How to Cook Salmon
By: Jack Mancuso
I appreciate salmon as one of my preferred culinary components. This fish offers versatility. You can prepare it in various ways, including grilling, baking, poaching, or even serving it raw as sashimi, thanks to its firm texture. I also like using salmon to tinker with different flavor profiles.
What Does Salmon Taste Like?
If you’ve never had salmon, you are in for a treat. Salmon has a distinct and rich flavor, often described as savory, slightly nutty, and slightly sweet. The taste of salmon can vary depending on the type of salmon and how it is prepared. Wild salmon typically has a stronger, more robust flavor compared to farm-raised salmon.
Grilling or broiling salmon can give it a slightly smoky taste while baking or poaching can help preserve its natural flavors. Seasonings like lemon, dill, garlic, and herbs can complement the taste of salmon and add depth to the overall flavor.
Temperature for Smoked Salmon
Generally, the ideal temperature for smoking salmon is typically around 175-200°F. This low and slow cooking method allows the salmon to absorb smoky flavor while remaining moist and tender. The internal temperature of the salmon should reach 145°F for safe consumption. It's important to use a meat thermometer like the Meater Gen 2 to ensure the salmon is cooked to the proper temperature. Smoking times can vary depending on the size and thickness of the salmon fillets, but it averages anywhere from 1 to 3 hours.
We did a salmon comparison. Sushi grade king salmon funs $40 lb. Sushi grade wild sockeye averages $38 lb. Wild-caught coho salmon - $25 lb., and $ 13lb for Atlantic farm salmon. After smoking each at 300f for 20 minutes, I determined my favorites. Here's the ranking
1) Sushi-grade king salmon,
2) Wild-caught coho salmon,
3) Atlantic farm salmon, and
4) Sushi-grade wild sockeye salmon
How to Cook Salmon
No matter the method, there are simple preparations for the fish before you cook it. Rinse the salmon under cold water. Fold two paper towels in half and pat the salmon dry. Season the fish evenly on both sides using spices like salt, pepper, dill, and garlic.
Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat and add some cooking oil. Transfer the seasoned salmon fillets to the skillet, skin side down. The first side is ready in about 5 minutes. Gently flip the fillets using a spatula and cook the second side for 3-4 minutes or until the salmon flakes easily with a fork.
Preheat your oven to 400°F. Place the seasoned salmon fillets on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Bake the salmon for about 12-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillets. As with pan frying, you are looking for fork tenderness.
Grilling (My Favorite)
Preheat your grill to medium-high heat. Brush the salmon fillets with a little oil to prevent sticking. Place the salmon on the grill, skin side down, and cook for about 4-6 minutes. Carefully flip the fillets and cook for an additional 4-6 minutes until the salmon is cooked through.
Remember, cooking times may vary depending on the thickness of the salmon fillets. It's important to avoid overcooking the salmon to maintain its moistness and flavor.
PitMaster’s Memo: Spicing up Salmon
At Cusocuts, we have a variety of naturally flavored seasonings you can use for salmon. Here are three:
Cuso’s Dust Seasoning: This blend works wonderfully on salmon thanks to sea salt, granulated garlic and onion, and smoky paprika.
Cuso’s Lemon Pepper Seasoning: A delightful approach using tried-n-true components. This blend includes lemon peel, orange peel, garlic, onion, and dill.
Cuso’s Maple Bourbon Seasoning: Salmon with a twist. This seasoning blend includes whisky, paprika, garlic, onion, and ginger.
You can also play with flavor combinations like teriyaki glazed salmon, salmon dusted with Cajun seasoning, or East Meets West with soy and ginger salmon.
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