The Ultimate Guide to Cooking Salmon
Pictured Recipe: Simple Grilled Salmon & Vegetables
Salmon is often reserved for special occasions, like a nice meal at a restaurant or an intimate dinner party at home. But the hearty fish is so healthy and so versatile that it's worth adding to your weekly rotation. With a few simple tips, it's easy to prepare salmon at home in lots of different ways. Learn how to cook salmon, from grilling to steaming. Plus, get tips for buying salmon and learn how to store it.
How to Prepare Salmon
When preparing to cook frozen salmon, let the fillet or steak defrost completely in the refrigerator before using.
How to Cook Salmon
How to Roast Salmon
All cuts of salmon will cook up beautifully when roasted, but this method is especially good for fillets and sides. Just watch the cook time closely so that your fish doesn't overcook.
How to Grill Salmon
Salmon fillets and steaks are both great for grilling, and the added smokiness means no special sauces are required and it can be on the table in less than 30 minutes.
How to Pan-Fry Salmon
Pan-frying is a more hands-on but still quick way to cook fillets. You'll have more control over the doneness since you'll be standing over the pan and eyeing the fish throughout.
How to Steam Salmon
Plain steamed salmon can be a bit bland, but cooking the fish in packets with vegetables and aromatics, also known as "en papillote," is healthy and flavorful. The oven temperature is a bit lower for this method than roasting–400 degrees–because the heat from the steam helps cook the fish.
How to Shop for Salmon
Pictured Recipe: Roasted Salmon with Smoky Chickpeas & Greens
When buying fresh salmon, the options can vary based on the specific species and where it came from. Wild-caught salmon is typically from the Pacific and is deeper in color, less fatty and more expensive. Different species are fished depending on the time of year, and common varieties include king and sockeye. Most fresh fish sold in the U.S. is flash frozen for transport before being sold.
Farmed salmon–Atlantic salmon–is frequently faulted for its environmental impact, use of antibiotics and potential contaminants. When buying farm-raised fish, do so sparingly and do your research. When possible, opt for land farms or tank farms.
Beyond species and origin, salmon is sold in a few different cuts, and the most common cut is the fillet. Portioned to serve one to two people, and with the skin often left on with the thickest part in the middle, a fillet can be cooked in a variety of ways. Large fillets that aren't individually portioned are called sides and are great for serving a crowd. Sides are best when roasted or broiled since they are too large for a frying pan. Salmon is also sold as steaks, a cross-cut that's a uniform thickness, making it especially good for grilling.
Salmon is also sold frozen and canned and can be an excellent affordable option. The same guidelines for buying fresh salmon apply to buying shelf-stable and frozen fish as well.
How to Store Salmon
Pictured Recipe: Roasted Salmon Rice Bowl with Beets and Brussels
Store fresh, uncooked salmon in the refrigerator for as little time as possible before cooking, with a maximum of two days. Frozen salmon will last in a well-insulated freezer for up to two months. Defrost in the refrigerator–not at room temperature–completely before cooking.
Cooked salmon stored in an airtight container will last in the refrigerator for a maximum of five days.
Salmon Nutrition Facts
Salmon is a good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids while being low in saturated fat, making it good for heart health and blood pressure regulation.
A 6-ounce sockeye fillet contains about 285 calories, 36 grams of protein, 14 grams of total fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat and 110 milligrams of cholesterol. Exact measurements will vary depending on the cut of salmon.