Salmon is cooked when it turns opaque and flakes easily. This recipe has it spot on: cooked through but not dried out.
Eat more salmon!
How often do you have salmon for dinner? In my house it’s a regular feature: at least once a fortnight. It’s the easiest to cook and eat out of the precious omega-3, oily fish family.
At least that’s the common perception: mackerel is far too bony; sardines come in tins; and sprats are all very good as whitebait on a pub menu, but to cook at home they are unfamiliarly scary.
Salmon is unfrightening. There are no visible bones in a fillet or even a side, the skin comes off easily and the flesh is pleasantly pink. The last of the features though should be carefully considered because if it is too pink or heaven forbid bright orange, stay away. That means it’s artificially coloured, possibly farmed in horrific conditions and hardly a healthy or sustainable choice.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t eat farmed fish – by all means so, otherwise the oceans will be overfished very soon – but make sure the fish is ASC certified: responsibly farmed.
Salmon then should turn up on our plates often – but how to cook it in varied ways?
Ways to cook salmon
Cooking salmon is rewarding because it isn’t afraid to take on definite, strong flavours. Did you know you can stir-fry salmon with lemon? Or souse it with maple syrup and bake? Cheese famously doesn’t go with fish but wait till you try salmon en papillote with blue cheese! You can steam salmon, poach it or slow roast it, or not cook it at all but only cure into homemade gravadlax.
Featuring here is the simplest and easiest method of preparing salmon fillets: under the oven grill. The only secret is to season the fish with salt early enough, so the salt has time to work its magic.
What condiments go with salmon?
Tartar sauce is a classic but I’m not a fan, perhaps because it usually comes in plastic sachets; with the exception of one of the best fish and chips places in south-east England, Godfrey’s, where they make their own tartar sauce.
Dill mayonnaise is my preference and it’s a no-recipe: simply stir copious amounts of chopped fresh dill into a few tablespoons of good mayo. There is a better version of this in one of my other salmon recipes: dill sauce made with soured cream, and it’s delicious.
I like tzatziki with salmon as well, the Greek yoghurt and cucumber mix. But my everyday easy sauce that I have with salmon is sweet chilli mayo, as in the recipe below.
Don’t overcook salmon!
Grilling the salmon as I describe here has the advantage of getting the fish cooked just right – and the five minutes on each side will always work unless the grill is broken or the salmon an enormous monster. There’s nothing sadder than overcooked, stringy and dry fish and I think even those who prefer to err on the side of over- rather than under-cooked will agree. Personally I like it still a little translucent in the middle so I tend to snatch my piece from the oven a little earlier. But the five-minute rule delivers pinkness throughout and easily flaked perfection.
Rack or grill tray
A shallow roasting tray in this instance will do the trick. It also means turning over is easier as it won’t stick to the rack.
Skinned or skin-on?
Salmon skin isn’t very tasty - says I, who is normally a sucker for crispy fish skin. It’s tough and scaly, but it keeps the fillet together so in this instance I leave the skin on the salmon. It saves the effort as well, obviously.
Marinated or plain?
Feel free to experiment with marinating the fish beforehand: soy sauce and honey is the simplest salmon marinade. But if the fish is good and fresh, perchance organic too, a little salt and olive oil is all I need to put on it.