Fresh whole salmon makes a dramatic and impressive presentation no matter how it is cooked. By using some clever tips and following a few guidelines, you can easily feature this healthy fish as the main attraction at your next dinner party and round out the meal with a few simple side dishes.
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Choosing the Best Salmon
The fish should be firm; mushy flesh indicates it is old or has been previously frozen. Its skin should be glossy and its eyes clear, both indications of freshness. Check the gills to ensure they are bright red and confirm that the flesh of the fish is pink and slightly translucent. Only buy salmon that is completely packed in ice in the storage compartment at the market. Smell the salmon and if it has a strong fishy smell, do not buy it, as truly fresh salmon has little or no aroma.
Since salmon is a relatively large fish, normally weighing between 1.36 and 2.72kg., it is conventionally cooked in the oven or on a barbecue grill. Cooking it on hob is impractical and would dry out the exterior parts of the fish in order to ensure the interior is cooked through.
Oven Baked Salmon
To cook salmon in the oven, scale it and rinse the interior and exterior with cold, running water. Pat the outside dry with paper towels. Cut a few diagonal slits in the skin on both sides to prevent it from curling during the baking process and allow the seasonings to penetrate the flesh. Lightly oil it on all surfaces. Season it inside and out with generous amounts of salt and pepper. For added flavour, line the interior of the salmon with slices of fresh lemon and onion and bunches of fresh herbs like dill and flat leaf parsley. Place it in a baking pan large enough to comfortably hold the fish and add some broth, water or fish stock to cover the bottom of the pan and keep the fish moist. Bake in a preheated 425 degree Fahrenheit oven and cook about 12 minutes per inch of depth of the thickest part of the salmon. The fish is done when the internal temperature reaches between 145 and 150 degrees Fahrenheit.
Prepare the fish as for oven baking. Build a hot charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill to high. When the coals are lightly coated with white ash or the gas grill is hot, create an indirect cooking environment. If using charcoal, separate the coals into two piles on either side of the grill. For gas grills, place the plates on either side of the grill bottom and reduce the heat to medium. Place the grate on top, about 3 to 4 inches from the heat source and position the fish in the middle so no coals are beneath it. Close the grill lid. Use the same formula for timing as in the oven method, turning the fish once during grilling.
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