Tips for the Perfect Salmon
I have mentioned before that I grew up in the great state of Washington. According to a recent Business Insider article titled, The Best Thing to Eat in Every State, the favorite food to eat in Washington is salmon. In the article it says, "Washington is home to succulent sockeye salmon. A favorite dish in the state is cedar-plank salmon, which is smoked and served on the signature wood." I would have to agree with their assessment. I ate a lot of salmon growing up in Washington and it still one of my favorite foods. However, I only enjoy salmon when it is prepared correctly. Here are a few tips for cooking the perfect salmon.
The first step to preparing the perfect salmon is to select the best salmon. The best salmon is wild caught. Salmon usually tastes best when it's fresh, not previously frozen. Look for salmon that is vibrant in color with pronounced fat lines. High quality salmon doesn't have a fishy smell; in fact, it doesn't have much smell at all. Most people think that the best variety of salmon is King Salmon-but it's also very expensive. Sockeye, Coho, Pink, and Chum are also great varieties, each with a slightly unique flavor.
Although there are many wonderful salmon recipes, just a few simple ingredients can turn your salmon sensational! My favorite way to prepare salmon is to squeeze fresh lemon juice on top of it then sprinkle it will some fresh cracked pepper. Other people like to rub the salmon with a little bit of olive oil and seasoning. There are also many delicious marinades and sauces you can make for salmon. (There is one fabulous recipe at the end of this article). However, you do have to be careful not to marinade salmon for too long-especially if the marinade is acidic. The acid in some marinades can actually start to cook the salmon, which will cause your salmon to turn out dry and overcooked.
There are several ways to cook delicious salmon; just don't overcook it! If you've ever tasted a piece of dry, overcooked salmon, you know it's less than appetizing. And it can be a little tricky to tell if salmon is done. You have probably heard that salmon is done when it can be easily flaked with a fork. Another way to tell is with a meat thermometer. When the thickest part of the fillet has an internal temperature of 145 degrees it is done. The meat of the salmon will go from translucent to opaque when done. When I bake salmon in the oven, I usually cook it at 425 degrees. As a general rule of thumb, it takes about 8 minutes to cook a one-inch salmon fillet at 425 degrees. If you are grilling or pan-frying your salmon, keep the skin on one side. This will help hold the fish together and prevent it from sticking. Some people also think the skin enhances the flavor. Salmon should be grilled at a medium-high temperature for about 4-6 minutes per side. Of course, the cook time also depends on the size of the salmon you are grilling. No matter how you are cooking your salmon, you will probably want to test your salmon about 2 minutes before it is supposed to be done to make sure you aren't overcooking it.
I will end with one of my favorite salmon recipes. My good friend, Kris Vassel, shared it with me several years ago. It is from a website called Iowa Girl Eats. (See sources below).
How do you like to cook you salmon?
1/4 cup rice vinegar
3 Tablespoons maple syrup
2 Tablespoons fresh orange juice
4-6oz salmon filets
salt & pepper
1. Combine rice vinegar, maple syrup, and orange juice into a ziplock bag. Add salmon filets and marinate for 1-3 hours.
2. Heat grill to high and get it really hot (when ready to grill, turn the heat down to medium-high). Pour the marinade into a small saucepan and boil until it's reduced by half. Once the marinade is ready, lay the salmon filets on a plate and spray both sides with nonstick spray.
3. Place salmon filets on the grill and grill for 3-4 minutes or when you can see that the salmon has cooked halfway through, brushing with the reduced marinade every so often. When the "tail" end of the filet is almost opaque, flip. Peel back the grilled skin and discard (if there is skin on your fillet). Brush second side with marinade then grill for 3-4 minutes or until cooked through. Remove to a plate then season with salt & pepper.
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