As for the fish, chef Santiago Gómez of the upcoming Lignum vitae in Atlanta said salmon was his favorite. It’s rich in flavor and easy to make – but it can easily go wrong if you overcook it.
Fear not, though. With the help of experts, we have the tips you need to prepare a delicious salmon fillet in minimal time.
Choose your salmon
Buying from a specialist fishmonger is great, but not always practical. When you can, try to talk to your fish guy to find out what kind of salmon you’re buying: fresh or farm-raised?
“That conversation can only exist from late March to September because that’s the season,” said Joe Gurrera of the Seafood Market Citarella in New York. “If you see someone eating wild salmon in November – it’s either not or it’s been frozen and thawed.”
There is nothing wrong with farmed salmon, although it may contain added antibiotics. After all, both fresh and grown are dietary protein choices.
And for one particular method below, you’ll need access to sushi-grade salmon. It’s important to plan ahead when shopping.
Here are three simple, no-fuss ways to cook salmon.
Pan-seared salmon should have a perfectly crispy skin and a golden brown on top. (Photo: SilviaJansen via Getty Images)
You can’t go wrong pan searing your salmon. Well, you can, but not if you take Gomez’s advice.
“I really like it pan-seared so you can get a nice crispy skin because I believe salmon skin really has a lot of flavor,” Gomez said.
First, pat the skin and flesh of the salmon with a paper towel to make sure it is really dry. Then season it with salt and pepper.
Place the salmon on a pan (non-stick, ideally) with just a little olive oil (don’t preheat it!), skin side down.
“The idea is to get a really brown, golden skin so it’s really crispy,” Gomez said. “We don’t want to burn it, so we increase the heat very, very slowly until you flip it. You can feel with your finger that it’s crunchy, that it’s really crunchy.”
After flipping the salmon, increase the temperature to get a crust on the other side as well. You’re looking at a total cooking time of six to eight minutes, depending on the thickness of your salmon, which will give you a medium-roasted temperature. (If you’re not sure it’s done, use an instant-read thermometer and make sure the salmon is at least 120 degrees Fahrenheit for medium-rare.)
When Gomez removes the salmon from the pan, he likes to leave it on a paper towel for a few minutes to absorb the extra oil.
One key to serving salmon, he said, is the kind of sauce you use (but it doesn’t need much!).
“Citrus sauces work really well. So it could be more like tangerine or yuzu, or it could be lime or grapefruit. Any citrus will give you a really, really nice sauce for the salmon. It breaks down the fat on the fish,” Gomez said. “You don’t want it to be plain, but you really don’t need too much sauce on the salmon to really have the flavor. But I believe if you put something sour or sweet it will give you a good balance in your dish.
2. The toaster oven method
Salmon that is baked using the toaster method is best served simply with some citrus fruit. (Photo: LOVE_LIFE via Getty Images)
If you have a toaster, you can use it to make the salmon (and this is Gurrera’s favorite method). This is especially great if you buy a small piece of salmon for one serving and don’t want to stress your oven.
Preheat toaster oven to 375 degrees. Meanwhile, Gurera places his salmon in a stainless steel bowl and adds olive oil, salt and pepper.
“Salmon is a very flavorful fish. So you don’t need much more than that,” he said.
Combine all the ingredients in the bowl and then place the salmon in a small toaster pan. One of the advantages of cooking it in the toaster is that you don’t have to hover over the salmon to flip it. You only want to cook it for about seven to eight minutes to avoid overcooking, Gurera said. (And again, if you’re not sure it’s done, you can use an instant-read thermometer.)
After cooking, Gurrera does not let the salmon rest – it is immediately placed on a plate and served simply with a vegetable.
sauce? Not for Gurera. “Sure, lemon juice is fine. But I want to taste the taste of the fish. I want to taste what I eat,” he said.
3. Checkered style
The salmon tataki is lightly seared on the outside and almost raw on the inside, so it’s imperative to buy salmon for sushi. (Photo: Kevin Tuong via Getty Images)
Tataki is a Japanese method of quickly preparing thinly sliced protein. This is one of Gomez’s preferred methods for salmon. For this method, the salmon must be sushi, as it will be practically raw when you finish cooking it. (If you are concerned about the food safety of eating almost raw fish, read this guide and you will understand why this method requires salmon that is suitable for sushi.)
Start by removing the skin from the salmon (or better yet, ask your fishmonger to remove it for you) and then season it with salt and pepper. Heat a sauté pan to really high heat. “It has to be to the point where you see smoke,” Gomez said.
Sear the salmon for one minute on each side and then place in a bowl to cool. Slice it thinly and serve with soy sauce, lime juice and sesame oil. “It gives you more flavor because you have a crust, but it’s raw on the inside,” Gomez said.
If you want an easy, spicy sauce recipe, Gomez suggests mixing garlic, cilantro, rice vinegar, salt, and lime juice. Forms a savory paste in the blender that goes well with pan-seared or tataki-style salmon. Add jalapeños for extra spice—and enjoy the sauce’s vibrant green hue.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.