Salmon is one of the healthiest fish around, and though it may be expensive at times, many medical professionals recommend eating salmon twice a week. Just five ounces of salmon twice weekly will give you your weekly recommended Omega-3 fatty acids and every time you eat it you get your full daily recommended amount of Vitamin D. Salmon is generally available in steaks and filets and can be cooked in larger quantities and then saved for later in the week. Baking is a great way to maximize the health benefits and nutritional content of this delicious fish!
Select Fresh Salmon
When you go to the grocery store to select your salmon, don't be overwhelmed. There are a few different types, and the first question to ask is do you want wild or farmed salmon? While you shouldn't worry about getting 'organic' salmon, generally try to purchase wild salmon as it is harvested in the most sustainable way and is also generally the healthiest. There are four types of salmon you're most likely to see at the store:
- Atlantic – now endangered and should be avoided
- King or Chinook – high in good fats, omega-3s and with great texture
- Sockeye – excellent for grilling
- Coho – milder in flavor, good for folks who aren't sure about the "fishy" taste of salmon.
De-Bone the Salmon
While most of the time you'll be told by your butcher that your salmon is already de-boned, it's always best to check yourself for the small bones known as pin bones. Often these bones have been severed by the butchering process so you can feel them sticking out of the flesh when you run your fingers over it. Use a pair of clean tweezers or pliers to pull them out gently. It's easy to choke on these bones if they aren't removed.
Season Your Salmon
Salmon is known for having a very distinct "salmon" flavor, and it's not one that you can easily cover up, nor is it one you really want to! Most people are happy to enjoy salmon lightly salted and peppered, but you can also add a dash of paprika. There isn't really a need for heavier toppings unless you're feeding people who don't like the taste, or you intend to use it later for something like a teriyaki salmon salad.
Prepare to Bake the Salmon
Begin by getting out a baking sheet that is longer than your salmon fillet or steaks. You'll want to wrap the baking sheet in aluminum foil. Salmon skin tends to get very sticky during the baking process. By lining the baking sheet with foil you won't have to scrub the skin off your baking sheet later.
Prepare the Oven
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and generously grease the aluminum foil on your baking sheet. Set the salmon in the middle of the baking sheet and season with your salt and pepper. If you are planning to use sauce then this is when you will want to apply it as well.
Extra Special Tip
While salmon is a fattier fish, the best way to seal in the moisture, and make sure it has that moist yet flaky texture and flavor, is to sear the outside with high heat and then let it sit in the oven just long enough to cook through. You will need to watch your salmon closely, however, as it can very easily over-cook if you wander too far from the oven. Wild salmon tends to be leaner than farm raised which can make this a bit more difficult.
Bake Your Salmon
Since we are putting the salmon in the oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit, and our oven is preheated, the initial sear will be done very quickly and our entire salmon fillet should be done in less than 15 minutes. Don't cover your salmon with foil as this can increase the necessary cooking time!
When is it Finished?
When uncooked, salmon has a bright orange color and looks wet. When it is cooked it will look a little drier, and the orange color will be much lighter. You'll find the moisture when you flake a piece off and see it glistening. If you prefer to use a meat thermometer, salmon should be cooked to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. You can always pull it out before it hits that mark, around 135 degrees, cover it in foil and allow it to rest until it reaches 140 degrees.
Choose Yummy Sides
While salmon is excellent on its own, no meal is complete without sides. If you're looking for the perfect sides to go with your baked salmon consider:
- Garlic Broccoli
- Sweet Potatoes
- Baked Potato with the fixings
- Wild Rice Pilaf
- Honey-butter Roasted Carrots
In general, you want to look for flavors that will compliment that salmon, but not overwhelm the delicious taste.
Serve it Beautifully
Once you know your salmon is ready to serve you should be able to cut it with a knife or spatula gently. The meat may continue to stick to the skin as you remove it from the baking sheet, or the skin may stay behind. Either way is fine, depending on what you prefer. Divide the salmon into equal portions and set directly on the plate for yourself and your family to enjoy!