You don't have to be a superstar chef like Jamie Oliver or Gordon Ramsay to bake salmon beautifully. One of the most nutritious and delicious of all fish, salmon is also among the easiest for home cooks to prepare. Whether baked in a foil pouch or casserole dish, after a short stint in the oven, it's ready for the table.
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Farmed Atlantic salmon and wild Pacific salmon are the varieties most readily available to North American consumers, reports the University of California's Sea Grant program. Both look similar on the outside and share much the same nutrient profile, but texture and flavor differ. Fresh Pacific salmon, which tends to be more expensive, is available from June to September, while farmed Atlantic salmon is on the market year-round. Sea Grant cautions consumers to buy salmon only from trusted retailers because unscrupulous sellers sometimes overcharge by substituting inferior quality-fish for premium varieties.
Baking in Foil
This simple method of cooking makes for minimal mess with maximum flavor. We Love Seafood's recipe recommends preheating the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lay out enough heavy foil to fold into a pouch that completely encloses the fish. Spray the foil lightly with oil and lay the salmon on top. Season with herbs or spices, then arrange a thinly-sliced lemon over, under and around the salmon. Fold the foil securely so steam can't escape and set the pouch on a baking tray. Oven time should be 10 minutes per pound, but after the fish comes out, it should "rest" for another 10 minutes before you open the pouch.
Baking in a Casserole Dish
Baking salmon in a shallow dish offers more room for creativity than pouch-baking. You'll need only a few minutes of extra preparation time to add flavor-enhancing ingredients that can make a simple dish look and taste like haute cuisine. For his citrus baked salmon recipe, "Rescue Chef" Danny Boome advises using ingredients available from any supermarket. Arrange four skinless fillets on a bed of lemon and orange slices, top with a mixture of fresh dill, sun-dried tomatoes and tomato oil, drizzle 2/3 cup of white wine over them, and bake in a 375-degree Fahrenheit oven for eight to 10 minutes.
Preparation Tips and Cooking Times
Frozen salmon should always be thawed in the refrigerator and kept cold until ready to cook. If you try to hasten thawing by holding the fish under running water, you may damage the flesh. Whenever possible, leave the skin attached to prevent the meat from curling or separating into pieces while cooking. Cook at medium oven temperature. For a whole fish, allow eight minutes for each 1/2 lb. For fillets and steaks, figure on six minutes for each half-inch thickness. You can tell when salmon is cooked by inserting a fork into the thickest part and twisting. If it's done, the flesh will flake easily.