I never ate a lot of fish when I was young. My parents were excellent cooks, but they weren’t too keen on seafood (maybe because they had grown up inland, or because they had learned to cook in the 1980s, when we swore by swordfish carpaccio). On the rare occasion that my dad would fire up the oven to grill a piece of halibut (for example), my mom would run out of the room and firmly stop her nose to throw all the windows in the house wide open.
Also, when I left the family nest and discovered the salmon fillet (a dinner for one person – and without bones! – which I was cooking with eagerness), I felt that I had accomplished an incredible gastronomic achievement. For a sophisticated meal ready in about twenty minutes, I patted the fillet dry, seasoned it generously, and slipped it into the oven at medium heat while I made a salad. Every once in a while I would agree to please a friend by trying out the latest trendy thing, which required the use of aluminum foil, but I would always go back to my good old cooking method, we don’t. can more reliable.
Looking back, it’s not hard to see why I ended up getting disgusted with salmon. I told myself that there are much better fish in the ocean, tastier sources of protein on earth, and more interesting ways to make dinner in twenty minutes.
You can imagine my disappointed reaction when I was asked to put salmon to the test of Food52’s Absolute Best Tests , tests during which I contrast different cooking methods as if they were my children. Reluctantly, and with a knowing smile, I agreed to pan, poach, roast, grill, in order to classify the results of my experiments in varying degrees of good, not bad or bad. A whole day of work in perspective. And that’s how I resumed my routine of drying salmon fillets to tackle its cooking.
I’ll be frank about my smirk: it was completely unwarranted. Aside from me, only my dog Larry, who scampered under the sofa when I gave a high-pitched cry, could tell you how much my first bite of sous vide-cooked salmon enchanted me and made me understand how much I ‘had blackened the table. My old-fashioned baking and medium heat method is not even among the recipes kept.
Let’s get down to business and see the result of my research on the best methods of cooking salmon, after twelve tries.
Controls and methods
For each of the twelve methods tested, I used boneless, skin-on salmon fillets, taken from the heart of the fish, of about 170 grams per piece. I seasoned them with salt and white pepper. For some cooking methods, I used olive oil. For others, which required high temperature cooking, I chose avocado oil.
My goal, for each fillet, was to achieve a perfect average doneness, bordering on raw fish, with a temperature between 49 ° C and 51.5 ° C on the instant read kitchen thermometer. This means that the flesh should be just opaque throughout its entire thickness and come off easily when gently squeezed.
I would like to make a final point about albumin: this protein substance (white once coagulated) that we sometimes see on salmon is eaten without problem, even if it is not appetizing. Alex Delany of ‘Bon Appétit’ explains : ‘Think about what happens when you wring out a wet towel. The water that permeates the fabric is pushed outward as the fibers are tightened against each other. The same principle applies to salmon. As the salmon cooks, the flesh contracts and releases albumin to the surface. The higher the temperature, the faster the flesh contracts and the more albumin becomes visible. ” In other words, a large amount of
In this article, I have classified the twelve methods into several categories: “the most delicious”, “the most effective” and “good, but also do not break three legs of a duck”, according to the results of my tastings. comparative. In each category, the methods are listed in alphabetical order, because this is the solution I chose after racking my brains for far too long on this subject.
The most delicious
In addition to allowing me to repeat at will “en papillote” with my most beautiful French accent to my dear and tender and to my dog, cook the salmon this way – wrapped in baking paper, then baked at 200 ° C– has been shown to be beneficial in more than one way. The steam trapped in the baking paper guarantees a tender net and since the salmon is locked in, the flavors are increased tenfold. If I hadn’t been very strict with these tests, I could have added herbs or condiments, like garlic or ginger. Finally, and this is perhaps the most important point, the fact that the salmon is in foil gives the impression of having a gift to unwrap before tasting.
Ease of the method: The main disadvantage of this method is that it is difficult to determine when the salmon is cooked, since it is hidden under a layer of baking paper. (I squeezed the center of the wrapper with one finger and judged by touch.
Texture of the flesh: The fillet cooked in foil turned out to be tender and full of flavor, despite a basic seasoning and a layer of albumin which suggested otherwise.
Crispness of the skin: Nothing that is not worth mentioning; next time I will buy skinless fillets for this method.
When I was a kid, I often pretended to be sick so I could stay home instead of going to school and watching cooking shows on TV. I would have a lot to say about this, but if I want to finish this project on time, I’m going to have to get right to the point and explain that as a kid, I saw a cook poach a piece of salmon in olive oil. It’s a memory that stuck in the back of my head as something incredibly decadent, intimidating, frivolous, and … pink.
In the oven at low temperature
The great advantage of this technique (which is faster than you might think) is that there is little risk of overcooking the salmon, since a few extra minutes at low temperature is nothing compared to just a minute. under the grill. Based on Genius’s recipe , I chose to bake it at 135 ° C for about 30 minutes. The low temperature gave a smooth and uniform result, to the point that the flesh barely came off when touched.
Ease of Method: This method of cooking was found to be incredibly easy, and only required 45 minutes overall. Placing the fish skin side down in a dish covered with parchment paper made washing up much easier.
Texture of the flesh: The salmon was incomparably tender and cooked evenly.
Crispness of the skin: Barely a hint.
In the history of the Absolute Best Tests , the sous vide cooking method has rarely been at the top of the table (see: steaks , hard-boiled eggs ). I am often very disappointed with the result, especially because it takes time and requires special equipment.
But (once is not customary), in the case of salmon, I can only strongly recommend that you equip yourself with a vacuum cooking device, or even if only a resealable silicone bag and ‘a thermometer. Indirect cooking of the tenderloin, enclosed in the bag with the seasoning, at about 50 ° C for about 35 minutes (for a tenderloin 4 centimeters thick), gave a result very rich in taste and so tender that I could have spread it on a toast.
Ease of the method: It’s tedious, but don’t hesitate to test it out, especially if you have some really good salmon on hand.
Texture of the flesh: The tenderloin was as tender as smoked salmon.
Crispness of the skin: Cooking under vacuum does not prevent having a crispy skin. If this is what you want, dry your salmon after cooking it and just before serving, fry it skin side down, in hot oil, for a few minutes.
Steaming was found to be a safe and easy method, which brought out more flavor than preparing cold start poached salmon (more on this later). I placed the seasoned salmon in a steamer basket, put it over a pot of boiling water, and let it cook for 8-10 minutes.
Ease of Method: Whatever ingredient is cooked, steaming is an uncomplicated technique, requiring only a steamer basket or, failing that, aluminum foil to DIY a homemade steamer .
Flesh texture: The salmon was less silky than with low heat baking and sous vide cooking (tender, but not fondant), but more than cold start poached fillet or high heat cooked salmon (all details are given below).
Crispness of the skin: No.
The most effective
I take advantage of the benefits of my grill for just about all my dishes (toast pizzas, grilled bananas, last minute croutons …) because it is a fast and efficient tool. In the case of salmon, the grill did not disappoint me once again: the cooking (a quick grill of oiled and seasoned salmon, skin side down, in a heat-resistant pan) was wonderfully fast and so effective that the fillet did not have time to blacken as I feared before going to the stove (this led me to think that this method is better suited to fairly thick pieces of fish). However, due to thermal shock, the fillet was seared more sharply than pieces of salmon cooked at a lower temperature and lost more of its tenderness during cooking. Although quite edible,
Ease of Method: Using the broiler is extremely easy, regardless of the dish. However, it is important to watch the cooking so that it does not burn.
Texture of the flesh: Not exceptional, but quite correct.
Crispness of the skin: I had a better result than with the previous methods; nothing fancy, but it still got a bit crunchy.
In the oven (220 ° C)
The hugely popular cooking site The Kitchn recommends cooking it at 220 ° C for three to five minutes per centimeter of thickness. By following these directions, I was able to get a decent salmon fillet in about ten minutes. The tenderloin was quite chewy, more so than the grilled or pan-fried salmon, and turned out to be relatively tasty and juicy.
Ease of Method: Almost as easy as placing it under the grill, except you have to remember to preheat the oven.
Texture of the flesh: An in-between that tends more towards the good than towards the bad. I add a few points for the uniformity of the cooking.
Crispness of the skin: Surprisingly, not much more than the tenderloin cooked at low temperature.
I never had the guts (or enough olive oil) to try it out until this series for Absolute Best Tests , but I’m glad I finally did! The method is simple, although extravagant: bring a pan of olive oil to a simmer (around 80 ° C), enough to cover the fillet completely, add the salted and peppered salmon and sauté for 13 to 15 minutes. The result is a wonderfully nuanced salmon fillet, with concentrated flavors, enhanced with the herbaceous notes of olive oil and a perfect amount of salt.
Ease of the method: Apprentice cooks, I only recommend this method if you have an instant read thermometer. Without this instrument, determining when the oil has reached 80 ° C is complex at best. In the worst case, the oil can exceed its smoke point.
Flesh Texture: Poached salmon in oil was the big discovery in this series of tests. The fish was slightly less tender than some of the other fillets, but so delicious that I barely noticed the annoyance. (I think this is because the cooking temperature was not as low as for sous vide cooking, for example.)
Skin crispness: Nothing worth mentioning. If you like crispy skin, skip this method.
Hot start in the pan
Eating a salmon fillet, which I seared in a hot skillet skin side down for about five minutes before briefly flipping it, was like watching my favorite reality TV show: the lack of surprises didn’t. made it less satisfying, and the quick pleasure it generated gave me a sizable dose of dopamine. The skin was perfectly broiled, the tenderloin cooked evenly and although not the most tender salmon method, my dish was very tasty.
Ease of the method: Very large. No preheating or special equipment required.
Texture of the flesh: Fairly good. If you dream of a salmon fillet cooked in a few minutes, this method offers a juicier and more tender result than grilling.
Crispness of the skin: Excellent, 20/20.