2 Rules for How to Cook Salmon Even Haters Will Love
I'm a salmon hater too. These are my tricks for how to cook salmon I'll actually eat—plus, my full recipe.
I don’t really like salmon. As a professional cook, I feel funny declaring any real culinary dislikes (I promise I only have a few), but no matter how many times I try it in a restaurant or cooking salmon myself, the fish is a hard sell for me.
I desperately want to like salmon: It’s versatile, loaded with healthy Omega 3 fatty acids, and a nice way to change up the chicken-steak-pasta program that seems to have taken hold in my house. Now, I’ve finally figured out how to cook salmon so eating it doesn't feel like a chore. It’s a two-step process that anyone can employ for the salmon lovers and haters in their household.
First, buy frozen, not fresh. I prefer to buy frozen pre-portioned salmon filets. Because they’re frozen fast and efficiently (on the boat from which they’re caught), these pieces of fish have little chance of going bad. The longer a fish has been sitting around unfrozen, the stronger it starts to smell and taste. Freezing ASAP ensures that the fish tastes as fresh (i.e. less fishy) as can be. When it's time, I pull as many salmon filets as I want to make out of the freezer and put them in the fridge to defrost—overnight usually does the trick.
Second, stop pretending you'll acquire a taste for bare salmon. I would like to be able to enjoy the distinct flavors of the Cohos and the Kings, the Sockeyes and the Ketas, but I really just need some help. Enter sauce. Specifically, an herby, garlicky, vinegary mixture that works beautifully on a seared, broiled, or steamed fish, but also as a salad dressing, a roasted vegetable toss, or a dip for crusty bread. Here’s how to make Roasted Salmon with Herby-Garlic Sauce.
- Preheat oven to 500°F.
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and drizzle with olive oil.
- Add the salmon filets and turn to coat in the oil; season with salt and pepper.
- Roast until salmon is opaque on the outside and just translucent on the inside, about 5 minutes. But don’t freak out if you like well done salmon: just keep roasting for another 3 to 5 minutes until it’s opaque all the way through. This will mean a slightly dryer piece of fish, but the sauce will take care of that.
While the salmon is roasting, make the Herby-Garlic sauce.
- Chop 2 small handfuls of one of the following (or a combination): flat leaf parsley, chives, basil and/or mint, anything tender and leafy. Place the chopped herbs in a bowl and add enough olive oil so you just see it starting to pool around the herbs.
- Grate a garlic clove right into the bowl—use a microplane for super fast and easy grating, or finely chop it.
- Add a couple splashes of red or white wine vinegar, a good pinch of salt, and several grinds pepper.
- Give it a good stir and then taste it. Is it delicious? You’re there. Is it sour? Add salt. Is it salty? Add another splash of vinegar. Do this until you want to put it on everything.
When the salmon is finished cooking, transfer the filets to plates alongside a nice pile of tender lettuces. Spoon the Herby Garlic sauce over the salmon and the greens and squeeze a little lemon over top. And that’s a salmon dish even a hater would love. Need more salmon for skeptics? Check out this nifty sheet pan Salmon with Roasted Cabbage and Olive Vinaigrette.