy easier than most people think! Today, I have a whole line up of Healthy Salmon Recipes that can be prepared using spices, sauces, glazes, or any toppings you like. This protein is a complete superstar!
My healthy salmon recipes are some of my most frequented for weeknight dinners and entertaining. I know these healthy salmon recipes are some of YOUR favorites too! The recipes have dozens of glowing reviews, including ones from a number of you who used them to cook salmon for the first time.
While these recipes are simple (and, super tasty!), some of you may be unfamiliar with salmon itself. Today, I want to address some of the most frequently asked questions that I receive about health benefits of salmon, how to cook salmon, how to know when salmon is done, and what type of salmon is best to buy.
What Type of Salmon Should You Buy?
- The best salmon recipes use simple ingredients and truly let the fish shine. It’s important to have the best quality fillet (even if it costs a few more dollars per pound). It’s worth it.
- Look for wild-caught varieties. Where I live in the Midwest, that typically includes coho, sockeye, or king. Sockeye has the most prominent flavor and is the most lean. King salmon is typically more expensive, thick, and has deep flavor. Coho lands somewhere in between and is my favorite type to purchase for its cost/benefit trade off.
- I recommend avoiding farm-raised, fatty Atlantic salmon when you can. They’re typically lower in nutrients, can be raised in questionable conditions, and often become mushy when cooking, because the salmon releases excess liquid.
- Frozen wild-caught salmon is also an excellent choice. Simply thaw it in your refrigerator overnight.
How Should Salmon be Cooked?
- There are SO many ways to cook salmon! I have recipes for cooking salmon on a grill, in the oven, and on the stove.
- See the recipes below to find your favorite preparation!
Should You Cook Salmon With The Skin Off Or On?
- This is totally up to you! I prefer to keep the skin on for baked salmon recipes and grilled salmon recipes because it helps lock in extra moisture (no more overcooked fish).
- Salmon skin comes off with ease after cooking, so if you cook the salmon with the skin on, you can still remove it before serving.
- If you’d rather cook your salmon without skin, I suggest asking your seafood counter to remove it before packaging it up. Be extra careful not to overcook the fish.
How to Know When Salmon is Done
This is one of the most terrifying aspects of making salmon for the first time (trust me, I’ve been there). However, I’ve found some easy and super helpful ways to know how salmon should look when done.
- The first thing I try is peeking into the middle of the thickest part of my salmon piece with a fork or butter knife. If it is beginning to flake, but still has a little translucency in the middle, it is done. All it needs is a minute or two of rest, and it will be perfectly moist and safe to eat.
- My recommended method: Check your salmon for doneness by inserting an instant-read thermometer like this one into the thickest part of the fillet. When your salmon is done, it should read 145 degrees F.
- Pro Salmon Tip: Stop cooking the salmon at 140 degrees F, cover it, then let it rest 5 to 10 minutes. The carry over cooking will finish cooking the salmon the rest of the way.
- Another quick method for checking your salmon for doneness is by quickly inserting a butter knife into the thickest part of your salmon, removing it, and checking its temperature (your lower lip is a bizarre but very accurate way to judge its temp). If the knife feels lukewarm, the salmon needs to cook longer, but if the knife is medium warm, the salmon should be done. (When using this method, as a back up, I still suggest cutting into the salmon to check for color.)
- The color of your cooked salmon will depend on the type of fish you purchase. For example, coho is a deep pink, almost red, where Atlantic salmon is pale pink. The most important thing is that it flakes easily and is opaque. If your salmon is still pink and translucent, it’s probably not ready. This is why double-checking with an instant read thermometer is best.
How to Store Cooked Salmon
- Let your cooked salmon come to room temperature, and then place it in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator. Most salmon recipes can be stored in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days.
- You can also freeze your cooked salmon dish. See below for tips.
How to Reheat Cooked Salmon Recipes
One of the downsides of reheating cooked salmon is that it can dry out very easily. If you want to reheat your cooked salmon, I suggest doing so very gently.
- To reheat salmon in the microwave. Place your salmon on a microwave-safe plate, cover it with a paper towel, and set your microwave to 30 seconds. After 30 seconds, I suggest checking your salmon, adjusting it for even heating, and continuing to microwave if needed.
- To reheat salmon in a skillet. Select a skillet large enough for your salmon piece, and heat on the stove using medium-low heat. Drizzle a teaspoon of olive oil in the pan so that the salmon does not dry out or stick to the pan. After about a minute, add your salmon piece to the skillet and let it heat for about 5 minutes per side until warm.
Can You Freeze Salmon?
- While I believe salmon dishes are best enjoyed the day they are cooked, you CAN freeze salmon!
- If you choose to freeze it, you’ll want to remove it from the skin (if it has any), and place it in an airtight container for up to 2 months.
- When you’re ready to thaw your frozen salmon, place it in the refrigerator overnight to thaw.
- I like to use the thawed salmon for breakfast with scrambled eggs or toss it with some noodles for salmon with pasta.
Is it Okay to Eat Salmon Every Day?
- The level of mercury in salmon is very low, which makes it safe to eat on a regular basis. Enjoying salmon multiple times a week is a great way to take advantage of its many health benefits (more on that below).
Is Salmon Good for You?
- YES! Salmon is best known for being rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are excellent for reducing inflammation, lowering blood pressure, and decreasing your risks for certain diseases.
- Protein is another essential nutrient you can find in salmon. Protein helps to both protect and heal your body.
- The many antioxidants and nutrients found in salmon have been found to lower your risk of heart disease, help in weight management, and can protect your brain health.*
Best Tools for Cooking Salmon
You don’t need fancy tools to cook a really great salmon recipe. The below items are staples in my kitchen, and I use them for much more than fish.
- Fish Spatula. I use this every day, even when I’m not making fish. Its length and flexibility make it ideal for everything from stirring a pan of roasted veggies to lifting hot cookies from the baking sheet to (you guessed it!) serving portions of flaky salmon without them breaking apart.
- Instant-Read Thermometer. THE best way to know when salmon (and meat and even quick breads) is perfectly cooked and to avoid over or undercooking. Costing around $12, this is one of the best kitchen purchases you can make.
- Rimmed Baking Sheet. The ultimate kitchen workhorse! Ideal for baking individual portions of salmon or larger sides of salmon.
- Aluminum Foil. Baking salmon in a foil packet locks in the flavors and makes for super easy clean up. I always use standard foil rather than heavy duty or grilling foil, because it’s what we keep on hand.
- Parchment Paper. If you prefer your food not to touch foil directly when cooking (I have heard this concern from some), simply lay a sheet of parchment on top of the foil as a barrier, then fold and bake as directed.
Now that you are armed with information on all things salmon, check out these delicious healthy salmon recipes! I hope you’ll try one (or more!) and will learn why I’m such a die-hard salmon fan.
And now, the recipes!
The Best Healthy Salmon Recipes
You can see a full list of my healthy salmon recipes, or scroll below to find them divided into helpful categories. Whatever type of salmon your are looking to make, I have a recipe for you!
Baked Salmon – The Easiest Way to Cook Salmon
If you’ve been following me for awhile, you know how much I adore baked salmon recipes. Baked salmon is one of the easiest and best ways to cook salmon, and I have a ton of recipes to choose from.
Baked Salmon – Whole Sides (Larger Pieces)
The below baked salmon recipes are for cooking a whole side of salmon, so they are great for a crowd or leftovers! Bake the salmon first, then cut it into as many portions as you need. If you are cooking salmon for a crowd, plan on 6 to 8 ounces of salmon per person.
Baked Salmon – Individual Portions (Fillets)
If you are looking to cook salmon for two or don’t need more than four portions, baking individual pieces of salmon in the oven works well too. I typically bake 6-ounce fillets.
Foil Baked Salmon
One of the EASIEST and most versatile ways to cook salmon! The salmon cooks in a foil packet, the flavors are sealed in with the fish, and it always turns out perfectly. Serve these recipes with asparagus for a fresh, healthy dinner. This is my master salmon cooking method and the one I make most. If you’re new to cooking salmon, foil packing cooking is a great place to start.
- Buffalo Baked Salmon
- Teriyaki Salmon
- Baked Salmon in Foil
- Spicy Baked Salmon
- Lemon Pepper Salmon
- Grilled Salmon in Foil
Seared Salmon Recipes – Sear on the Stove, Finish in the Oven
Starting the salmon in a hot skillet gives the salmon a nice sear on the outside. This method is fantastic for cooking individual fillets.
Grilled Salmon Recipes
Grilling salmon is ideal for the warm-weather months! It also saves you from turning on the oven.
Sheet Pan Salmon Recipes
Sheet pan salmon recipes are a great way to cook both the salmon and sides at the same time. This recipe is perfect for a quick, easy, and tasty weeknight meal!
Salmon Patty and Burger Recipes
My favorite way to use canned or thawed salmon from one of my other healthy salmon recipes in a salmon patty. The salmon burgers use fresh salmon fillets instead. I love to serve both of these recipes with a big green salad.
More Salmon Recipes That I Love from Around the Web
- Baked Salmon With Maple Mustard Glaze from Rachel Cooks. This spicy and sweet combo was made for fall!
- Baked Pesto Salmon Recipe from The Cookie Rookie. I love pesto on salmon, and this is an easy, elegant way to prepare it!
- Salmon Salad Recipe from Aggie’s Kitchen. Many times, the salmon used in salads is from a can, but not with this recipe. It uses fresh salmon, which gives the salad delicious flavor!
If you try one of these healthy salmon recipes or have one of your own, will you please let me know in the comments below? I love hearing from you!
*Health benefits of salmon mentioned in this article were sourced from Healthline and are meant to be for general information, not any kind of specific medical advice. For specific dietary needs, I always recommend contacting your doctor or seeking professional advice.
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