Screwing up in the kitchen is just like riding a bike. You crash and burn enough times in order to get that smooth ride down pat. You overcook your pasta into a slimy sludge, you forget about your boiling rice and find it crusted to the bottom of the pot, you bite into your fish and find that it resembles rubber. But you're not alone.
Leslie Grau has made a few cooking mistakes of her own, especially when it comes to overcooking her salmon. She wanted to gain some knowledge from Bon Appétit
associate food editor Rick Martinez to ensure it never happens again. So if you're the type of person who just can't get your fish filet to turn out the way you want, then it's time to read on.
Dear Rick, savior of overcooked salmon,
I overcooked salmon last night. I trimmed fillets into four to six ounce portions of even thickness. I slathered them with some mixed butter and mayo, and added seasoning and herbs. I usually cook salmon on a parchment-lined baking sheet, but I was out, so I lined the sheet with aluminum foil instead. (Could that have been the problem?) It all went into a 300°F oven. But, when I checked on the fish after 18 minutes, it wasn’t cooked through. I did what anyone would do: I left it in for another six to eight minutes. By the time I got around to it, it was dry.
I cook a lot. And, sometimes, my salmon is perfect. But about one-third of the time, I overcook it. I’m just not sure how to check to see when it is cooked through, but not overcooked or dry. I have no problem with meats, but, for some reason, salmon and I have a bit of a rivalry. How do I know the perfect time to take it out of the oven? How do I know the perfect temperature to cook it at? Damn you, delicious orange fish!
Never fear—you will soon be cooking salmon to perfection. It sounds like you should have pulled the salmon out of the oven after 20 minutes total cooking time, covered it, and let it rest.
Just like other meats, it’s important to pull salmon off the heat or out of the oven just before it’s done, then cover and let it rest for about 10 minutes. During this time, residual heat will continue to cook the meat, and the internal temperature (in the center of the salmon) will continue to rise, even after it’s off the heat.
If you’re unsure whether thicker fillets are ready, check the internal temperature. Insert a thermometer in the thickest part of the fillet and look for it to read a temperature of 120°F for medium rare.
Personally, I prefer to cook my salmon at higher temperatures for shorter amounts of time, and treat it like a steak. First, salt and pepper the fleshy side of a one-inch thick salmon fillet (skin on, bones removed) and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Then, heat a medium-sized skillet on medium-high for about two minutes. Add a tablespoon of vegetable oil and sear the skin-side for four to five minutes—until browned and crispy—and flip, adding more oil if necessary. Sear the fleshy side for three to four minutes, or until golden brown. Remember what we discussed: Let it rest.
Now you can enjoy your perfectly cooked salmon in all its glory, dry fish a thing of the past.
See? It's as simple as that. Now you can cook your salmon like a pro.
Do you follow Rick's rules to prep your own fish already?
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