Salmon is versatile, quick and easy to cook, it tastes great and it’s good for us. Here are my best ever salmon recipes to make the most of this delicious ingredient.
If you’ve never cooked salmon before then you might be feeling a bit anxious. But don’t be – it’s quick and easy to cook and even if it turns out slightly under or overdone, it will still taste good.
Why Is Salmon So Good For Us?
- Salmon is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids which are important to our health; they help to lower blood pressure, decrease inflammation, and can help to reduce the risk of cancer
- Salmon is packed full of B vitamins – it contains vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9 and B12 in more than adequate quantities to protect our health
- Salmon contains potassium which helps to lower blood pressure and protects against the risk of strokes
- Salmon is high in selenium, a mineral which is thought to protect bone health. It’s also helpful for those who suffer from thyroid gland problems
- Salmon contains an antioxidant called astaxanthin which helps to protect the brain and nervous system against inflammation, aids skin health and lowers bad cholesterol, so reducing the risk of a heart attack. It can even help you to look younger
- Salmon is high in protein; a 100g portion of fresh salmon contains 25g of protein. It helps us to feel fuller for longer so can help with weight loss
Now you know how salmon can benefit your health, let’s talk about how to cook it.
Cooking Salmon For Beginners
A lot of people, even quite experienced cooks, are nervous about cooking salmon and other fish. But it really is so simple and quick to cook. It’s up to you whether to use fillets or steaks; I prefer fillets as they don’t have that central bone and as they’re thinner they tend to cook faster than steaks. Salmon fillet is also more widely available.
Salmon is used a lot in sushi, the raw fish dish popular in Japanese cuisine. And of course, there is smoked salmon, once a luxury product but now much more affordable.
Most salmon fillets come with the skin on. This is better than the skinless variety as the skin keeps the fish moist during cooking. And crispy salmon skin is something of a delicacy too. Salmon can be pan fried, baked, poached or grilled and it takes minutes to cook.
Let’s have a look at the different methods for cooking salmon.
As the title suggests, the salmon is cooked in a frying pan with oil or butter. This is the fastest way to cook salmon, the fillets take about 5 – 6 minutes on each side.
First of all, heat the pan and add some oil or butter. When hot, add the salmon skin side down to begin with, and cook over a fairly high heat to crisp up the skin. Cook for 5 minutes then lower the heat to medium, turn the salmon over carefully with tongs and cook for 5 more minutes on the other side.
You can add various flavours to the pan while the salmon is cooking, such as herbs, lemon, crushed peppercorns or wine. But plain pan fried salmon is great on its own so just a squeeze of lemon and some salt and pepper is all you need.
Salmon can be cooked – or poached – in the oven but to prevent it from drying out as it cooks, wrap it in foil or non-stick baking parchment and add some liquid such as white wine. You can also pop in some lemon slices and herbs to add flavour. If you want to serve the salmon cold leave it wrapped in the foil or paper when it comes out of the oven and let it cool completely before unwrapping it. This keeps the moisture levels high so that when you serve the salmon, it’s tender and juicy.
Grilling is my go-to method for cooking salmon; it’s quick and easy and gives a nice flavour. It also doesn’t dry the salmon out. Start it off under a high heat, then reduce the heat to medium and cook for about 8 minutes more. If you want crispy skin then carefully peel the skin away from the fillet and pop it back under the grill for a few minutes. But keep an eye on it – you want it crispy, not burnt to a crisp.
Before grilling the salmon you can flavour it with lots of delicious things, like ginger, lime zest, soy sauce, crushed peppercorns, and garlic. Leaving the salmon to marinate for a couple of hours will improve the flavour even more.
Salmon in a Paper Bag
Cooking salmon en papillote, to give it its proper name, is a popular way of making sure your salmon is moist and succulent.
But you don’t use any old paper bag for this method of cooking salmon. Use non-stick baking parchment and place the salmon fillet in the centre. Season the fish, add lemon slices and any herbs you fancy and wrap the salmon in the paper like you’re wrapping a birthday gift.
Turn the parcel over so that the join is on the underside, place it on a baking sheet and pop it in the oven. The steam created inside the paper ensures a moist result every time. When you open the wrapper you’re treated to an appetising aroma and the sight of a perfectly cooked piece of salmon.
Now you have some ideas on which methods work best for cooking salmon I’m sure you’re ready for some recipes, so you can practise your salmon cooking skills.
Simple Pan Fried Salmon with Lemon and Dill
This is a nice, easy recipe to start with. Very simple, but the flavours are subtle and delicious. Dill has a gentle aniseed flavour and goes well with fish. Serves 4.
4 salmon fillets, about 175g each
Half a lemon, thinly sliced
About a tablespoon of fresh dill, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
Remove the salmon fillets from the fridge about an hour before you want to cook them. Pat dry with some kitchen paper and season with salt and pepper.
Heat the oil and butter in a non-stick frying pan and when it’s sizzling, add the salmon, skin side down to begin with. Crispy skin is what you’re aiming for. Lower the heat slightly and cook for 3 – 4 minutes. Turn the fillets over carefully and cook for a further 5 minutes. Arrange the lemon slices on top and cook for one more minute. The skin should be crispy and the top of the salmon golden brown.
Serve on warmed plates with the pan juices poured over, and sprinkled with the chopped fresh dill. Nice with new potatoes and green beans or a salad.
Foil Baked Salmon
This is great if you want to serve the salmon cold, with a salad, but it can also be eaten hot. Either way, it’s very good. Tarragon is another aniseed-scented herb that goes particularly well with salmon. Serves 4.
4 salmon steaks or fillets, about 150g – 180g each
4 sprigs of fresh tarragon
2 dried bay leaves
125 ml dry white wine
4 thin slices of lemon
Salt and pepper
Take a large piece of kitchen foil, big enough to enclose all 4 pieces of salmon. It should measure about 70cm x 45cm. Put the foil onto a baking sheet. Lay the salmon on the foil and season it with salt and pepper. Place a slice of lemon, a sprig of tarragon and half a bay leaf on each piece of salmon.
Bring up the edges of the foil, pour over the wine, and use the sheet of foil to wrap the salmon completely, with no gaps. The best way to do this is to bring the edges together and roll them up then twist the sides and press them against the fold. Leave some space inside so that steam can circulate and keep the fish moist. Cook in a preheated oven, gas mark 4/180C/350F for 20 minutes if using steaks, or 15 minutes for fillets.
Remove the salmon from the oven but don’t unwrap the foil until you’re ready to serve it. If you want to serve the salmon cold, leave it wrapped in the foil until it’s completely cooled. This makes a lovely summery lunch for 4 people.
Spiced Seared Salmon with Lime and Ginger
The flavours in this dish are amazing! Marinating the salmon before cooking will intensify the flavour even more, so allow at least an hour, preferably two, to let the lime and ginger work their magic. Serves 4.
4 salmon fillets, about 150g each
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
3cm piece of fresh ginger, grated
Grated zest of 2 limes
A pinch of ground cumin seed
15g fresh coriander, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
Remove the salmon from the fridge, wipe dry with kitchen paper and place it on a plate. Mix together the crushed garlic, cumin seed, lime zest, grated ginger and coriander and spread this over the salmon fillets. Cover with cling film and leave in a cool place for about 2 hours.
When you’re ready to cook the salmon, preheat the grill to its highest setting. Put the salmon on a baking sheet lined with non-stick baking paper and cook under the grill, about 7cm from the heat, for about 10 minutes.
Serve with rice or a salad and wedges of lime to squeeze over the fish.
These fishcakes are made with fresh salmon and herbs and served with zingy lemon mayonnaise for dipping. Serves 4 as a main meal or 8 as a starter.
750g floury potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
700g salmon fillets
2 tablespoons double cream
10g each of fresh parsley, chives and dill, chopped
1 egg, beaten
75g white or panko breadcrumbs
Olive oil for frying
Salt and pepper
5 – 6 heaped tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Finely grated zest of half a lemon
Small bunch of chives, finely chopped
Put the potatoes into a pan of cold water, add salt and place a lid on the pan. Bring to the boil then lower the heat and cook, covered, for about 20 minutes until tender when pierced with a knife.
Place the salmon in another pan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and cook for 5 minutes, then remove the salmon from the pan and leave to cool slightly. Remove the skin once the salmon is cool enough to touch. Break it into flakes, removing any bones you find.
Drain the potatoes in a colander, shake off the excess water and tip them back into the pan. Add the cream, butter and salt and pepper and mash well until smooth. Mix in the herbs and flaked salmon and stir well to combine thoroughly. Divide the mixture into 8 pieces and roll into a ball between your palms. Place on a baking sheet and flatten the cakes out. They should be around 4cm thick. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
For the lemon mayonnaise, simply mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl and leave it in a cool place while you cook the fishcakes.
Pour the beaten egg onto a plate and tip the breadcrumbs onto another plate. Heat the oil in a non-stick pan and dip each fishcake first into the egg then into the breadcrumbs on both sides, rolling the sides in the breadcrumbs as well to ensure the fishcakes are completely covered.
Shallow fry the fishcakes for about 5 minutes over a medium heat, turning once, to ensure they’re golden brown and crispy all over. Serve with wedges of lemon, the lemon mayonnaise and a crunchy salad.
Cheesy Salmon and Prawn Pie
This is pure comfort food; tender salmon and prawns in a creamy sauce, topped with mashed potato and a crispy cheesy topping. Lovely on a cold evening. Serves 4 – 6.
600 ml whole milk
300 ml double cream
750g salmon fillets
200g cooked and peeled prawns
100g frozen peas
40g plain flour
20g flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1.25kg Maris Piper potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
4 spring onions, sliced
1 dried bay leaf
Salt and pepper
60g cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
Put 450 ml of the milk into a large pan, add the cream and bay leaf and bring to the boil. Lower the heat then add the salmon fillets. Simmer for 5 – 6 minutes until the salmon is just cooked through. Transfer to a plate to cool, reserving the milk and cream. Pour into a jug and remove the bay leaf.
Break up the salmon into small chunks, discarding the skin and any bones. Put it into a 1.75-litre ovenproof dish and scatter the prawns over the top. Add the frozen peas (they will defrost and cook in the oven.)
Melt half the butter in a non-stick pan and add the flour. Cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes. Gradually add the reserved cooking liquid, stirring well between each addition, until all the liquid is in and you have a smooth sauce. Season, stir in the parsley and pour the sauce over the salmon and prawns. Leave to go completely cold.
Cook the potatoes in a pan of salted water for about 20 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a knife. Drain, shake off the excess water and mash with the rest of the butter and a splash of milk. Season well and spoon blobs of mash on top of the salmon and prawns. Level the potato with the back of a spoon then drag a fork through it to create little peaks. These will help the top to go crispy. Scatter the sliced spring onions and grated cheese evenly over the potato.
Preheat the oven to gas mark 6/200C/400F and bake the pie for 35 – 40 minutes until golden brown on top and hot and bubbling underneath. This needs no more than a green vegetable to accompany it.
Fresh Salmon Curry
Salmon lends itself very well to spices and aromatic flavours. This curry is light and fresh-tasting with hints of lime, coconut and chilli. Serves 4.
4 salmon fillets, about 175g each
2 tablespoons vegetable or sunflower oil
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 carton of coconut cream
1 level teaspoon ground turmeric
4 green cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick or 1 whole star anise
1 tablespoon tomato puree
Juice of half a lime
Pinch of dried chilli flakes
Salt and pepper
Small bunch of fresh thyme
Lemon slices to garnish
Heat the oil in a non-stick pan and fry the onion over a medium heat for about 10 minutes, until softened and a light golden brown in colour. Add the garlic, cinnamon stick or star anise, turmeric, chilli flakes and cardamom pods. Fry for a couple of minutes.
Shake the carton of coconut cream well and pour it in with the onions and spices. Stir well, add the tomato puree, salt and pepper and lime juice then place the salmon fillets on top of the sauce, skin side down. Cover with a lid and cook over a low heat for about 20 minutes. The salmon will gently poach in the fragrant steam.
Cut into the thickest part of one salmon fillet to check that it’s done. If not, give it another couple of minutes but no longer. With salmon, undercooked is better than overcooked.
Garnish with thyme and thin slices of lemon. Serve with plain basmati rice.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this article and that you will try some of these recipes for yourself. If you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.
For more recipes using fish please visit quick easy fish recipes
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