Ever wondered if there are tale-tell signs to know when salmon is done? This post will teach you how to know when salmon is done and methods of getting it right every time.
Salmon is one of the most sought-after types of fish, all thanks to its many health benefits (hello Omega-3 fatty acids). However, many people aren't so sure on how to tell when it's fully cooked and tend to overcook their fish.
This post goes through methods and tricks for telling when salmon is cooked perfectly every time!
Ways of cooking salmon
The way to cook salmon varies, and it's simple to prepare.
- On the grill
- Stovetop (seared/fried)
- Oven (baked/roasted/En papillote/foil)
Regardless of the method you use to cook your fish, the cooking temperature will remain consistent across the board.
Contrary to what you might think, using a thermometer isn't the only way to know when salmon is done. However, if you're determined on using this approach, follow the instructions below:
Insert an instant meat thermometer into the thickest part of the fish and make sure it's not touching any bones then aim for a core temperature of 54C (130F). However, the fish will continue to cook as it rests so it is safe to remove the fish from the oven etc, when the internal temperature registers 125F/50C
If you don't have a thermometer to check the doneness, then follow the other methods below which can be used as a general rule of thumb
Use your finger to carefully poke the fillet near the center. If it feels thick or spongy, it's not done yet. When ready, the flesh should feel firm and have little resistance when poked through.
The "press or touch " method
Some people swear by this method! Gently press on top of a cooked piece of fish with a fork or spoon; if it has a small bit that jiggles immediately, then it's still raw. If there's no movement and the fish feels firm, then it's done.
The touch test - Run your finger across the surface of a cooked fillet. If it feels smooth and silky, the flesh has firmed up then it is fully cooked but if it's still gelatinous or stringy, leave it in for another minute or two.
If these methods fail, simply use a sharp knife to cut open your piece of cooked salmon. It'll be pink and opaque throughout (instead of orange), with an even consistency all through the piece, that's how you know that salmon is done!
How long to cook for
Depending on the level of doneness you want, you can serve salmon medium or medium-rare like you would with tuna or steak. Also, The thickness and the cooking method would determine how long you cook the fish.
This is a rough guide on how long to cook the salmon for. It is best to start checking from 8 minutes then 25 minutes if cooking a whole salmon.
Grilled, seared, or broiled salmon steak: 4-6 minutes per inch of thickness
Poached salmon: 7 to 10 minutes
Baked salmon filets: 10-15minutes at 400F - 450F, En papillote: 15 to 20 minutes
Salmon fillets in foil: 12-15 minutes @ 200C/400F
Salmon cakes or patties: 4-6 minutes on each side at 350F
Air fryer salmon steak/fillets: about 8-12 minutes on at 350F, steak with the bone in may cook longer so adjust the cooking time accordingly.
Sautéing (stovetop): 5 minutes on the first side or just until crispy and can be flipped and moved around the pan without sticking, and 3 to 4 minutes on the other side.
Whole salmon steaks or fillets: 40 minutes - to 1 hour @200C/400F depending on the thickness.
How to store cooked salmon
Fridge: Cooked salmon will last in the fridge for 2-3 days if stored in an airtight container. If you want, you can wrap the fish in foil before storing in the container but this is not necessary.
Freezer: wrap in a layer of cling film and foil, place in a Ziploc freezer-safe bag then store in a freezer bag for up to 4 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight before using.
Related post: how long can you keep cooked salmon in the fridge and how to cook frozen salmon.
What should the internal temperature of cooked salmon be
The internal temperature of cooked salmon should be at least 145°C/54°F. It will continue to cook even after it has been taken out of the oven. It's fine up to 125°F/50°C since you can safely cook and eat it a little rare.
How long can cooked salmon sit out?
Cooked salmon should only be out on the counter for up to two hours before being stored inside the refrigerator. This ensures that bacteria do not grow, since leftover fish is at risk of spoilage once it is left outside of the fridge for too long!
What does undercooked salmon look like?
Undercooked salmon will have an opaque color around it with a slightly bright, orange coloring in the middle. The flesh should be firm and springy, rather than soft to touch if it was still raw. That said, salmon is safe to eat if it is slightly undercooked. However, if this would be an issue for you then you can cook the fish for another few more minutes so it cooks properly
color of cooked vs raw salmon
The center of cooked salmon should be completely pink and opaque, with an even consistency throughout. If the meat is still orange or pink, it needs to be returned to the oven for a few minutes. There are only two exceptions to this rule - smoked salmon and tuna steak.
Raw salmon will have bright, orange coloring. It should be firm and springy to the touch, without any mushiness. If it is too spongy or gelatinous, it has not been stored properly and may not be safe to eat.
Salmon Recipes to try
Salmon is versatile and can be enjoyed in many different ways!
There are various methods that can be used to cook salmon, from pan-searing, frying, to baking. Salmon pairs well with many different flavors and seasonings but is best complemented with lemon juice, garlic, dill weed, and cracked peppercorns.
Serve with sauteed zucchini or boiled broccoli.
Things to Remember
- Cooked salmon should be opaque and pink inside when cut into and it should flake away easily with a fork.
- When you start to see the white albumen (this is a protein produced in the salmon's kidneys and in its blood vessels) coagulates and turns milky on the fish then it is an indication that the fish will cook in no time. That said, too much of it can mean you may have overcooked the fish.
- Don't worry if you don't get it right the first time, you can return undercooked salmon into the oven or air fryer for another 1 to 2 minutes for further cooking.
Simple Baked Salmon
- ½ lb side salmon fillets about 4 fillets
- ½ teaspoon dried dill
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika substitute with sweet paprika
- Garlic salt to taste
- zest of 1 lemon about ½ Tablespoon
- lemon juice to serve
- freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven at 200C/400F and line a baking sheet (or an oven proof dish) with a foil or parchment paper
- Pat the salmon fillet dry with a kitchen paper towel to remove any excess moisture. to a small mixing bowl, add smoked paprika, dried dill, garlic salt, lemon zest, black pepper and mix to combine.
- Brush oil on the fish then sprinkle the seasoning all over the fish. Bake the salmon in the oven for 15 to 18 minutes depending on how thick it is. The fish is done and safe to eat when the internal temperature registers 125F/50C, is opaque, and flakes easily with a fork. Sprinkle the lemon zest on the fish, serve and enjoy!
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