Salmon is an excellent source of protein and other nutrients. Plus, you can incorporate it into many types of meals.

Some people may feel intimidated by cooking salmon. However, there are many ways you can cook this delicious fish to fit your abilities and preferences.

Here’s an overview of the most popular methods of cooking salmon, salmon’s nutritional information, and safety tips.

A person seasons salmon that they are cooking in a pan.Share on Pinterest
Photography by Aya Brackett

A 3-ounce (85-gram) serving of cooked sockeye salmon provides (1):

  • Calories: 133
  • Protein: 23 grams
  • Fat: 5 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 0 grams
  • Vitamin B12: 158% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Vitamin D: 71% of the DV
  • Vitamin B6: 41% of the DV
  • Potassium: 8% of the DV
  • Magnesium: 7% of the DV

Salmon is known for being rich in healthy fats. In particular, it contains the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

These fatty acids are thought to contribute to many health benefits, such as reducing the risk of heart disease and certain cancers (2).

Salmon is also a great source of lean protein. Getting enough protein in your diet is necessary for maintaining muscle mass and supporting other important functions (3).

Finally, salmon provides vitamin D, a fat-soluble nutrient that isn’t found in many foods. You need vitamin D to maintain healthy bones and proper immune system function (4).


Salmon is rich in heart-healthy fats, lean protein, and micronutrients such as vitamin D.

If you’re preparing salmon at home, you can use any of the methods below. Salmon is also available precooked, such as canned or smoked salmon.

How to fry salmon in a pan

This cooking method is usually referred to as pan-frying or searing. It’s a healthier option than deep-frying and still produces a crispy exterior.

To cook salmon in a pan, follow these steps:

  1. Pat salmon fillets dry. Season with salt and pepper or other desired seasonings.
  2. Heat oil or butter in a skillet over medium heat. For best results, use a nonstick skillet and enough butter or oil to coat the pan.
  3. Once the pan is hot, add salmon fillets skin-side up. Cook for 4–6 minutes.
  4. Flip fillets and cook skin-side down for another 3–5 minutes.

Cooking salmon in a pan is one of the easiest methods of preparation and does not require much time. However, it can be messy. Consider using a splatter guard to limit grease splatter.

It’s also important to use a cooking fat that’s stable at high temperatures. Extra-virgin olive oil and avocado oil are good options (5).

Some people find that pan-seared salmon does not cook evenly, depending on the shape and size of the fillets. For this reason, you may prefer to start salmon in a pan and then finish cooking it in the oven.

To do this, use a cast-iron or other ovensafe skillet and follow steps 1–3 above. After step 3, transfer the skillet to an oven preheated to 400°F (200°C) and bake for 6–8 more minutes.

How to roast salmon in the oven

Instead of pan-frying salmon before finishing it in the oven, you can cook it completely in the oven.

To roast salmon, follow these steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
  2. Pat salmon fillets dry. Brush with oil and season with salt and black pepper or other desired seasonings.
  3. Place salmon skin-side down in an oiled baking dish or on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and brushed with oil.
  4. Bake for 12–15 minutes.

Baking salmon in the oven is healthy, fast, and easy to clean up. However, this method won’t produce fillets with a crispy exterior like you would get with pan-frying.

How to grill salmon

You can cook salmon directly on grill grates or in foil packets over the grill.

To cook salmon directly on a grill, follow these steps:

  1. Prepare a marinade of your choice. You can make a basic marinade with 2 tablespoons (30 mL) soy sauce, 2 tablespoons (30 mL) extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon (15 mL) honey, and 1 minced garlic clove.
  2. Place salmon fillets in a dish, flesh-side down. Pour marinade over fillets, cover, and refrigerate for 30–60 minutes.
  3. Preheat the grill to medium-high (375–400°F or 190–200°C). Spray or brush the grates generously with cooking spray or oil.
  4. Remove salmon from marinade. Place salmon skin-side up on the greased grates. Cover and cook for 6–8 minutes.
  5. Flip salmon, cover, and cook for another 6–8 minutes.

To grill salmon in foil packets, follow these steps:

  1. Repeat the above steps 1–3.
  2. Remove salmon from marinade. Place it on a large piece of aluminum foil. Fold the foil over the salmon and roll up the edges to create a packet.
  3. Place the foil packet on the preheated grill.
  4. Cover and cook for 14–18 minutes.

Grilling salmon directly on a grill yields tender fillets with a charred exterior. However, salmon can stick to the grates if they are not well oiled, causing you to lose half of your dinner!

Cooking salmon in foil packets on the grill does not create a charred exterior but is a good way to prevent sticking.

How to poach salmon

Salmon can also be cooked in liquid — this method is called poaching.

To poach salmon, follow these steps:

  1. Pat salmon fillets dry. Season with salt and pepper or other desired seasonings.
  2. Combine 1 cup (240 mL) water with 1 cup (240 mL) dry white wine in a large skillet over medium heat. Let the liquid warm up for a few minutes.
  3. Add salmon fillets to the skillet. Sprinkle in aromatics of choice, such as fresh dill or parsley, bay leaves, and peppercorns.
  4. Adjust the heat to maintain a simmer.
  5. Cook salmon in liquid for 10–15 minutes. Cover the pan if it looks like too much liquid is burning off.

If you don’t want to use white wine to poach salmon, you can substitute chicken or vegetable broth. Here are more substitutes for wine.

You can even use a different poaching liquid such as coconut milk, vinegar mixed with water, or red wine, depending on the flavor you want.

Poaching salmon in water, wine, or broth typically does not involve using any added fats and is a healthy preparation method.

How to cook salmon en papillote

Another popular way to cook salmon is in parchment paper, referred to as “en papillote” in French. It requires enclosing salmon in a pouch so that it steams.

To cook salmon in parchment, follow these steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
  2. Place salmon on a large piece of parchment paper.
  3. Brush with oil or add a pat of butter to each fillet. Add seasonings of your choice, such as fresh herbs, garlic, salt, pepper, or a squeeze of lemon juice.
  4. Fold the parchment paper over the salmon and roll up the edges to create a packet. If you have multiple salmon fillets, it’s helpful to make a parchment packet for each one.
  5. Place the parchment packet on a baking sheet and place the sheet on the center rack of the oven.
  6. Cook for 12–15 minutes.

You can even add soft veggies that don’t take long to cook, such as zucchini, green beans, asparagus, or cherry tomatoes, to the packets to cook with the salmon.

Baking salmon in parchment paper is one of the healthiest cooking methods. It’s also easy to prep and clean up.

However, some people may prefer the texture of pan-fried or grilled salmon over steamed salmon en papillote.


Some of the healthiest methods of preparing salmon are pan-frying (searing), roasting, grilling, poaching, and baking in parchment paper. Each method requires a different cooking time.

To avoid consuming undercooked salmon, it’s best to test the internal temperature with a food thermometer. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the salmon to get the most accurate reading.

Salmon should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145°F (62.8°C). Cooking to this temperature will kill any harmful bacteria that could lead to foodborne illness (6).

However, some people prefer to slightly undercook salmon and then remove it from heat to let it rest for a few minutes. It will continue cooking while resting. This method may prevent overcooking.

If you don’t have a food thermometer, you can use visual cues to estimate when salmon is finished cooking. It’s typically considered done when it flakes easily with a fork.

But keep in mind that the safest way to ensure salmon is fully cooked is to use a food thermometer.

Those at higher risk of complications from foodborne illness — pregnant people, young children, and older adults with conditions that compromise their immune system — should always cook salmon to the correct internal temperature (7).

There is no standard range for the length of time to cook salmon. Cooking times vary widely, depending on the size and thickness of a salmon fillet.

Use the times recommended in this article as a guideline, but remember that you may have to adjust them based on the piece of salmon and cooking method you use.


To ensure that salmon is safe to eat, it must be cooked to an internal temperature of 145°F (62.8°C).

You can prepare salmon in a variety of healthy ways. It’s a great source of lean protein and healthy fats to add to your diet.

Whether you’re cooking salmon for the first time or want to mix up how you usually prepare this fish, there’s something for everyone on this list. You can choose to pan-fry, roast, grill, or poach salmon or cook it in parchment.

Each method has pros and cons, so consider your cooking ability and preferences when deciding which one you’d like to try.

Just one thing

Try this today: For delicious flavor, try poaching salmon in coconut milk mixed with a squeeze of lime juice and a dash of soy sauce. You can add red pepper flakes and a bay leaf for more flavor.

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