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How to cook salmon

Lynn Wright / 05 January 2016 ( 01 February 2021 )

Salmon fillets are delicious cooked in a variety of ways from grilling, poaching and pan-frying to baking in the oven. Follow our tips for perfectly cooked salmon every time.

Cooked salmon
Salmon can be baked, poached, fried or grilled.

Not only is fresh salmon delicious, it’s also a treasure trove of good nutrition. A great source of lean protein, vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants, salmon is also packed full of omega-3 fatty acids – essential for a healthy heart, brain, joints and general wellbeing. To enjoy these benefits, health experts recommend eating fish, including salmon, at least three times a week.

The great news is that salmon is extremely versatile when it comes to cooking and lends itself to grilling, poaching, steaming, barbecuing and oven baking. Salmon cooks quickly however, becoming tough and dry when overcooked, so a little care is needed to get it just right.

Find out the health benefits of eating fish

How to pan fry salmon

Pat the salmon fillets dry with some kitchen towel then brush with little melted butter or oil and season with salt and pepper. Heat a griddle pan or frying pan until hot. Reduce the heat to medium and add the salmon fillets skin-side down. Fry the fillet for 5 to 6 minutes – the fillet should begin to change colour in the middle. Flip the fillet over and cook for a further 2 to 3 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fillet.

Recipe: pan-fried salmon with Scandinavian rysteribs
Recipe: salmon fillets with Scandinavian pickled cucumbers and dill dressing

How to grill salmon

Pat the salmon fillets dry with some kitchen towel, then brush with little melted butter or oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the fillets in a lightly oiled pan, skin side up. Cook under a hot grill for about 4 to 5 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness of your fillet.

Recipe: grilled Teriyaki salmon and prawn skewers
Recipe: grilled Cajun-spiced salmon
Recipe: grilled salmon with potato and lentil salad

How to oven cook salmon

Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas mark 6. Rub a little oil over the fillets and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the fillets skin-side down on a foil-lined baking tray and pop onto the middle shelf of the oven and cook for around 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillet.

Recipe: oven baked orange and blueberry-glazed salmon
Recipe: warm wild red rocket salad with salmon
Recipe: roast salmon and potatoes with sweet and sour relish

How to bake salmon in foil

Place your oiled, seasoned fillets in the middle of a sheet of foil. Add herbs, spices or vegetables if using, then pull the edges of the foil together, scrunching them up to form a sealed parcel. Place the parcel on a baking tray and cook in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes.

Recipe: steam-baked teriyaki salmon

How to poach salmon

One of the healthiest ways to cook salmon is to poach it in water, wine, milk or a light stock. Place the fillet in a pan, cover completely with the liquid. If using water, you can add flavourings such as herbs, bay leaves, peppercorns, slices of carrots, and onions. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and allow the salmon to gently poach for 8 to 10 minutes or until cooked.

Recipe: poached salmon with lemon and asparagus

How can I tell if salmon is cooked?

Cooking time depends on the thickness of your salmon fillet as well as your method of cooking. Measure the depth of your salmon at the thickest point. Aim for 8 to 10 minutes of cooking time per inch of thickness under a direct heat or hot oven. The fillet will continue to cook once removed from the direct heat so remember to allow for this.

Perfectly cooked salmon is opaque and firm to the touch. After cooking for the given time, use a fork to gently separate the layers at the thickest part of the fillet so you can see into the middle. If you can’t separate the layers, it’s not done, but if the inside is opaque, remove from the heat and serve.

How to add flavour to salmon

Marinading your fillets before cooking is a good way to infuse salmon with extra flavour. Lemon pairs well with salmon as do herbs such as dill, parsley rosemary and garlic. Or go for an oriental vibe with ginger, chili, soy sauce or a teriyaki marinade.

Looking for inspiration for great meal ideas? Take a look through our collection of delicious salmon recipes, or see what recipes you can make with smoked salmon.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.