How to Cook Salmon

By Holly Bieler
Updated on 03. Feb. 2021

All the info you need to cook perfect salmon every time.

share Share
bookmark_border Copy URL

If salmon isn’t in your home-cooking repertoire, believe us when we say that it ought to be. Salmon is one of the healthiest ingredients around, packed with powerful nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, which help support overall cardiovascular health, and tons of lean protein, all while staying low in carbs, calories and unhealthy fats. And while salmon might have a reputation as a hard-to-cook protein, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Once you have the timing and seasoning down and have figured out the right cooking method for you, salmon pretty much takes care of itself, whether in the oven, on the stove or even on the grill. Below, we explore some of the salmon-cooking basics, as well as the best ways to cook salmon and our top tips and tricks for each method.

Table of contents

  1. Cuts of Salmon
  2. Seasoning Salmon
  3. Cooking Salmon in the Oven
    1. Preparation
    2. Temperature/Timing
  4. Cooking Salmon in the Pan
    1. Preparation
    2. Temperature/Timing
  5. Grilling Salmon
    1. Preparation
    2. Temperature/Timing

Cuts of Salmon

There are three main cuts of salmon: fillets, sides and steaks. Fillets are the most common cut, and lend themselves to pretty much any cooking method, from baking in the oven to pan-frying and even poaching. Aim for around 6 oz. per person when buying salmon filets. Sides are are basically a larger fillet, and are a great option if you’re cooking for a larger group of people. Sides lend themselves to grilling or roasting, primarily. Salmon steaks are the heartiest of the three cuts, and do best grilled or pan-seared. 

Seasoning Salmon

Salmon is a fatty fish with a naturally delicious, rich flavor, so no matter how you’re cooking it, it doesn’t require that many additional ingredients. Make sure to add salt and pepper to either side of your fish, and just a squeeze of lemon adds tons of freshness that will also help bring out the salmon’s natural flavors. Dill is also a great herb to add to salmon, especially when baking, as it seeps into the fatty flesh for added flavor.

Cooking Salmon in the Oven

Baking salmon in the oven is one of the easiest ways to cook this delicious fish. While you don’t have the benefit of watching the salmon cook and gauging its readiness in real time like you would with grilling or pan-roasting, once you have the timing down, baking salmon is probably the easiest preparation method. Simply throw it in the oven and forget about it, and before you know it you’ll have a moist and delicious fish that’s perfect for everything from a quick weekday meal to a dinner party entree. 


Season the salmon with some salt, pepper and olive oil, and make sure to cook your salmon with the skin side up, which will yield a super crispy, delicious skin. Just a drizzle of olive oil is sufficient to bake your salmon in the oven-- too much and the skin won’t crisp up.


How long and at what temperature you bake your salmon in the oven depends on the thickness and cut of your fish. For a regular 6 oz. serving of salmon, cook for 12-15 minutes at about 425 degrees fahrenheit, and you should get a sufficiently moist, delicious salmon. Ideally, you’re going to want to aim for an internal temperature of 140 degrees when you’re cooking the fish. If you’re a novice to salmon cooking, you might want to invest in a meat thermometer if you don’t already have one to ensure your salmon has reached its ideal internal temperature before taking it out of the oven. 

Cooking Salmon in the Pan

Pan-frying or searing salmon is a delicious and easy method for cooking fish that yields incredibly crispy, decadent skin that other cooking methods just can’t promise. However, cooking salmon in the pan runs a higher risk of overcooking the tender meat, so it’s important to keep watch of your fish the whole cooking time, while making sure you’re not poking or prodding your fish as it cooks, which can quickly interrupt the process and produce less than ideal flesh.

Glazed Salmon Fillets


When pan-cooking salmon, preparation is key. First off, make sure to take your salmon out of the refrigerator 10-15 minute before you cook is, so it’s room temperature by the time it hits the pan. Cold salmon added to the pan will generally cook unevenly. It’s also important to dab dry your salmon before cooking it, as wet skin won’t cook up as crispy in the pan. Thirdly, it’s important that your pan is super hot when you place the salmon on it, as this again will ensure a crispy, crackly and delicious skin. Keep heat around medium-high for a few minutes before you place your salmon in it, and try out the oil with a drop of water-- if it sizzles up, the pan is ready to go. 


Cook your filets on medium-high heat, and always remember to start cooking your salmon skin side down. Most of your cooking time will be spent while the salmon is skin-side down, about 8-9 minutes for a 6 oz. serving. Your eyes will be a good barometer of when it’s time to flip your salmon to finish the cooking process. As the salmon cooks, the flesh will become lighter in hue-- once about ¾ of the depth of the salmon is light pink instead of the darker pink of the raw flesh, it’s time to flip the salmon using a spatula, and finish the cooking on the other side, about 2 minutes for thicker cuts of fish or 1-1.5 minutes for thinner cuts.

Grilling Salmon

Grilling is a delicious method for cooking salmon, especially heartier filets. The smokiness brings out and adds to the natural, fatty and delicious richness of the fish, and finishes it with a beautiful crispy sear that salmon is perfect for. It’s also one of the easiest methods for cooking the fish. 

Grilled Salmon with Herb Butter and Garlic Bread


Preparing salmon for grilling is pretty much the same as preparing salmon for pan-cooking. Take your salmon out of the refrigerator 10-15 minutes before grilling so it’s not too cold, and make sure to pat it dry before throwing it on the grill. And make sure to lightly oil your grill before throwing the fish on to make sure it doesn’t stick. 


Cooking salmon on the grill will require two separate hot zones: a higher-temperature quadrant for getting a nice sear on the fish, and a lower-temperature zone for the majority of the cooking. Cooking in these two separate-temperature areas will ensure the outside of your salmon is nice and crispy while the inside is still moist and tender, not dried out. If you’re cooking on a gas grill, you can achieve this by turning one half the burners on high and the others on low. With a charcoal grill, just move the hot coals to one side of the grill. Aim to make your grill around 500 degrees. 

Like pan-cooking, you’ll place your salmon on the grill skin-side down, where the majority of the cooking will take place. Cook it for around 6-8 minutes, and then flip on the other side to cook for 2-4 minutes, depending on how well-cooked you like your fish. 2 minutes will be on the more rare side, while 4 minutes will yield a tougher, more cooked fish. 

With these tips, you're armed with all the basics you need to cook a delicious and healthy salmon dish any time!

Add comment