Roasted salmon is one of my favorite mid-week meals. It feels so elegant and sophisticated, even though it’s dead simple to make. It makes me feel French, in that flippant but perfect pas grand chose kind of way. Roasting is by far the most foolproof and mess-free to cook salmon (not to mention aroma-free, if you know what I mean). Throw a few fillets in a hot oven, and in the time it will take you to set the table and pour a glass of wine, dinner is served.
It’s salmon season!
Did you know that wild salmon has a season? Fresh wild salmon is best from late spring (that means now!) until early fall. Wild salmon is more flavorful and nutritious than farmed, and it’s worth investing in. Here the salmon gets brushed with a touch of maple syrup and grainy mustard before going in the oven, creating a light glaze. It’s delicious all on its own, but downright gorgeous when served with a sweet pea pesto. You can read all about the pesto in this post, which I recently updated (I've also included a video below!). The pesto can be made ahead, or while the salmon cooks.
There are several different varieties of wild salmon (I’ve bulleted them out below), which each have different thicknesses and fat contents. When roasting, you’ll therefore want to start checking your salmon early, as different varieties cook at different rates (in my opinion, nothing’s worse than dry, chalky salmon). You’ll know it’s ready when the fat has turned white along the sides and the fish flakes easily but is still rosy pink in the middle (poke a small knife through the thickest portion to check, or use a meat thermometer to take the temperature—it should read 120˚F for medium-rare). The salmon will continue cooking once it comes out of the oven and rests. Of course, texture is entirely subjective, so while I prefer my salmon medium rare, you can feel free to cook it a few minutes longer to your liking. Also, roast the salmon skin-on, which helps to keep it moist. The skin can be easily removed after cooking.
There are several different varieties of wild salmon, which I’ve broken down for you below. They’re all delicious, with slightly different flavors and textures.
- King/Chinook: High oil content, rich flavor.
- Sockeye: Distinguished by deep red flesh. Firm, meaty texture.
- Coho: Milder flavor, firm texture that flakes well. Often smoked.
- Keta/Chum: Pale orange or pink flesh, lower oil content.
- Pink: Rosy pink flesh, delicate flavor. Lean and mild.
When it comes to roasting fish (or anything, for that matter), you don't need much, but these tools are essential:
- Heavy sheet pans are a must in my kitchen. I own several, and although they’re mottled and blacked around the edges at this point, they’re tough workhorses (proving once again that looks don’t matter). Be sure to buy something that is sturdy and thick, which will heat more evenly and won’t warp. I like having two sizes: large and small.
- My fish spatula is one of my most prized possessions (is that sad?). It’s thin flipper is perfect not only for turning and transferring fish filets, but also for flipping pancakes and burgers, and transferring cookies to racks.
- I don’t just use my heatproof silicone spatulas for mixing batters, but they’re perfect for stirring roasted vegetables, cooking eggs, and getting the last bits of mayo out of the jar (I love this set, which has multiple sizes).
- An instant-read meat thermometer makes quick and easy work of checking the temperature of your steaks, fish and chicken. This one reads in seconds, meaning you get a
- For brushing fish and meats with glazes and sauces, I like to use a silicone brush, which won’t fall apart (there’s nothing worse than having a guest find a brush hair in their food!), and which, better yet, can go right in the dishwasher.
Other salmon recipes to try:
Healthy meals you might like:
- Shrimp Tacos with Cilantro Lime Pesto
- Healthy Taco Salad
- Slow Cooker Red Lentil Dal (Vegan)
- Asian Lettuce Wraps
- Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad with Garlicky Shrimp
- Mediterranean Tuna Pasta Salad
Get the recipe!
Maple Roasted Salmon with Sweet Pea Pesto
- 4 6-ounce wild salmon fillets, skin-on (1 ½ pounds total)
- 2 teaspoons maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons grainy mustard
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice , plus lemon wedges for garnish
- Salt & freshly ground black pepper
- Sweet Pea Pesto
- Preheat the oven to 425˚F.
- Place the salmon filets on a small parchment-lined baking sheet, and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes. Mix together the maple syrup, grainy mustard and lemon juice. Brush each fillet with the maple mixture, and season with salt and pepper.
- Roast the salmon for 8-12 minutes, or until it pulls apart easily but is still rosy pink in the middle (the internal temperature should read 120˚F for medium-rare—let cook a bit longer if you prefer medium). Let sit 5 minutes.
- Slide a thin spatula between the fish and the skin and transfer the salmon to a platter or plates, leaving the skin behind. Spoon the mint pesto over top, and garnish with lemon wedges.
I’d love to hear what you’re cooking, and I’m happy to answer any questions! #FromScratchFast
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