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How to Tell When Salmon is Done

Salmon oven from Popsie Alaskan Fish Company

Wild Alaskan salmon cooks quickly, and you could refer to it as Alaskan fast food. Salmon can go directly from the freezer into the pan or grill and thaws fast, making it the perfect choice for a healthy and delicious weeknight dinner after a busy day. 

Determining when salmon is properly cooked to a preferred degree of doneness is not as complicated as it may seem. Depending on the method you use to cook it, whether it be grilling, searing and roasting, slow roasting, broiling, or baking, keep in mind that you will need to pay close attention to it as it cooks. Salmon is delicate and requires less time to cook than most meats. By using one of the recommended methods, your salmon will be perfect every time, and the more you cook it, the easier it will become to determine the degree of doneness. 

Things to remember when cooking salmon: 

You can cook frozen fillets without thawing them first

Having salmon fillets in the freezer guarantees that you can throw together a fast meal. Since most fillets are thin, you can safely cook them without defrosting them first. Just decide if you want to make them on the stove, in the oven, or on the grill. While the salmon is cooking, you can prepare the rest of your dinner and it will be on the table before you know it!
It is difficult to remove the skin on the salmon while the filet is still frozen, so it's best to leave the skin on. Rinsing them quickly to remove the ice will prevent the fish fillets from becoming soggy as it cooks. Pat the salmon dry with a paper towel and brush each side with melted butter, or a different cooking fat, such as olive oil, canola oil or coconut oil.
Cook until it reaches 145 °F (63 °C) with an instant-read thermometer or determine the doneness level of your preference using one of the other methods
as instructed.

If already thawed, bring salmon closer to room temperature before cooking 

Don't start with cold fillets. When cold fish is added to a hot pan, the fillets will immediately seize up and are more likely to cook unevenly. Instead, remove the fish from the refrigerator about 15 to 20 minutes before you're ready to start cooking, in order to bring them up to room temperature.

Degree of salmon doneness is a personal preference

Perfectly prepared fish is moist, flavorful, and succulent. Properly cooked salmon can be thoroughly cooked through to well done and remain delicious, just as long as it's not overcooked, as it dries out and loses flavor. Many people, however, enjoy some types of fatty fish, such as tuna and salmon, a little less done, much like a steak cooked to medium-rare. Salmon can be enjoyed while still on the rare side in the middle and quite moist. Just how rare is a matter of personal preference. All of Popsie's salmon is sushi-grade and safe to eat no matter what degree of doneness you prefer. Read on to learn how to tell when your fish is ready.

Methods to determine salmon doneness

Look at salmon color and texture

Raw salmon has a deeper color and a translucent appearance that turns opaque during cooking. Most types of fish are considered done when they're just opaque throughout.
The first method is using the color and texture of the salmon to determine if it's cooked thoroughly. Let the visual clues guide you. The change in the color of the flesh from deep red to pink will act as an indicator as to how it's progressing. Slide a sharp knife into the thickest part of the fillet and peek at the flesh inside; cooked salmon will change color from a raw, deep reddish color to a light pinkish color on the outside.
Rare salmon will have its original vermilion flesh. Medium will be pale pink, and medium-rare will fall in the middle. Salmon will also become slightly more firm during the cooking process compared to its soft texture in raw form. The flakiness of your salmon is also a good indicator of doneness. If the top of your salmon easily flakes apart, then it's done. If your salmon is not flaky and still has a reddish hue, it is still raw and needs more time cooking. If the fish is on the bone, the flesh should lightly resist pulling away from the bone.

Check salmon with a butter knife or metal skewer

The test that chefs use is easy and reliable. Poke the tip of a butter knife or a thin metal skewer into the center of the fish and touch the side of it  not the point  to your face between your chin and lower lip. If it feels cool, the fish will be rare in the middle; warm means medium-rare, and hot means that the fish is thoroughly cooked through. It is important to remember with this method not to fully slice your salmon fillet or it will begin falling apart. 

Check internal temperature of salmon with thermometer

Checking the temperature of your salmon with a thermometer is the easiest and most precise way to tell if your salmon is cooked to your liking. Take any food-grade thermometer and insert it into the thickest part of your salmon. According to the FDA, the recommended internal temperature for salmon is 145˚F, which is slightly on the firm and well-done side. However, those who like their salmon medium to medium should aim for an internal temperature of 125˚F to 140˚F.

Use a timer

Cooking a filet of Alaskan salmon is quick and easy. How long should it take to cook a salmon filet? It doesn't take much time at all, approximately 3-8 minutes per inch of thickness, depending on the thickness of your salmon and the temperature of your pan or grill. When pan frying, I start out with a base line of 3 minutes on each side and adjust from there depending on the thickness of the fillet and cooking method used. If it is a small tail piece, I will reduce the time to 3 minutes on one side and 2 minutes on the other side. For thicker pieces, you may need to increase the cooking time to 3 minutes on one side and 4 minutes after flipping. If the salmon is not done in 6 minutes of total cooking time, set a timer for 1 minute increments until it is done. This will come to a total time of 8 to 9 minutes for thick fillets and 6 to 7 minutes for thinner fillets.Take a sharp knife and use it to peek into the thickest part. If the fish is flaky, but still has some translucency in the middle, it is done. It should not, however, look raw. 

Remember: fish will continue to cook after removing from heat

To cook fish perfectly, remove it from the heat source before it appears fully cooked, while there is still some translucency in the middle. The fish will continue to cook for a minute or two off the heat. Be sure to stop cooking when the fish is just shy of being done; otherwise, it will be overcooked by the time you serve it.

Cooking salmon is quicker than getting take-out

Don't hesitate to serve this superfood on a weeknight for a nutritious and delicious dinner. Preparing wild salmon for dinner is faster than calling for take-out and, most likely, much healthier. Salmon fillets are great for fast weeknight meals.

Salmon is a great choice for entertaining

A whole fillet of wild Alaskan salmon will be the star of the show and will be an elegant main course at your next dinner party. It's sure to impress dinner guests and is fast to prepare, leaving you more time to visit with your guests. 
Choosing to prepare quality salmon from Alaska for its great taste and health benefits. It is ready in no time at all. It will be an easy choice to serve it twice a week.
Teri Robl, Guest Chef
Teri Robl, 
Guest Chef
For more tips on cooking salmon, watch this video with chef Maya Wilson, courtesy

I’m Maya Wilson and I'm here to share some tips and tricks with you today about how to tell when your salmon is done.

Sockeye salmon is best served at an internal temperature of 110 to 120.  What you're looking for is an exterior that has a pale orange color and a flakiness to it and an interior that's opaque and bright orange.  What does opaque mean? I’m so glad you asked. The inside of your salmon should really glisten and have a shimmer to it because it's still juicy and moist.

When you remove your salmon from the oven it continues to cook and so bear that in mind you want to err on the side of taking it out sooner rather than later. You can always cook it more but you can't cook it less.

To test your fillet put a fork in it. What you're looking for is that bright orange color and that opaque center that just glistens and shines and shimmers that's when you know that you have a beautiful medium rare sockeye salmon.