I’ve cooked salmon every which way to Sunday, and Poached Salmon is the quickest, easiest, and sneakily swankiest of them all.
Poaching is a method of cooking in which food is submerged in a liquid (water, stock, milk, and wine are all popular) then cooked through gently.
- Unlike Pan Seared Salmon or Baked Salmon in Foil, poaching uses a lower temperature.
- Poaching is ideal for foods that are prone to drying out, like eggs and poultry (I use poaching in my post for How to Cook Shredded Chicken).
Poaching sounds pinkies-up fancy, a description I now find amusing since I discovered how simple it is to make.
- You can serve poached salmon for a dinner party and get a wow factor with less effort than you need for Salmon Wellington or Stuffed Salmon.
- It doesn’t leave any lingering smells in your kitchen, unlike other stovetop fish recipes like Blackened Salmon.
- It cooks FAST (we’re talking 3 to 5 minutes for a single fillet). You can make it for healthy weeknight dinners on busy evenings.
- Poaching is healthy. You don’t need any oil, and your salmon comes out nice and moist.
How to Know When Salmon is Done
Poached salmon cooks FAST.
Individual fillets will cook in as few as 3 minutes; a larger fillet will be ready in 15.
- The best way to know if salmon is done cooking is to use an instant read thermometer like this.
- For an upgrade, I can’t recommend this thermometer enough (it’s dead accurate and fast, no need to estimate).
- Salmon is considered cooked at 145 degrees F. I remove mine at 135, then let it rest. The temperature will continue to rise as it sits.
When in doubt, check early. If you overcook poached salmon, it will taste dry.
How to Make Poached Salmon
To poach salmon, you need little beyond a salmon fillet, water, salt, and pepper.
While you can make poached salmon in milk, I chose to use water for this simple recipe.
I doctor my poaching liquid up with a little vinegar, honey, and lots of fresh dill. Feel free to experiment with other herbs and flavors like garlic cloves, onions, or leeks.
- Salmon. Packed with omega-3 fatty acids and lean protein, salmon fillets are both healthy and delicious. I love using a poaching method for salmon because it makes it incredibly tender and moist.
- Water. The easiest, most convenient liquid for poaching salmon.
- White Vinegar. For a little acidity in the poaching liquid.
- Honey. For a touch of sweetness to balance the acid.
- Salt. A few teaspoons salt helps give the poaching liquid (and salmon) flavor.
- Dill. With fresh, almost citrus-like flavor, dill is a delicious addition to this poached salmon.
- Peppercorns. Whole peppercorns add subtle spice to the poaching liquid.
- Bay Leaf. Another subtle ingredient that completes this dish. The bay leaf imparts a freshness and lightness into the poaching liquid that you don’t want to skip.
- Lemon. Use lemon wedges or lemon slices to top off the finished dish.
- Whisk vinegar, honey, and salt together in a large pan.
- Add the salmon. Pour in water until the salmon are barely covered.
- Top with the dill, peppercorns, and bay leaf.
- Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then let simmer 2 minutes. Check the salmon for doneness, and cook longer if needed. Remove the salmon to a serving platter. Cover and let rest for a few minutes. Enjoy hot, sprinkled with additional aromatics, then ENJOY!
- To Store. Refrigerate salmon in an airtight container for up to 2 days in the fridge.
- To Reheat. Very gently rewarm leftovers in a skillet on the stovetop over medium-low heat or in the microwave. Or, skip the reheating and enjoy the leftover salmon cold or at room temperature.
What to Serve with Poached Salmon
- Roasted Vegetables. Roasted veggies are a delicious side dish for poached salmon. Try it with these Oven Roasted Vegetables or Roasted Fingerling Potatoes.
- Grilled Vegetables. Prefer grilled veggies instead? Give Grilled Broccoli, Grilled Asparagus, or Grilled Eggplant a try.
- Rice. Poached salmon with Lemon Rice would be scrumptious.
- Pasta. Pasta al Limone and poached salmon are a perfect match.
- Salad. Serve poached salmon with Arugula Salad.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Saute Pan. Perfect for making poached salmon.
- Instant Read Thermometer. My #1 choice for checking salmon for doneness.
- Fish Spatula. I love this spatula for fish, veggies, and more.
Grab a pan, we have a plan.
It’s poached salmon time!
Frequently Asked Questions
Your best bet if you overcook salmon is to cover it with a poached salmon sauce. Try the browned butter method from this Brussels Sprouts Pasta with Brown Butter or the lemon butter sauce from this Lemon Butter Chicken recipe.
Yes, you can use a different type of vinegar for this recipe. A swap will alter the flavor profile a bit, so make sure to use a complementary vinegar like apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar.
Salmon is finished when it flakes easily with a fork and is no longer dark pink inside. Note that it will cook a bit more as it rests.
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 4 (6-ounce) center cut salmon fillets skin on
- 12 sprigs fresh dill plus additional chopped dill for serving
- 6 whole peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- Cracked black pepper lemon wedges (for serving)
- Fill a saute pan wide enough to hold the salmon in a single layer without overlapping the fillets and tall enough to cover the salmon with water about 1/4 of the way to the top. Add the vinegar, honey, and salt. Whisk to combine.
- Carefully lower the salmon fillets into the pan in a single layer. Add more water so that they are just barely covered.
- Scatter the dill, peppercorns, and bay leaf over the top.
- Bring the water to a gentle boil over medium-high heat. Simmer the salmon, adjusting the heat as needed so that you maintain a steady simmer but not a rapid boil. Let cook 2 minutes.
- Check the temperature of the salmon using an instant read thermometer. It should be around 135 to 140 degrees F, no more (fish is considered cooked at 145 degrees F, but the temperature will continue to rise as it rests). If needed, cook it 1 to 2 minutes more. DO NOT overcook or your salmon will be dry.
- With a wide spatula, gently lift the poached salmon out of the water and place it on a plate (discard the poaching liquid). Cover and let rest 4 minutes. Enjoy hot, sprinkled with additional chopped dill, cracked black pepper, and a squeeze of lemon as desired.
- TO STORE: Refrigerate salmon in an airtight storage container for up to 2 days.
- TO REHEAT: Very gently rewarm leftovers in a skillet on the stovetop over medium-low heat or in the microwave.
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