How to Cook Salmon Like a Pro

More Information

“Versatile” is probably one of the best words to describe
salmon. It can be baked, broiled, grilled, poached, roasted, smoked, added to
salads or stews or minced to be mixed in burgers and savory fish cakes. You can
even whip up salmon in dips and spreads.

But if you’re a novice in the kitchen, chances are you may
not be familiar on how to best cook this delicious but delicate fish. If you’re
not careful, you may end up with a charred, tasteless and unappetizing mess.

This guide will help you learn the basics on how to cook
salmon – from choosing the right variety (read: Wild Alaskan salmon is the best),
storing it and prolonging its shelf life, to actual preparation methods.

But first, you must know the importance of why choosing the
right fish is essential, not only to satisfy your palate, but to safeguard your
health as well.

The Basics on Salmon:
Why Choosing Wild Alaskan Salmon Is Crucial

Oily fish like salmon are rich in omega-3 fats, particularly docosahexaenoic
acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), which are both essential for your
brain, heart and immune system health. Plus, salmon is an abundant source of
protein, B vitamins and the antioxidant vitamin E.[i]

However, most fish farms today are actually aquatic versions
of CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations), where fish are not only fed
an unnatural diet but also fall victim to diseases and parasites that threaten
their viability (For more information, read my article on the dangers of farmed
salmon). Because of this, the only salmon I recommend you to buy is wild
Alaskan salmon (Salmo).

So how can you tell if salmon is wild or farm-raised? The
clue is in the flesh. True wild sockeye salmon is bright red because of its
natural astaxanthin content, which is one of the highest concentrations you’ll
find in any food.

Plus, wild Alaskan salmon is very lean. Hence, its white
strips (fat marks) are quite thin. So if you buy salmon that’s pale pink with
wide fat marks, it’s likely farmed.

You should also avoid salmon labeled “Atlantic salmon,” as
these are almost always farmed. Instead look for salmon (whether fresh, frozen
or canned) that’s labeled “Alaskan salmon,” “wild Alaskan salmon” or “sockeye

How Long Is Salmon
Good For?

The shelf life of salmon depends on a variety of factors. Ideally,
once you buy fresh salmon, you should cook it immediately to maximize its
freshness. But if you want to cook it at a later time, that’s all right – just
remember to put it in the freezer.

As much as possible, do not leave raw salmon out at room temperature
40 to
140 degrees F)
for long periods of time, as this may cause bacteria to grow
rapidly. If left out for more than two hours at room temperature, discard the

However, if properly stored and frozen, the fish will
maintain its quality for two to three months, but may remain safe to eat even after
that. Another way to maximize the shelf life of this fish is to wrap it in its
original packaging and then overwrapping it with aluminum foil, freezer paper
or plastic wrap. This will help prevent freezer burn.[ii]

How to Tell If Salmon
Is Bad

The best way to know if salmon has gone bad is to use your
senses. Remember that fresh salmon should have a bright and moist flesh and
does not have a strong and smelly odor. If you’re hit by a strong fishy odor
upon opening the packaging, then that’s a sign that the salmon should no longer
be consumed.

Other undesirable traits include a slimy and milky flesh and
discoloration around the edges,[iii]
and sunken, cloudy eyes.[iv]
Fresh salmon should have a silvery and shiny skin (scales), bright red flesh
and clear eyes (if buying a whole fish). The skin should also be resilient to
the touch.[v]

How to Cook Salmon
Like a Pro: Different Methods You Can Try

How long you cook salmon depends on the preparation method
you’ve chosen, but overall, it usually takes anywhere between 12 to 15 minutes.

The preparation method also dictates on which cut of fish
work best. If you’re feeding a large group and you want to cook the salmon in
the grill or in the oven, a whole fish works well, but if you opt to pan-sear
the salmon on top of the stove, individual fillets may be better.[vi]
Below are some examples of how to cook salmon efficiently.

How to Cook Salmon on the Stove: Pan-Frying Salmon

Pan-frying is great for salmon
fillets, mainly because it’s easy and quick. Another bonus is that frying gives
the skin a crunchy and crispy texture (some even compare it to bacon). Just
remember that when frying salmon (or any food), it’s best to use coconut oil
instead of other cooking oils. Here’s what you should do:[vii]

The fillet should be room temperature, not cold.
According to The Kitchn:[viii]

“When cold fish is added to a hot pan, the fillets will immediately
seize up and are more likely to cook unevenly. Instead, remove the fish from
the refrigerator about 15 to 20 minutes before you’re ready to start cooking,
in order to bring them up to room temperature.”

Dry the fillets properly before frying. Pat the
salmon fillets dry with a clean dish towel or a paper towel. This will prevent
them from sticking to the pan and will also give the skin a nice crisp.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper before putting the fish in the pan.

Make sure the pan is really hot before adding
anything in. The flame should be
medium or medium-high. Pour in a thin layer of coconut oil and let it heat up
until the oil is shimmering. To check if the oil is hot enough, flick a few
drops of water into the pan – if it sizzles and evaporates at once, it’s good
to go.

Put the salmon on the pan skin side down. Salmon skin is durable and tough, and
is able to withstand more time on the hot skillet without overcooking.[ix]
Don’t forget to season the fillets before adding it in the pan. Add them one by
one as well, careful as you do so, to avoid being splattered by oil.

Don’t be tempted to move around the salmon. Do not prod or poke it with a spatula or
it might break apart. Instead, let it sizzle for five to six minutes before
flipping it to cook the other side.

Remember that when pan-frying
salmon, the large portion of the cooking process happens when the skin is
resting against the pan’s surface. Keep a close eye on the fish (without
touching it) – you’ll see the fillet’s color beginning to change, lightening
from deep dark red to pale pink.

Once the color has changed to
three-quarters from the bottom, you can flip the salmon. Let it cook for a
couple more minutes – you’ll get a tender and flaky fish with a super-crispy

How to Cook Salmon in the Oven

Baking salmon in the oven is one of
the easiest and fuss-free ways to cook this fish. The cleanup is also minimal,
as long as you remember to line your baking tray. Follow these easy steps from

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line your
baking dish or sheet tray with parchment paper and place the salmon fillets on
top. Pat them dry with a paper towel.

Drizzle coconut oil all over the salmon and sprinkle
with salt and pepper to taste (you can use any other seasonings you prefer).

Place in the top half of the oven and allow to
bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Around the 10-minute mark, you can start checking
for doneness, but remember that if the fillet is thicker, it will need more
time. When the flesh flakes easily with a fork, it’s ready to be served.

Optional: Squeeze a wedge of lemon all over the
salmon before serving for an added citrusy flavor.

How to Grill Salmon

A summertime favorite for many
people is grilled salmon steak or fillet, and for good reason – grilling not
only imparts a smokey flavor to the fish, but less cleanup is needed as well.
Keep in mind these tips:[xi]

Make sure you start with hot coals, placing the
lightly oiled fish skin-side down on the grate diagonally, giving them the
lovely grill marks.

Flip it after five minutes. To do this, simply
slide a spatula under the fish – if the flesh refuses to separate from the
grate, leave it for another minute or two and then try again.

Make sure that you do not char the meat while

How to Poach Salmon

If you don’t like your salmon to be
too oily because of using coconut oil, poaching is a great alternative you can
try. It’s also great if you want to “sauce up” your salmon or are planning to
transform them into fresh salmon fish cakes.

To poach salmon, simply simmer the
fish in water flavored with a pinch of salt, a few whole peppercorns, or a bay
leaf. Make sure there’s enough water (you can also use homemade bone broth for
a deeper flavor) covering the fillets. For a gentle poach, let the water or
other liquid simmer, slide the fish in and cover the pan. Turn off the heat and
allow the salmon to gently cook for about 25 minutes. [xii]

How Will You Know If Salmon Is Done Cooking?

According to the
U.S. Food and Drug Administration, most seafood, including fish like salmon,
should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit.[xiii]
You can use a meat thermometer to check the doneness of your salmon. Push the
tip into the middle of the fillet, at the thickest part.

check the internal temperature of the salmon a few minutes before it’s finished
cooking, so that you will avoid overcooking the fish. Look for salmon that is opaque — the meat
should slightly resist flaking or pulling away from the bone.

Pressing the top of the fish also lets you check if the salmon
is cooked. The fish should be firm to the touch, but will give a bit when
pressure is applied to it.

Signs that the salmon is overcooked is opaque meat that
easily flakes or breaks apart – this means there’s a lack of moisture in it.

Get Started With
These Easy, Healthy and Scrumptious Salmon Recipes

Now that you know the basics on how to cook salmon –
fillets, whole fish or steaks – you can start experimenting in the kitchen with
different recipes. Here are three delicious and satisfying salmon recipes to get
you started.

Salmon Supreme Recipe

by Dr. Mercola


2 pounds
wild Alaskan or sockeye salmon

2 tablespoons
of Dr. Mercola’s coconut

1 tablespoon

1 tablespoon
Old Bay seasoning*

ground black pepper

Pinch of Dr.
Mercola’s Himalayan salt


Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Rinse and pat dry salmon. Place on baking sheet
and brush coconut oil on both sides. Place skin side down and sprinkle the
paprika and Old Bay seasoning on top. Grind a few good turns of black pepper
and sprinkle a scant amount of gray salt.

Bake for 12 minutes. Remove from oven and cover
with foil. Let stand for about 5 to 10 minutes. The salmon will continue to
cook while resting. Cut into 4 pieces and serve.

Old Bay Seasoning is not available, another seafood seasoning would be fine, or
a combination of celery salt, dried mustard, black pepper and a small amount of
the following: ground bay leaves, ground cloves, allspice, ginger, mace,
cardamom, cinnamon and paprika.

Salmon With Steamed Broccoli and Sweet Potato Hash Brown

by Melody Bonal


fresh or thawed Alaskan wild-caught salmon filets

cup almond meal or pulverized almonds from food processor

8 tablespoons
Dr. Mercola’s coconut oil

sweet potatoes grated

large head of

Mercola’s Himalayan salt


1 teaspoon

1 teaspoon
Dr. Mercola’s coconut oil

1 teaspoon
olive oil


of garlic powder

Pinch of turmeric


1. Heat coconut oil in 2 separate
frying pans, 4 tablespoons per pan.

2. Place grated sweet potatoes in
one pan in patty form. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Cook over medium-high heat until
brown around the edges, then flip and cook the other side.

3. Dredge salmon in almond meal.
Place in hot oil and cook 5 to 6 minutes per side, and then remove from pan.

4. Heat water to steam broccoli.
Steam for approximately 7 to 10 minutes. Drizzle with butter, coconut oil and
olive oil, and then add salt, pepper, garlic powder and turmeric.

Coconut Kale With
Sesame-Crusted Salmon Recipe

by Dr. Mercola

Coconut Kale Ingredients:

tablespoons Dr. Mercola’s coconut oil

tablespoons minced fresh ginger

1 bunch kale, chopped

1 1/2 cups
coconut milk

Salt and
pepper to taste


Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the ginger
and sauté over medium heat for 5 minutes.

Add the kale, sauté, stirring constantly for 5

Add the coconut milk and season with salt and
pepper. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat, and simmer until kale is

Salmon Ingredients:

6 wild Alaskan
salmon steaks

tablespoons raw butter

tablespoons Dr. Mercola’s coconut oil

tablespoons minced ginger

1 cup sesame

Mercola’s Himalayan salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a small pan, melt the butter and oil with the

Brush the butter, oil and ginger on the pieces
of salmon. Roll the salmon in the sesame seeds. Place the salmon on an oiled
sheet pan and refrigerate for about 15 minutes.

Place the salmon in the oven and roast until the
sesame seeds are brown and the salmon is rare inside, about 3 minutes. Season
to taste with salt and pepper.

Source:: Mercola Health Articles