How to Tell When Salmon is Done

Salmon is one of those foods with a delicate window for being perfectly cooked. When undercooked, it can be unappetizing and even dangerous to eat. However, overcooked salmon can be chewy and tough, not what you want for your salmon fillet. Fortunately, there are simple ways to tell when salmon is done but not overcooked!

Salmon is one of the most popular fish in the United States, and there are lots of options when choosing your fillet. Wild salmon is more expensive than farmed salmon, but you can eat it with no moral quandaries about the environment or animal rights. Atlantic salmon, sockeye and Coho are some of the most accessible farmed varieties.

Checking When Salmon is Done

To avoid overdone salmon, you can check how done it is with a fork. Gently press down on the fillet, observing whether the salmon flakes, which is when the flesh separates from the white lines running along the fillet, coming off easily when touched. At this point, your salmon is cooked and should be taken off the heat right now! You can also poke at the flesh in the center to check its color- if semi-translucent, your salmon is good to go.

Farm Raised Atlantic Salmon Fillet


If you're hoping to serve your salmon fillet for a fancy meal, you may have presentation in mind. To tell if your salmon is done without causing any marks, you can use a cake tester. To use this, poke the metal rod into the thickest part of the fish, hold it there for a few seconds, and remove. Immediately touch the tip of the cake tester to the skin under your bottom lip and observe its temperature. If the metal is warm, your fish is fully cooked! If cold, it needs some more time. If the metal is hot, it's already too late for a perfectly done salmon.

The most precise way to tell if your salmon is done is by checking its internal temperature using an instant-read thermometer. Insert your meat thermometer into the thickest part of the fillet and wait for it to show a temperature. Your salmon should be above 110 °F but below 140 °F.

If your cooked salmon is flaky and dry or overly firm, it has passed the point of doneness. It also might have an overly orange color, not what you want from a fresh salmon fillet. If you see white goopiness seeping out of your salmon-called albumin- that's another surefire sign that it's past the point of ready. Hopefully, you checked your salmon's flakiness before any of these signs arose and you're ready to enjoy a tender salmon filet!

How To Cook Delicious Salmon

You can home cook salmon on the stove, in the oven or on the grill. Grilling is an excellent choice, especially for a bbq or to enjoy a summery day, but the oven and stove may be easier for a weeknight dinner. Each of these cooking methods will yield a tasty result if cooked right, so it's up to you!

The fastest way to cook salmon until done is to use the stove, as this typically only takes about five to seven minutes. When cooking salmon on the stove, never cook above medium. If you use too high heat, it will become overcooked, less than ideal for your fancy meal! The stove is a great way to get a crispy top layer without overcooking the middle.

If you prefer the oven, it's important to be vigilant with your timer, since you can't see whether your salmon has white goopiness or an orangey hue. Marinate your piece of salmon in the flavors of your choosing (I usually go for a mix of citrus, brown sugar and soy sauce). Preheat the oven and place your piece of fish onto a baking sheet, skin side down. Check if your salmon is done when it's nearing the end of cooking time.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until flaky but not overdone. The cooking time will depend on the cooking temperature, which varies by recipe. The thickness of the salmon is also a factor; the thicker it is, the longer it will cook. Many recipes call for your salmon to broil for a few minutes at the end of the cooking time to ensure the perfect texture. If you prefer to take the salmon skin off before eating, you can remove it by sliding a sharp knife between the skin and flesh.

Now that you know how to cook salmon to perfection, here's a recipe to try it out!

Watch: 7 Grilling Tips From America's Greatest Grill Masters

This post was originally published on November 20, 2020.