How To Bake Salmon So It Stays Healthy and Delicious

Have you avoided salmon because it's so difficult to bake? Do you want to get the health benefits, those fantastic omega-3 fatty acids, but can't seem to get it to cook just right?

It's probably something you were never taught how to do well, and many of the cooking shows and books don't help.

Three key factors will help keep your salmon moist, tender, and delicious.

The first one is to marinade well. Choose something flavorful and a little acidic to bring out a lot of flavors and help keep your salmon moist. Now, let's take a look at the other two.

You're Probably Over Cooking Your Salmon

salmonThat's right, if you're following the directions, you're probably over-cooking your salmon. That burns off the healthy omega-3 fatty acids and leaves your fish dry and rubbery. Even with a good marinade or sauce, it's hard to cover up dry salmon.

So, what's going on?

The ideally, perfectly cooked salmon is just barely flaky to your fork. But, if you're looking for that in the oven, in the pan, or on the grill, you're looking in the wrong place. Food continues to cook after you take it off the heat, and you have to anticipate the final cooking temperature, which we're going to talk about below.

Many websites, recipes, and videos overcook salmon because of the potential of contamination and sickness. They don't want to risk someone's health because of undercooking food. That's good, especially if you're concerned about that sort of thing, but the exchange will be your food is more dried out.

But, if you are healthier and take the right precautions, you can cook a little differently and get better results.

Why are you overcooking? You might not be starting at the right temperature.

To develop a beautiful sear on the outside, your meat should be as close to room temperature as possible. Cold meat burns and dries out. This is even more important when you use a dry rub, like the pepper for blackened salmon.

Because you're starting at a warmer temperature for your food, your food will cook faster and retain more moisture. Long, moderate cooking temperatures dry out food.

Your searing pan or your broiler should be as high as safely allowed. That means you need to invest in a good cast iron or heavy steel cooking pan that can take higher heats. Non-stick and aluminum pans can't hold up to the type of heat required to cook meat well.

Also, never pierce the flesh with a fork or a knife. That just releases moisture and introduces bacteria.

Remember, Meats Continue To Cook After You Take Them Off The Heat

salmonYou really should look for your fish just barely starting to show signs of flakiness before removing it from the heat. Looking for full flakiness means you've already overcooked your salmon.

When you take your food away from the heat source, it still retains a lot of that heat. Wrapping the fillet in foil helps the outer heat penetrate deeply, continuing to cook the inside while letting the outside cool down.

That's one of the secrets of professional chefs; they moderate the cooking speed and temperature off the stove more than on the stove.

That's why the recipe below seems to have such short cooking time but calls for wrapping the salmon in foil after you take it off the heat. The final flakiness you're looking for will be because of the hot outer temperatures seeping in and finishing the cooking process.

In addition to slightly changing the way you cook, you'll probably have to step up your cleaning game. You'll have to make sure your work area is much cleaner, free of bacteria, mold, and other contaminants that could sour your food.

Since you're not overcooking your food, you run a higher risk of contamination. But, choosing higher-quality, whole cuts of meat and keeping your kitchen cleaner helps mitigate that risk. (Don’t test it with a fork, either! That pushes bacteria inside.)

Give this recipe a try, and start exploring new cooking methods to keep your food much more moist and tender.

Delicious Salmon Over Greens Recipe

  • 1 salmon fillet
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette
  • 3 cups fresh spinach and other greens
  • 1/4 cup avocado, cubed small
  • 1/2 small tomato, diced
  • 1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped walnuts, no salt
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon dried cranberries

Marinade salmon in vinaigrette for about 1 hour in the refrigerator, turn gently often.

Preheat broiler & make salad.

Place salmon on wire rack and place under broiler for 3 minutes**.

Remove, brush with vinaigrette marinade. Turn over.

Place salmon on wire rack and place under broiler for 3 minutes**.

Let the salmon rest under foil as you prepare the salad on a plate. Place salmon on plate and drizzle with fresh vinaigrette. Enjoy!


**Times will vary according to size of the fillet. Flat tail sections may only require 1 minute of broiling. Thicker, center cuts may take upwards of 10 minutes per side. Please adjust to avoid overcooking.