Cooking 101: Salmon!
It cooks quickly, it’s good for you and it pairs well with a variety of seasonings, sauces and sides. Have some fun with superfood salmon with this nifty Cooking 101 how-to!
Native to tributaries along the North Atlantic and Pacific ocean, salmon has been a staple of both Native Americans and European settlers for centuries. Abundant on the East and West coast of America, they were so prevalent and common they gained the nickname “Alaskan Turkey”. Following the popularization of canning, salmon was heavily overfished to the degree that most salmon now comes from Canada or Europe.
Types Of Salmon
There are 6 species of salmon in North American waters and 5 in the Pacific. The 6 notable types are:
King/Chinook – High in fat, rich, large in size, loaded with Omega-3s. Considered to be the best. Mostly fished off of the West coast.
Sockeye/Red – Rich “fishier” flavor, often sold smoked. Caught in Alaskan waters.
Coho/Silver – Medium fat-content with subtle flavor and delicate texture. Often cooked whole because of their smaller size. Found in the Northern Pacific.
Pink/Humpback – Light colored flesh, milk flavor, low in fat, small in size. Commonly used in canned or pouch applications. Harvested in Alaskan fisheries as well as the coasts of Washington and Oregon.
Chum – Also known as Silverbrite, Keta or Dog. Light to medium colored meat with lower fat content and small size. Often sold canned or frozen, popular for their fish eggs which are considered a delicacy around the world. Harvested from Alaskan waters.
Atlantic / Salmo Salar – Mild in flavor, large in size. The most affordable due to large-scale fisheries.
See a taste test breakdown by Boston Globe.
How To Buy, Keep and Prepare
Avoid salmon that smells overly fishy. Go for fillets or steaks that are bright in color and moist with little to no discoloration along the edges. When buying whole salmon, the eyes should be bright and clear and the skin should be shiny and firm to the touch.
Fresh salmon is best enjoyed the day you buy it, but will stay for a day or two if tightly wrapped in plastic and stored in the coldest area of your refrigerator. Salmon can be frozen for up to 6 months, requiring to be thawed in the fridge the night before you intend to use it. Never thaw salmon at room temperature.
Remove pin bones before cooking by washing your hands and feeling throughout your fillet for the fine, little pin bones sometimes left in salmon. Remove them with pliers or a clamp, then get cookin!
Ways To Cook
Best with slim cuts of fillet (3-5 ounces), pan frying salmon yields a crispy crust and tender meat in as little as 15 minutes. Make sure your fillets are dry before seasoning, then bring a non-stick or greased pan to temperature over medium-high heat. Once the pan is quite hot, press your fillets gently onto the pan, flesh-side down. Do not move from this position for 3-4 minutes until you can see it cooking around the edges. Flip and sea the other side for 2 minutes before adding any butter or sauces to the pan. Let rest 5-10 minutes before digging in.
Try This: Perfectly Pan Seared Salmon
While it may not yield as crispy of a “crust” as pan fried, baked salmon is the no nonsense way to prepare salmon, especially if cooking for more than yourself. Trusting the oven leaves little space for error, plus you can cook other foods with your salmon at the same time. You can cook as large of a fillet or whole fish as you would like with a big enough pan too! Just season your fleet, place it skin-side down on a non-stick pan or greased baking sheet and bake at 450º F until cooked through, about 12-15 minutes. Because salmon cooks so easily, you may want to give your other ingredients a headstart and just add the salmon to the pan for the final 15 minutes. You can prepare a full meal this way in one pan, which is always a win!
Try This: Sour Cream Baked Salmon
Similar to baking, but don’t go anywhere while it cooks! On foil-lined sheet pan, brush the tops and sides with a tasty glaze, then pop under your ovens broiler for 8-10 minutes. Once you get to that 8 minute mark however, you must watch closely to avoid overcooking. For an opaque pink center, 9 minutes is usually safe.
Try This! Broiled Salmon With Asian Glaze
Seared Then Roasted
Similar to roasting meats, searing the outside of your salmon in a pan then transferring to a hot oven to finish results in a crispy outer layer and soft, flaky inside meat. Just take note, the pan you sear in must be oven-safe too!
Popular on bagels with cream cheese or mixed into omelettes, smoked salmon is salmon that is coated or brined with salt and cured before being coated in spices and smoked. There are 2 smoking methods, cold and hot. Cold smoking involved coating your salmon in a dry brine in a air-tight container then curing for 24 to 48 hours in the coolest part of a refrigerator which results in the slice-able smoked fish. Hot smoking requires a smoker, wood, salt and a sweetener.
Try This: Maple Bourbon Smoked Salmon
Whether you have steaks or fillets, grilling is a quick way to cook up your salmon, but it takes technique to do it right. The first tip is to grill salmon that has the skin-on – this helps hold the fish together and prevent it from sticking to the grill. Next, make sure your fish is well oiled, also to prevent it from sticking. Your grill should be preheated to medium-high heat. For fillets, the skinless side goes down first, unless you like crispy skin – then start skin-side down. Once placed on the grill, do not touch until you can see the edges begin to change color as they cook – about 6-8 minutes, then flip for 1-2 minutes of browning. Grilled fish is cooked at 145º F – to avoid overcooking however, take it off the grill between 130º F and let rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.
Try This: Cajun Honey Butter Grilled Salmon
Poaching is to slowly simmer food in water or broth until it is cooked. It is very gentle and gradual, resulting in a very tender, pull apart fillet. Acid helps the process, with wine, lemon juice and vinegar being the most common ingredients. This cooking method is enhanced by what ingredients you cook along with the salmon as well, with onions, garlic and herbs having an excellent effect on the taste of your poached salmon.
Try This: White Wine Poached Salmon
Easy and delicious, this method is as simple as throwing everything in oven-safe parchment and baking the pouches on a sheet pan for 15 minutes. The closed pouch allows steam to do most of the work, so the hardest part is deciding what to pair and season your salmon with! These are especially great for families with picky eaters, as everyone can make their own pouch yet they all come out at the same time. Just be cautious to stick to food with the same cook times as the salmon, like asparagus, zucchini, tomatoes and other quick-cooking veggies.
Try This: Lemon Butter Salmon In Parchment Paper
Tip: Foil-Pack salmon is another pouch method you can use and is great for grilling or campfires!
Before salmon can be smoked, it is cured. This method creates tender, flavor-filled salmon you can enjoy cold or mixed into other recipes. The process is easy, beginning with your choice or a tasty recipe for a seasoned salt mixture. Simply encrust your salmon fillet in the salt mixture, cover loosely and leave in the fridge for 48 hours. From there, you can then rinse off the salt mixture and brush with a spice coating to let set in the fridge another 12 hours. By the end of the process you are left with tender, tasty salmon best enjoyed with some good bread, a spread and some pickles.
Try This: Pastrami-Style Cured Salmon
Budget-friendly and shelf stable, canned salmon is one of the best ways to work salmon into particular meals like salmon burgers, dips or spreads. It’s great for meal prep, as you can just open, season and enjoy.
Try This: Salmon Loaf
Do you have a way to enjoy salmon we should know about? Tag us with #BestMarket, we would love to see!
July 21, 2020