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How to Cook Salmon

Easy, Basic Salmon Recipes

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You've gone to the trouble of buying quality fish - wild-caught salmon, maybe even a king (a.k.a. chinook) or sockeye salmon. Don't ruin it with shoddy cooking. See how easy it is to cook great salmon with these delicious recipes.

1. Grilled Salmon

Photo © Molly Watson
Grilling salmon is easy - as long as you follow a few simple steps:
  1. Heat a grill to medium-high (you can hold your hand about 1 inch above the grill grate).
  2. Meanwhile, rinse, pat dry, and remove any pin bones (you can pull these out with tweezers or pliers) from the skin-on salmon fillet. Brush skin with oil. Sprinkle flesh side with salt and pepper.
  3. Brush grill grate with oil. Place salmon, skin-side-down, on the grill and cover. Cook, undisturbed, until salmon just starts to release (some might say "ooze") its fat (mayonnaise-y stuff) and flesh flakes easily, 10 to 15 minutes for most 1-in.-thick fillets. Allow another 10 minutes for each extra inch of thickness. Use a spatula to remove fish from grill and serve immediately.

2. Salmon Cakes

Photo © Molly Watson

Salmon cakes are a fabulous way to both use leftover salmon and to stretch that leftover salmon into another full meal. Mix cooked, flaked salmon with some aromatics (chopped green onions, minced red onions, grated ginger, chopped chives, or minced garlic are all excellent options), an egg or two, and bread crumbs to hold the whole thing together. Form into cakes and pan-fry in a hot pan with a bit of oil until browned, cooked through, and crispy.

3. Gravlax

Image of Gravlax
Photo © Molly Watson
Gravlax - salmon cured in a salt and sugar mixture (with a few herbs or spices sometimes thrown in for good measure and a shot of liquor for even better texture) - is a Scandinavian specialty. While it does need some time in the fridge to cure, making gravlax at home is crazy easy. Space in the fridge + time + minimal effort = amazing flavor. Try it yourself with this Recipe for Gravlax.

4. Smoked Salmon

Photo © C Squared Studios / Getty Images
Hot-smoked salmon - fish that's been fully cooked by the heat of the smoke and infused with its haunting aroma - is a Pacific Northwest specialty. Curing the salmon in a brown sugar and salt mixture first helps create its the distinctive firm texture and sweet flavor. See How to Smoke Salmon on a Grill and How to Smoke Salmon Indoors to get started.

5. Parchment Baked

Baking salmon in parchment is easy and elegant.
  1. Heat oven to 375. Place each 6-oz. serving of salmon on a large piece of parchment paper or tin foil.
  2. Sprinkle salmon with salt and pepper, add fresh dill, a splash of white wine or lemon juice, and a small knob of butter, if you like.
  3. Fold edges of paper together and crimp to form a sealed pouch. Bake for about 20 minutes.

6. Slow-Roasted Salmon

Slow-roasting creates a firm, cooked-through salmon that is still vivid in color and extremely moist.
  1. Preheat heat to 225. Place a 2-lb. fillet of salmon skin-side down on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  2. Fill a baking pan half-full of water and place on a lower rack in the oven. Bake salmon on an upper rack until firm and cooked through, about 1 hour.

7. Broiled Salmon

Broiling is a great way to get the texture of grilled salmon when it's too cold or rainy to heat up the grill.
  1. Preheat broiler. Place salmon fillets or steaks on an oiled baking pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and add a splash of white wine or melon juice to the pan. Drizzle salmon with olive oil or dot the surface with bits of butter.
  2. Broil salmon until sizzling, releasing its fat, and flakes easily, about 10 minutes depending on thickness.

8. Poached Salmon

Poached salmon is a delicate treat. Serve it warm, at room temperature, or chilled.
  1. Prepare the poaching liquid. You can use salted water with an ample amount of white wine or lemon juice added to it or fish stock (a fumet).
  2. Heat a pan of the liquid large enough to hold the salmon to 180 degrees.
  3. Submerge salmon in the liquid and adjust heat to maintain a steady 180 (barely a simmer). Cover and cook, undisturbed, until salmon is fully opaque and flakes easily, about 30 minutes for a large, full fillet and 15 for individual portions.

9. Hawaiian Poke (Raw Salmon Salad)

Poke is a great treat - diced raw salmon salad. Use only the highest quality salmon for this dish. Due to parasites, some people prefer to freeze the salmon first and then use it for raw applications.
  1. Dice about a pound of salmon into small bits.
  2. Put salmon in a medium bowl and toss with 3 sliced green onions, 2 tsp. soy sauce, and a drizzle of toasted sesame oil. Serve immediately.

10. Salmon Spread

Make good use of any leftover salmon with this spread. Mix cooked, flaked salmon with cream cheese. Add chopped fresh dill, sliced green onions, freshly ground black pepper, or a bit of freshly ground cardamom to taste. Use spread on bagels or crackers.
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