When it comes to salmon, we love pairing the deliciously dense fish with two things: dill and lemons! The lemons cut through the fattiness of the salmon and gives it a deliciously tangy and bright flavor, while the sweet and slightly bitter dill makes for the perfect companion herb. In fact, you’ll be hard-pressed to find salmon recipes that don’t feature one or both of these ingredients; they’re just that perfect together!
This amazing salmon recipe is perfect for a quick dinner or if you’re having some friends over and you’re looking for a showstopping dish that everyone will love.
How to pick good salmon
If you’re getting packed salmon, make sure that the salmon has been vacuum-packed and flash frozen. There are so many suppliers on the market today, so you need to be careful as some allow the salmon to thaw out and freeze the fillets over and over. Of course, it’s not always possible to tell whether the salmon has been frozen repeatedly, so you need to purchase from reputable suppliers or sellers.
Do you wash salmon before cooking?
If you’re using fresh or thawed frozen salmon, you should NOT wash the salmon before cooking. Washing raw fish can actually be harmful because you run the risk of spreading bacteria in and around your cooking area.
Always make sure that you are buying your salmon from a trusted supplier. Even if the salmon was frozen and thawed, a reputable supplier will have flash-frozen the salmon to keep it safe. Furthermore, the cooking process will thoroughly kill any harmful bacteria in the salmon. Check out our tips for how to tell if salmon went bad.
How do I know if salmon is cooked?
The cardinal rule when it comes to cooking salmon: NEVER overcook the salmon. If your salmon is firm, opaque, and dark orange, it’s a sign that you’ve already overcooked it. Another sign is when you see white specks on top of the salmon. The white goop is called albumin and it’s a protein that comes out of fish flesh when the fish is overcooked.
Frankly, overcooked salmon can be tasteless and dry. Fish cooks pretty fast in general, and the thinner the filet, the faster it cooks.
The best way to cook salmon is medium. We like having medium-rare salmon, but some people find the slightly translucent flesh a bit off-putting.
It’s actually pretty easy to know if salmon is cooked. Simply use a fork and poke the top of the fillet and turn it just a bit at the thickest part. If the salmon flakes away easily, the salmon is cooked, and you should immediately take it off the heat. The residual heat will continue cooking the salmon a little bit more, and you’ll have a delicious, moist, and flakey piece of salmon. If it looks like a translucent pink, much like raw chicken, it needs a couple more minutes.
Do you cook salmon with the skin on?
Yes, you should definitely cook your salmon with the skin on!
Even if you don’t plan on eating the skin (which you totally should, by the way), you should leave the skin on while cooking because it keeps the salmon moist and prevents it from overcooking and drying out.
Here's something put together because SO MANY PEOPLE ask what salmon tastes like!
What side dishes go with salmon?
Salmon dishes are usually light yet rich, so you want to pair it with vegetables, rice, or a mash.
For veggies, green beans are a great choice. Try making fresh ginger-infused green beans or this amazing Texas Roadhouse Green beans copycat recipe. You can also try pairing it with a crunchy and fresh slaw.
If you’re looking for something a little bit heartier, try pairing this salmon recipe with rice or mashed potatoes. You can also try mashed sweet potatoes if you’re looking to add a bit more nutrition (Vitamin A!) to your meal.
Our CookingChew Cooking Tips:
1. Thaw it out completely
Before cooking salmon, make sure that the fillet or steaks have thawed out completely before cooking it. If you cook the salmon with the insides still cold or frozen, the exterior will become overcooked before the interior even becomes warm!
If possible, allow the salmon to thaw in the fridge the night before cooking it. However, you can also thaw out the salmon slowly in your sink. Do not remove the salmon from the package; simply place the package in room-temperature water and allow the salmon to thaw slowly. Change the water one or two times to speed up the thawing process.
2. Pat the salmon dry before cooking
Just like red meat, salmon benefits from searing! It locks in the juices and keeps the salmon moist while cooking. Of course, the main enemy of searing is moisture.
Before cooking the salmon, pat down the fillets or steaks with paper towels or clean cotton dish towels to remove as much water as possible.
3. Heat the pan properly
Don’t you just hate it when fish sticks to your pan? No matter how much oil you put into your pan, your fish is going to stick if you don’t heat the pan properly before putting the fish in. Heat the skillet up before putting the oil in. Then add the fish. We use our cast iron for everything, and we recommend this one.
4. Cook the salmon skin side down first
When ready to cook, place the salmon skin side down first. The skin will get crispy and protect the flesh from the intense heat of the pan. In fact, 90% of your cooking time will happen with the skin side down.
You should season your salmon skin with a little bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper to help prevent sticking and to give the skin a bit more flavor.
5. Let the fish cook undisturbed
It’s really tempting to keep checking the fish if it’s done cooking; trust us, we’ve felt the temptation too. But if you keep moving the fish, you’ll never get that crispy sear we keep on talking about! Once the fish in the pan, allow the fish to cook flat on the pan without moving it around.
Here’s a tip: use a fish spatula to check if the fish can easily be lifted from the skillet. If it lifts away completely, the fish is done cooking on the skin side!
6. Keep an eye on your fish
Even though salmon is an oily fish, it can overcook really easily, especially if you don’t know how to cook salmon in a pan. After cooking the skin and you flip the salmon, you should cook it for only a minute or two to complete the cooking process.
While salmon is a pretty forgiving fish that won’t completely dry out when overcooked for a minute, why do you want to take the risk and end up with dry, overcooked salmon?
Lemon and Dill Salmon with Herbed Salad
If you ask us how to cook salmon, this is definitely one of our favorite recipes! Searing salmon is one of the best ways to get that perfectly crispy skin and wonderfully flaky and moist flesh. Pair it with a fresh and bright salad and garnish it with some lemon and dill, and you’ve got yourself a pretty awesome meal. Don’t blame us if your friends and family rave about this one, because that’s exactly what happened with ours.
- 1 T. extra virgin olive oil
- 4 6-oz. Alaskan wild-caught salmon filets
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 3 c. mixed salad greens
- 1 c. cherry or grape tomatoes
- 1 medium English cucumber
- 4–5 fresh dill sprigs
- ¼ c. fresh mint leaves
- ¼ c. fresh basil leaves
- 1 T. Dijon mustard
- 2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 T. apple cider vinegar
- 2 fresh lemon
- 2 sprigs fresh dill
- First, prepare the salad. Wash the salad greens and dry thoroughly. Cut the tomatoes in half. Peel cucumber, remove seeds, and cut into cubes. Chop 4-5 drill sprigs roughly.
- Combine mixed greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, and fresh dill in large glass bowl. Toss to combine thoroughly and set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together Dijon mustard, olive oil, and apple cider vinegar. Cut one lemon into wedges and squeeze the juice into the dressing, taking care not to let the seeds fall in. Season with salt and pepper. Pour prepared dressing in salad and toss together to coat the vegetables in dressing. Place the salad in the fridge to chill.
- Preheat skillet to medium-high heat. When skillet is hot, place olive oil into skillet and allow oil to heat for 1 minute.
- Pat salmon fillets dry and season with salt and pepper on both sides.
- When the oil starts to smoke lightly, place salmon fillets skin side down on hot surface. Sear for 3-4 minutes.
- After 3-4 minutes, flip the fillet and cook the other side for 1-2 minutes only.
- Slice your remaining lemon into thin slices.
- Remove the salmon from the heat and place thin lemon slices and fresh sprigs of dill on top.
- Serve with herb salad and enjoy!
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 530Total Fat: 32gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 24gCholesterol: 107mgSodium: 347mgCarbohydrates: 21gFiber: 6gSugar: 10gProtein: 42g
Use a Salad Spinner!
If you love crisp salad greens, we recommend investing in a salad spinner. They’re super easy to use, affordable, and removes all the excess moisture in your salad. Watery dressing and a soggy salad can ruin a meal quickly.
Why Are Some Salmon Redder Than Others?
You might notice that, sometimes, you find red salmon at your local grocery especially if you’re buying fresh fillets. Red salmon is actually made from Sockeye salmon, and the flesh is firmer with a stronger taste. The red color of the salmon comes from krill, a type of small shrimp eaten by Sockeye salmon.
Generally, red salmon is more expensive compared to pink salmon, but it doesn't necessarily mean it's a "better" fish, just different, and it's about personal taste.
Fillets vs. Steaks
If you love salmon skin, fillets are the way to go. However, steaks cook much more quickly and you get a little bit of skin, flesh, and fat with each steak.
With this recipe, you’ll get a delicious salmon dish that is worthy of being served in any restaurant. Plus, it only takes you 20 minutes to make it! Who doesn’t love a quick but restaurant-quality meal at home?