How to Bake Salmon
Baking salmon is an easy way to prepare it that requires little hands-on effort. Simply season the salmon and pop it into the oven or bake it in a foil packet with vegetables for a simple, fresh-tasting meal.
Fresh salmon is often available farmed or wild, with wild carrying the higher price tag. The country-of-origin label should tell you where the fish is from and if it is farmed or wild. Or buy the fish from a reputable fish market that can provide this information. Common forms of salmon include fillets (probably the most readily available), steaks, and whole fish. Make sure your fresh salmon is firm, moist, and smells like the ocean. For fillets, ask your fish market to skin them. This isn't essential but it is convenient. Frozen salmon is also an option. If salmon is not available, opt for rosy-color arctic char, which has a similar flavor.
- Wild: Most varieties of wild salmon are available fresh May through October and frozen throughout the year. Wild salmon are typically Pacific coast varieties such as coho (silver), sockeye (red), Chinook (king), pink, and chum.
- Farmed: Atlantic salmon is generally farmed. These salmon are grown in pens near ocean shores. Farming has increased availability substantially and allows for salmon at a cheaper price.
Prepping the Fish
If the salmon is frozen, thaw it in the refrigerator. Rinse the fish and pat dry with paper towels. Cut larger pieces of salmon into serving-size pieces. Before seasoning your salmon, figure out the estimated cooking time. For fillets and steaks, use a ruler to measure the thickness. For a whole dressed fish (ready-to-cook salmon with the organs, scales, gills, and fins removed), weigh the fish instead. Place the fish in a single layer in a greased or foil-lined shallow baking pan. For fillets, tuck under any thin edges to ensure even baking. Brush the fish with olive oil or melted butter and season as desired.
Tip: Seasoning salmon can be as simple as using salt and ground black pepper, especially if you are planning to serve it with a sauce. A sprinkling of fresh or dried herbs, such as dill or thyme, or a little minced garlic is also tasty. Sprinkling seasoning blends, such as garlic pepper, lemon pepper, or Italian seasoning, also is a simple way to boost flavor.
Tip: To skin a raw fish fillet, using a sharp knife, slide the knife just under the skin on one side. Grab the skin with one hand and continue to slide the knife between the fillet and the skin, pointing the knife slightly toward the skin. Discard the skin.
Our Favorite Baked Salmon Recipes
How to Bake Salmon
Bake Until Opaque and Flaky
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F for fillets or 350 degrees F for a dressed fish. You can bake the fillets at a lower temperature, if desired, but remember to increase the cooking time. Bake salmon fillets or steaks, uncovered, for 4 to 6 minutes per 1/2-inch thickness. For a dressed salmon, bake for 6 to 9 minutes per 8 ounces of fish. To test for doneness, insert a fork into the salmon and gently twist. The salmon is done as soon as it begins to flake. Be sure to test at the minimum baking time. When done, the salmon will be opaque with milky-white juices.
How to Bake Salmon in a Packet
Baking Salmon in a Packet
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. For each packet, cut an 18x24-inch piece of heavy foil and fold it in half to get an 18x12-inch piece.
2. Place desired vegetables, such as precooked carrots, sliced mushrooms, and sliced green onions, onto foil. Place one 4-ounce salmon fillet, cut 3/4 inch thick, atop the vegetables. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon olive oil or melted butter. You can also add a splash of dry white wine if you like. Sprinkle with salt and ground black pepper and, if desired, a little snipped fresh oregano or dill, finely shredded orange peel, and/or minced garlic. If desired, top with a couple of halved orange slices.
3. To make the packet, bring together two opposite foil edges and seal with a double fold. Fold remaining edges together to completely enclose the food, allowing space for steam to build. Place the foil packets in a single layer in a shallow baking pan.
4. Bake about 30 minutes or until fish begins to flake when tested with a fork and vegetables are tender (open packets carefully to check doneness, as hot steam will escape).