Salmon is a superfood boasting strong levels of Omega 3 fatty acids, Vitamin A, Vitamin B, Vitamin B6, Vitamin D, and Vitamin E.  It’s a good source of high quality protein with a low glycemic index, plus it tastes fantastic – unless it’s overcooked.

In her splendid cookbook Barefoot Contessa Foolproof – Recipes You Can Trust, Ina Garten (luv her) details a method to get perfect cooked salmon every time.  Check it out in her Salmon and Guacamole Sandwich recipe.

The method involves moving the fish thru three types of heat to keep it moist.  I use this phase method, with a few adjustments to crisp the skin and work with cuts of different thicknesses. It works beautifully.

Note: For this method I use skin-on salmon cut into 4-6 oz fillets.  I’ve tried skinless pieces with mixed results.  The skin provides a layer of ‘insulation’.

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 

2. Rinse the salmon and check for small bones along the flesh side of the fish.  Remove any bones you find with tweezers and pat the fish dry with paper towels. This is a very important step as moisture on the fish will slow down searing.

3. Apply dry seasoning of your choice. I typically go simple with Himalyan salt, pepper and/or a bit of Old Bay seasoning.  Dry jerk seasoning is another favorite.

4. Use a high-heat-capable skillet.  I use Thermalon ceramic non-stick or cast iron.  Add a bit of olive oil (about 1 tsp) and heat on high.

5. When oil is hot, add the fish skin side down and reduce the heat to med/high.  This sears the skin and allows the fat to render without quickly evaporating all the water (moisture) out of the fish.  Don’t move the fish. Let it cook for a few minutes (2-4 depending on the size/thickness of the cut).  Instead of the relying on the clock, I largely base the time on the rate of cooking.  

 6. When the cooked opaque color is about 1/3 up the side of the fish, use a thin metal spatula and flip the fish so the skin side is up.  Note: if the fish does not want to release from the pan – don’t force it.  Let it cook a bit longer. 

7. Transfer the skillet into the preheated oven. Here, instead of direct high heat on one side, the fish is surrounded by gentle heat.  Bake the fish for 2-3 minutes (again based on the thickness of the cut).  The opaque color should be across the fillet.

8. Remove the skillet from the oven, cover tightly with foil and let it rest for about 4-5 mins.  Now, the residual heat from the skillet and/or fish slowly completes the cooking and allows the juices to settle.  Note: If the cut of fish is on the thin side, or the skillet is cast iron, remove the fillet to a plate then cover with foil and let it rest for a bit longer (~7-10 mins).

There you have it.  

Moist, tender, healthful and flavorful salmon.

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