Photo: Katie Cavuto
Whether you're making dinner for one or planning a festive soirée with friends, if you want an easy, healthy dinner, salmon is your answer. Now is the time to make it, too, as wild-caught varieties are in season through September. (Here's the low-down on farm-raised vs. wild-caught salmon, btw.)
Plus, a good, nutritious fish dish doesn't need to take hours. These five approachable cooking methods each take less than 15 minutes and are guaranteed to be "stink-free." Before you start, if your salmon isn't fresh, make sure it's fully defrosted, and keep the skin on if you can manage. (Bonus: This helps the fish stay intact during cooking and locks in moisture and flavor. You can always remove it prior to eating, which is easier than wrestling with the skin when the fish is raw.)
1. Roast It
This is one of the easiest cooking methods. You season your salmon, place it in the oven, set a timer, and forget about it. Preheat your oven to 400°F. Place a salmon fillet, skin side down, in a baking dish. Bake it for 10 to 12 minutes. As a rule of thumb, for every inch of thickness, bake your salmon for 10 minutes.
Try it: Season salmon with extra-virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon zest, and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Add a sprinkle of your favorite spice blend (try Za'atar) or a pinch of fresh or dried herbs like dill, parsley, rosemary, or oregano. (More ideas: Roasted Salmon with Dukkah or this Sweet and Savory Baked Honey Salmon.)
2. Broil It
As easy as roasting, broiling uses direct, high heat so your salmon will cook quickly. This cooking method works best for thinner salmon fillets like sockeye and coho that are often less than an inch thick. Plus, your broiler preheats quickly, which cuts down on the time your oven is on in the summer. Turn your oven onto high-broil. Place a salmon fillet skin side down on a metal baking dish. Avoid glass and ceramic as the high heat can damage it. Arrange your rack 6 inches from the heating element, or 12 inches for a thicker fillet. Broil the salmon for 8 to 10 minutes depending on thickness and desired doneness. As a rule of thumb, for every inch of thickness, broil your salmon for 8 minutes.
Try it: Combine equal parts real maple syrup and whole-grain mustard and use as a glaze for your salmon. It will caramelize when broiled. (Another idea: Maple Mustard and Raspberry Salmon)
3. Pan-Steam It
If pan-searing salmon feels overwhelming, you're going to love this no-flip method. In a sauté pan with a lid, arrange two citrus slices (lemon or orange) that will act as a rack for the fish. Add 1/4 cup fresh citrus juice and 1/2 cup water. If you have white wine, add 1/4 cup. Bring liquid to a simmer. Place fillet, skin side down, on citrus slices. Season with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Cover the pan and "steam" salmon for 8 to 10 minutes. (Love the citrus and seafood combination? Try these orange juice and soy shrimp lettuce cups next.)
Try it: Use orange slices and season your salmon with a pinch of Moroccan spice blend. You can even add vegetables, such as broccoli or green beans, to the pan and they will steam along with the fish.
4. Grill It
Tired of your fish falling to pieces on the grill? Try this cooking method that treats your grill like an oven and cooks your salmon quickly. Note: If you use a grill pan, make sure it has a lid. Preheat your grill to 400 to 450°F. Season salmon with extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper, as well as your favorite herbs or a spice blend. Place salmon fillet skin side down on the grill grates and close the lid. Salmon will be cooked in 8 to 10 minutes depending on the thickness. As a rule of thumb, for every inch of thickness, grill salmon for 10 minutes. If you want to use a wooden plank, soak it for at least 30 minutes prior to cooking and increase your cooking time to 12 to 14 minutes as the fish will not be in direct contact with the heat.
Try it: Top grilled salmon with a combination of diced tomatoes, diced peaches, diced avocado, fresh cilantro, lime juice, salt, and pepper. (Or toss it in a homemade poke bowl!)
5. Poach It
Versatile and flavorful, poached salmon can be enjoyed as is or as a cold leftover (as in this leftover salmon wrap that's perfect for lunches). Plus, it's basic enough to incorporate it into other recipes like salmon salads and salmon cakes. In a saucepan or skillet with deep sides, combine a few garlic cloves, a shallot or some onion, lemon or orange slices, sprigs of dill, parsley or scallion, salt, pepper, and 4 cups water. Bring mixture to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer. Add salmon fillet, cover, and cook for 6 to 8 minutes.
Try it: Shred poached salmon and serve on a cracker with sliced avocado, tomato, and sauerkraut.