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How to Cook Salmon

Lemon and Parmesan Crusted Salmon on a baking pan
Learn how to cook salmon, how to bake salmon, how to grill salmon and more, and you’ll always have a delicious plan to fall back on, whether you are hosting a dinner party or just making a last-minute weeknight meal.


Salmon is a rich, meaty fish that makes an elegant entrée. It is also surprising easy to prepare in a variety of ways and boasts many healthy qualities – it is a high-quality protein, low in fat, saturated fat and cholesterol.

Different Cuts of Salmon

Salmon is a full-flavored fish – as opposed to a mild-flavored fish like cod – with a rich, buttery flavor and medium to firm texture. Different cuts of salmon include: fillet, steak and side of salmon.

Grilled Salmon with Lemon Herb Butter Sauce

A fillet is a section of a side of salmon. This is the most common cut of salmon, and fillets can be cooked quickly and easily using any method – sauté, poach, bake, broil or grill. A serving size will be 1/3 to ½ pound per person. Salmon fillets usually come with the skin attached to one side. Cook the fish, skin side down. The skin will help hold the fish together, and it is easy to remove after cooking.

Braised Salmon with Soy Ginger Sauce

A steak is a thick, crosscut section of salmon. The double-lobed shape of a steak makes it perfect for feeding two people. The uniform thickness of a salmon steak makes it easy to grill. Other common methods of cooking salmon steak include: baking and broiling. A serving size will be 1/3 to ½ pound per person so look for a 10-ounce to 1-pound steak, if you wish to feed two people.

Grilled Dill Salmon

A side of salmon is one whole side of the fish, which will usually come with the skin attached. Sides are great for feeding a crowd. Be aware, the thickness of a side will vary from head to tail. If you like your fish well done, measure at the thickest point and cook 10 minutes per inch of thickness. Cook frozen fish 20 minutes per inch. Add 5 minutes to the total cooking time, if the fish is cooked in foil or in a sauce. The easiest methods of cooking salmon sides include: baking, broiling or grilling.

Salmon is widely available and at a variety of price points. Farm-raised salmon is generally more affordable than wild salmon. In the United States, wild salmon has a season, May through June. Wild salmon is available outside this season, frozen.

When buying fresh salmon fillets, steaks or sides

  • The flesh should be shiny, firm and spring back when touched.
  • Avoid fish with dark edges or brown discoloration.
  • The contents should smell fresh and mild, not fishy or like ammonia.
  • Be sure to use the fish by the package sell-by date.

When buying frozen salmon fillets, steaks or sides

  • The package should be tightly wrapped with few or no ice crystals and no freezer burn, which appears as dry or dark.
  • Fish packaged in clear plastic wrap on a tray can be frozen as is.

How to Prepare Salmon

Preparing salmon is easy. The first step to preparing salmon is removing the pin bones. Pin bones are small bones found in a vertical row in the center of a fillet or side. Removing the pin bones, makes salmon easier to eat and more attractive.

It’s easy to remove pin bones from salmon. Grab a pair of tweezers or small needle nose pliers and follow the instructions below.

  1. Lay the salmon flat.
  2. Starting at the thickest end of the salmon, run your fingers down the center of the fillet. Bones will be standing in a vertical row.
  3. When you locate a bone, grasp the tip of the bone with the tweezers or pliers and use a firm grip to pull out.

How to Cook Salmon

For a restaurant-quality entrée, try making Betty’s Lemon-and Parmesan-Crusted Salmon recipe. This recipe is easy, elegant and impressive way to cook a salmon fillet. Serve this recipe for salmon fillet with steamed or grilled asparagus spears or buttered small red potatoes.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 salmon fillet, 1 1/4 pounds
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup fresh white bread crumbs, 1 slice
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

How to:

1. Heat oven to 375ºF. Spray shallow baking pan with cooking spray. Pat salmon dry with paper towel. Place salmon, skin side down, in pan; brush with 1 tablespoon of the butter. Sprinkle with salt.


2. Mix bread crumbs, cheese, onions, lemon peel and thyme in small bowl. Stir in remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Press bread crumb mixture evenly on salmon.


3. Bake uncovered 15 to 25 minutes or until salmon flakes easily with fork. Serve immediately.


This recipe can easily be doubled for 8 servings.

Different Methods for Cooking Salmon

Salmon is very versatile. There are a number of different methods for cooking salmon. The trick is to pay attention, because it only takes a short time to cook salmon. The best treatment will vary by the cut of salmon.

How to grill salmon: Grilling is the perfect way to cook salmon on a hot summer day when you can’t stand to turn on the oven. This treatment works for any cut of salmon, but steaks are especially easy to flip because of their thickness. It’s easiest to grill fillets with the skin on. Marinate the salmon before grilling to impart more flavor, but don’t marinate for longer than an hour. Fish will get mushy if allowed to sit in an acidic marinade for too long. Grilled Salmon with Honey-Soy Marinade is one of our go-to grilled salmon recipes.

How to bake salmon: Any cut of salmon can be baked for a delicious, last-minute dinner. Baking is especially easy with salmon fillets and sides. It’s important to pat the skin dry before baking so the fish will bake and not steam. Salmon should be baked in a shallow pan, skin side down and brushed lightly with oil or butter. Beyond that, treatment can be as simple as a sprinkling of fresh herbs. Alternately, you can bake the salmon in a sauce or glaze. Baked salmon is done when the fish flakes easily and separates along the natural lines. For a simple and delicious baked salmon dinner, try the recipe for Asian Salmon with Potatoes and Broccoli Sheet-Pan Dinner.

How to smoke salmon: Smoked salmon is moist and delicious and makes a wonderful appetizer. Smoking is also a more involved cooking method requiring special equipment, including a smoker and wood chunks. If you smoke your own salmon, you will want to use a large side so you get a greater yield for your efforts. For example, the Smoked Brined Salmon recipe is a favorite that calls for 2.5 – 3 pounds of salmon. The effort is worth it, but those who lack the special equipment don’t have to miss out. Smoked salmon is widely available for purchase.

How to broil salmon: Broiling is another treatment that works for salmon fillets, steaks and sides. It’s a great treatment on a weeknight since involves very little effort. It does require vigilance, however, since the fish cooks quickly. One of Betty’s best broiled salmon recipes, Honey Mustard Glazed Salmon only takes 35 minutes to prepare. This recipe gets its flavor from a quick 15 minutes of marinating, which is just enough time to throw together a salad.

How to poach salmon: Yet another easy treatment, poaching works best for salmon fillets. Poaching involves cooking salmon in boiling liquid until the skin is flaky. The most time consuming part of poaching salmon is getting the cooking liquid to boil. Cooking time will depend on the thickness of the fillet. Salmon is often boiled in a mixture of white wine, water and herbs or water. For a twist on this classic treatment, try the recipe for Poached Salmon with Tangy Asian Vegetables, which involves poaching salmon in stock, green onions and miso paste.

How to cook in foil packs: This is one of our favorite ways to cook salmon during the busy summer months. Salmon fillets get folded up in foil packs with simple seasonings, like herbs, lemon, oil and salt and pepper. Then, you just stash the packs in the fridge until dinnertime. A perfect recipe is the Grilled Lemon-Salmon Foil Packs, which only takes 30 minutes total.

What to Serve with Salmon

Salmon is a rich fish. It goes well with fresh vegetables and also with pasta and grains like rice, lentils or couscous. Here are some wonderful accompaniments to your next salmon dinner.

No matter what you serve with your salmon, you won’t be disappointed. With salmon as the main event, you’re in for a great dinner.

How to Store Leftover Salmon

It’s not often that we have leftover salmon, but when we do, it’s no problem. To keep leftover salmon fresh, refrigerate in the meat compartment or coldest part of your fridge and use within two days.

Here are some of our favorite ways to make a new meal out of leftover salmon.

Leftover salmon can also be frozen after cooking. Wrap tightly in butcher paper, foil or freezer plastic bags. Freeze for up to six months; thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

Now that you know how to make salmon, you’ve always got a plan for last-minute dinner sure to impress!

Next, learn how to cook shrimp. Betty’s got all the tips and tricks you need to master cooking most anything — find how-to articles here.