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How to Cook Salmon: 5 Simple and Tasty Techniques

Great for both the heart and mind, it’s also extremely versatile to prepare and cook.

Salmon is a healthy and delicious source of nutrients.

Great for both the heart and mind, it’s also extremely versatile to prepare and cook.

This article looks at how to cook salmon, simply and efficiently.

What is Salmon?

Salmon are saltwater fish that are mostly native to the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Rich and meaty, salmon is often referred to as the ‘fish for people that don’t think they like fish’, due to its rich, meaty texture and ‘non-fishy’ flavor.

Fun Fact: Most types of salmon are ‘anadromous’ – this means they are born in freshwater, and travel to saltwater to live the rest of their lives. They only return to freshwater again to reproduce.

How to Prepare Salmon

Some quick pointers before you start to cook:

  • Individual fillets are the easiest to prepare and cook, however, salmon steaks are also ideal for cooking by oven/grill.
  • Frozen salmon fillets are the best option for a quick meal. If you buy your salmon fresh, look for bright, shiny and moist flesh – it should not be discolored at all, nor should it smell ‘fishy’.
  • If your fillets are still ‘with-bones’ on purchase, you will need to remove the pin-bones before you start cooking– a simple exercise (and potential new life-skill!).

Removing Pin-bones 

What you need: needle-nose pliers


  • Place fillet skin-side down on a hard surface
  • Run your fingers along the top of the fish – you will feel the tips of the bones
  • Starting at the thickest end, grab the tip of the bone with your pliers and pull out at an angle
  • Continue down the whole fillet (up to 20 or so bones)

How to Cook Salmon

So how should you cook salmon? Here are the most popular ways:

1. Pan-fried Salmon

This method is quick, easy and works best with salmon fillets.

How to do it

  • Brush salmon fillets with melted butter or olive oil. Season with salt and pepper as desired
  • Heat griddle or non-stick fry-pan until hot (test by flicking a drop off water into the pan – if it sizzles, it’s ready)
  • Place fillets in the pan, skin-side down
  • Let fillets sizzle over medium-high heat for 4-5 mins or until the flesh has turned white about ¾ of the way up from the bottom of the fillet
  • Flip fillets with a spatula, and cook the other side for 2-3 minutes
  • Remove fillets from the pan and lay to rest on a paper towel, skin-side down
  • Allow to rest for 3 minutes
  • Season with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon to serve

2. Oven-baked Salmon

Simple and no-fuss, baking your salmon will allow you time to focus on other parts of your meal.

How to do it

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (204 degrees C)
  • Season salmon with salt and pepper
  • Lightly grease a baking dish or sheet (or place down a sheet of baking paper)
  • Place fillets skin-side own on dish/sheet
  • Bake in oven for 12-15 minutes
  • Lightly dust fillets with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon before serving

3. Grilled Salmon

Perfect for summer (or all the seasons for that matter!). Grilling will infuse your salmon with a rich, smoky flavor.

How to do it

  • Heat your grill or BBQ
  • Lightly oil the salmon fillets, and season with salt and pepper
  • Place the fillets skin-side down on the hot grill
  • Flip with a spatula after 5 minutes
  • Grill the other side for another 5 minutes until flesh is a light-pink all the way through
  • Seasons fillets with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon before serving immediately


4. Poached Salmon

The ‘cleanest’ cooking method, poaching will deliver you perfectly-cooked salmon without the added fat.

How to do it

  • Fill a medium pan/large pot with enough water to cover a fillet (or fillets) – for extra flavor, add some lemon slices, salt and pepper and fresh herbs to the water
  • Bring the water to a simmer (medium-low heat)
  • Slide the fish in, and cover
  • Let the fish cook for 25 minutes
  • Lift the salmon out of the water and drain on a paper towel
  • Season with salt and pepper and squeeze of lemon before serving/adding to your favorite dish

5. Steamed Salmon (‘Salmon en Papillote’)

This method sees the salmon wrapped in foil or parchment and baked, with the steam producing perfectly moist fish.

How to do it

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (204 degrees C)
  • Cut foil/parchment into a piece big enough to wrap your fillet in
  • Place the fish in the foil/parchment, and seasons with salt and pepper, a drizzle of oil, squeeze of lemon and any other flavors your desire (e.g. dill, chili)
  • Close-up the foil/parchment and bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes
  • Serve as-is in the packets or plate up
  • Season with salt and pepper as desired

Flavor tip

Salmon is delicious served with a simple squeeze of lemon, however, for those who want a little more zing, consider some additional saucy accompaniments:

  • Pesto
  • Mayonnaise
  • Chimichurri
  • Salsa
  • Flavored butter (e.g. anchovy butter)

Suggested side-dish

Now that you know how to cook salmon, consider some steamed vegetables, rice and/or roast potatoes as a tasty side-dish.

See How to Cook Asparagus for some easy cooking tips with this common salmon side-dish.

Previously published on

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