By now it’s no secret that salmon is incredibly healthy, but what some forget is that it’s also extremely versatile and satisfying. The key, as with all things, is in the preparation.
Making a great salmon steak starts at your local fish market or grocery store. You want to look for salmon that has a vibrant color all around. “Remember to check the back side of the fish. At times, this side is frost-burned from sitting on the ice for too long, says Bahama Breeze Executive Chef Peter Olsacher. “The salmon you’re looking for has a firm texture and no off odors. Don’t be afraid to poke it to check the firmness.”
Always ask your fish vendor for a center cut. “That’s the cut where the filet is the thickest and best. Cuts around the tail are typically long and thin. Stay away from those!” says Olsacher.
Here are five methods for cooking your salmon, all of which will provide outstanding results.
Like with any meat or vegetable, salmon’s flavors come alive when roasted. “I love a good Whiskey Barrel Roasted piece of salmon,” says Strip House Corporate Executive Chef Michael Vignola. “The salmon is nailed to the whiskey barrel stave and slow roasted.” Buy the best salmon you can. Vignola suggests either Faroe Island or King Salmon when in season — and make sure you soak the staves in water at least two hours prior. Vignola advises to take it slow so that the staves can properly permeate the fat of the salmon. And don’t forget to season aggressively: “Fattier fish like salmon can handle the punch of seasonings from cayenne to coriander,” says Vignola.
Poaching is incredibly healthy and can pack in serious flavor. Chef Michael Bryant of Cliff’s Edge restaurant in Los Angeles has a simple method: Bring to a boil some stock (or just water) flavored with peppercorn, celery, onion, thyme, bay leaf, and a bit of salt. Turn down to a simmer and leave it alone for 30 minutes so the flavors can fully develop. Turn the heat down to low and drop salmon in broth. Let cook for 30 minutes.
For a uniquely buttery texture, consider this method, which is quickly gaining in popularity among home cooks. You just season the fish with salt and pepper and place it in a sealed bag with a little olive oil. Seal it and cook it at 43 degrees Celsius (a little less than 110 degrees Fahrenheit) for 45 minutes. You’ll need a sous-vide machine, though. Chef Bryant recommends the Oliso Smart Hub.
The easiest way to prepare salmon at home is to use your grill. Get your gas or charcoal grill to medium heat, season the fish with salt and pepper, and rub lightly with cooking oil. Cook for two minutes, then turn 45 degrees for diamond grill marks. Cook for another two minutes, then carefully flip the fish and let it cook for another four minutes, or until you’ve reached your desired internal temperature (145º for medium or slight pink in center). Simple.
When it’s cold outside, feel free to use your stove: Get a frying pan good and hot, season the salmon and place it curved side down in the pan. Let it sear for about a minute, then reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook for another three minutes. Flip the salmon and cook for another two minutes, then add a tablespoon of butter and baste, while cooking, for another two minutes. Once your desired temperature is achieved (145º for medium or slight pink in center), hit it with some lemon juice and serve, topped with an additional tablespoon of butter.