Today I am so excited to bring you an ultimate guide, how to cook salmon in the oven. This post is sponsored by Salmon & Sable, an amazing small company, who I am honored to represent. The fish used in this post is theirs and I will get into more about them a bit later. If you find this guide helpful please feel free to share it!
I am a Seattle girl, born and raised in the fish industry, so I might be a teeny tiny bit picky when it comes to seafood. Salmon, and good fish in general does not need a lot of gussying up, if you know how to cook it correctly.
You likely have one of two problems if your salmon is not coming out right when you cook it at home.
First- it could be the quality of the fish.
Here’s what to look for:
- Wild caught
- Fresh – as in you just caught it yourself
- Flash frozen – It was frozen very soon after it was caught, this should be vacuum sealed first for freshness and to prevent freezer burn.
- Pacific Salmon- you never are going to be happy with the taste of Atlantic salmon. Atlantic salmon you find in stores in nearly all farmed now, and hardly real food. Farmed salmon suffer from parasites and diseases that can pass to the wild fish- just say no to anything Atlantic when it comes to Salmon.
Second- it could be your cooking!
Salmon is a amazing fatty fish, but it is so easy to dry out! I am going to teach you how to avoid that today, but know it is a common problem. I even get served over cooked salmon is restaurants here in Seattle! Knowing that the salmon is so fatty, many people don’t give it the attention it deserves, and dry it right out.
I have played around with lots of different methods to keep salmon moist during cooking in the oven. My grandma used to slather the Christmas king salmon with mayo, but this gave us mediocre results and tended to burn on the ends and top. I have tried brushing with different types of oils and that works okay. But this new method works the best.
I cover the top of the filet with bacon. First this imparts some of the flavor people expect from a plank grilled fish. Then we are creating an actual physical barrier from the heat of the oven and a little self basting goes on as the fat of the bacon melts into the fish. Try to pick a good fatty bacon like you see below. Believe me, this is the best way to oven bake your salmon.
Bonus– you can totally use this method on the grill or even in the toaster oven! In the toaster oven you are a lot closer to the heating element though, so watch for scorching!
If you need to defrost the fish, either put the fish in the fridge a day or so ahead of cooking, or fill a large bowl with cold water, and add the vacuum sealed packets to the water. Salmon defrosts very quickly this way. Once defrosted put the fish into the fridge until you are ready to get cooking.
Prep the Fish
I remove my fish from the fridge about 30 minutes before I plan to cook it. This gets it some time to warm up just a bit, and it will cook more evenly this way.
The Set Up
A lot of people ask- do you use foil to bake your salmon. I do- but you don’t have to. All the foil does, is create an easy way to transport the fish into the oven, catch drippings and clean up. You can do the same with parchment paper, or a rimmed baking sheet. I also use foil if I happen to be making the salmon on the grill, it makes things easier. I probably would not use parchment or a baking sheet on the grill. So I get a piece of foil a bit larger than my piece or pieces of fish and fold up the edges to create a little rim.
I set the fish on the foil skin side down, and set about my seasonings. Only season the fish right before you cook it, as salt can start to draw moisture out of the fish if you put it on too far ahead.
You can see what I use in the below recipe, but I really like to keep things simple. A seafood blend is usually a good bet, and I recently tried Italian seasoning and it was quite good! For some it is all about the lemon juice. Just a hint- the stuff straight from a lemon is much better than the bottles. Those bottles have some weird preservatives in them, and the fresh stuff is loaded with vitamin C. I prefer to serve my fish with lemon, instead of cooking it with lemon. Now you are all set to get your fish into the oven with ease!
You can use this method when cooking salmon on the grill, and salmon cuts with or without the skin on!
How to Tell When Salmon is Done
The biggest struggle with fish is- when is it done. Salmon is a lot like red meat- you want to pull it just a tick before it’s done and let it rest and it will finish cooking out of the oven, instead of overcooking it in the oven. There are two ways to tell when the salmon is ready to pull. First the fork test. You open up your oven and slide the salmon out, and stick a fork in a thick part of the fish, and twist. It the fish flakes easily, even if the inside is still a little dark pink- pull it out. Or if you like to be more exact, try a meat thermometer and aim for about 120 degrees for medium rare or 140 for medium. After you pull it out of the oven, tent in foil and rest it for about 10 minutes.
Oven Baked Salmon with Bacon
Yield 1 fillet
A perfectly cooked, slightly smokey salmon fillet baked in the home oven.
- One fillet of Salmon any size
- Paprika- amount depends on size of fish
- Smoked Salt or Regular Salt- amount depends on size of fish
- Bacon- amount depends on size of fish
- Remove defrosted fillet from the fridge about 30 minutes prior to cooking.
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
- Prepare some foil by turning up the edges to catch any drips.
- Lay salmon skin side down on the foil. Only add seasoning just prior to cooking.
- Sprinkle a light amount of salt and paprika on top of the fillet. The amount will vary depending on how large you fillet is. Less is more.
- Cover the top of the fillet with bacon. For a small fillet I used 3 half strips.
- Bake the fillet until it reaches about 120 degrees internal temperature in the thickest part of the fillet. For this small piece that was 6 minutes.
- Switch the oven to broil and broil for abut 2-3 minutes, or until the internal temperature is 140.
- Remove the fish from the oven, and tent loosely with foil for 10 minutes.
Serving Size 4 oz
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
A little bit more about Salmon and Sable– getting your fish from Salmon and Sable, is like knowing your farmers by name. Traveler and his family live in Alaska, and operate similarly to a CSA, he pre-sells his catch each year. Before he goes out to fish he has orders in hand and catches the fish to order! You are able to buy shares of salmon, halibut, and sablefish, snapper, king, sockeye, coho and smoked salmon. Each share gets you about ten pounds of the freshest, most delicious fish I have ever tasted. I have had a lot of fish in my life living in Seattle and you can tell by the taste and packaging that every single cut of fish is handled with care to keep it fresh when it arrives at your door.
Perhaps my favorite part of Traveler’s business is that you literally know who is catching, icing, filleting and shipping the fish. There is no middleman and that is ultimate trace-ability, which is what our food chain needs. You can learn a little bit more about Traveler and his amazing business below.
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