Baked salmon fillets are a superb choice if you're looking for a simple but fancy main course. Whether it's a weeknight dinner, an al fresco meal with friends, or a special occasion, salmon will satisfy any appetite, thanks to its incredible flavour and flaky tenderness. All you have to do is let the oven do the work.
What temperature to bake salmon
What is the best temperature to bake salmon? 400°F (205°C) is ideal as it allows the fish to gain colour and the skin to become crispy. If you prefer a milder method, you can bake it at 350°F (175°C) for 20-25 minutes or until done. The salmon baked at 425°F (215°C) produces tender, creamy fillets that cook quickly. Even thicker fillets don't take long to cook: you'll want to aim for about four to six minutes per half-inch. Since most fillets are about one inch thick in the thickest part, check them after eight minutes. When the fish starts to flake when pierced with a fork and its flesh becomes opaque, it's time to eat.
If you like your salmon firm, with a touch of silkiness, 125 degrees Fahrenheit (51 degrees Celsius) in the centre of the thickest part of the fillet is the ideal internal temperature. Wild salmon should be cooked to 120 degrees Fahrenheit (48 degrees Celsius) as it is leaner and more likely to dry out. This temperature can be reached by baking or grilling for four to six minutes per side. The USDA recommends cooking fish to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F (62.8 degrees C). Many people, however, find that salmon is overcooked at that temperature. Once the salmon is removed from the heat, the internal temperature rises further, resulting in overcooked fish. To avoid overcooking the salmon, cook it to 130°F (55°C) and let it rest for 5 minutes.
How long to bake salmon
At 350°F (175°C), a salmon fillet takes about 25 minutes to bake, and when it’s done, the thickest part should flake easily.
At 400°F (C), a piece of salmon takes about 10-15 minutes to bake, or until the temperature reaches 135 degrees at its thickest, most internal part.
At 425°F (215°C), you’ll want to aim for four to six minutes per half-inch of thickness for the most tender, buttery fillets possible. Since most fillets are about one inch thick in the thickest part, bake until salmon is cooked through, about 12 to 15 minutes. As a general rule, bake salmon for 10-12 minutes per inch of thickness at 425 degrees Fahrenheit to get perfectly baked salmon that is moist, flaky, and full of flavour. When the fish starts to flake easily with a fork and the flesh looks opaque, it’s time for dinner.
If you don’t have a meat thermometer to measure the internal temperature, cut into the thickest part of the fish to check for doneness – it should still be slightly translucent in the centre and flaking at the edges.
Foil or parchment paper?
Why bake salmon in foil? The foil traps moisture and ensures that the salmon fillets turn out flakey, moist, and tender. In addition, the foil acts as an incubator for flavour. Whenever you cook fish in foil, whatever savoury ingredients you add to it will get infused into every bite.
It may be worth mentioning, though, that research by the International Journal of Electrochemical Science found that small amounts of aluminium may leach into food during the cooking process. So, if you don’t want to bake with foil for health concerns, parchment paper is your best option. Line the foil sheet with a piece of parchment paper. Place the salmon on the parchment paper so that it does not touch the foil. Wrap the foil packet around the parchment paper and bake according to the instructions.
How to season baked salmon
Salmon goes well with many herbs and spices: parsley, dill, basil, tarragon, sage, rosemary, bay leaves, thyme, fennel, oregano, chilli powder, and cumin... the list is endless. Season salmon before cooking. Seasoning will enhance the flavour of the fish, help the flesh stay firm, and preserve the vibrant pink colour of the salmon.
How to serve baked salmon
Salmon is excellent with just a sprinkle of fresh herbs and a squeeze of lemon right before you serve it. While all you need for a satisfying baked salmon is salt, pepper and olive oil, the foil or parchment paper technique works well with various herbs and spices – there are plenty of options to keep things interesting. You can swap sprigs of dill for the rosemary. But you can also use parsley or green onion, or both. You can spread pesto on the salmon and place a lemon on top before wrapping it in foil.
And if you’re wondering what to serve with salmon, you have plenty of options – salmon pairs well with a variety of side dishes to make things more exciting. If you want some inspiration, we’ve got you covered with a list of ideas: