Are you looking for a healthy family dinner? Baked salmon is easy to make! Just season with simple ingredients and bake in the oven at a moderate temperature to gently cook.
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An easy, healthy seafood dinner is just minutes away! When I’m looking for a nutritious entree, this baked salmon recipe is one of my favorites. This type of fish is packed with nutrition like protein and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, so I try to incorporate it into my meal rotation at least once a week. It’s a stunning sheet-pan dish perfect for sharing.
I keep the fillet whole to make preparation a breeze, with the skin intact. Alternatively, you can slice it into individual salmon fillets. Baking ensures a consistent heated environment that prevents the dreaded dried-out texture. The fish gently cooks on a tray with melted butter, garlic, salt, pepper, and slices of lemon. Before serving, a quick broil helps brown the surface to enhance the taste and texture.
There are many types of salmon to choose from at the market. It’s genuinely the chef’s choice. Although for the most buttery and rich taste, my preference is Scottish, Atlantic, or King salmon. Wild-caught salmon has a deeper red color and a more lean texture. It’s a healthier option but will taste a bit drier.
Check for bones
Nobody likes a surprise bone in their meal. Before seasoning, check for any long white pin bones running down the center of the fillet. I use needle-nose pliers or tweezers to pull them out. Pluck them in the same direction the bone is running to prevent the flesh from tearing.
Keep whole or slice
Large salmon fillets are sold with the center bone removed. For a stunning presentation with minimal work, you can keep it whole or cut them into smaller fillets for individual portions, about 4 to 6 ounces in weight. The smaller pieces may cook quicker since more sides are exposed to the heat, so check for doneness a few minutes earlier.
Should you remove the skin?
This recipe offers a lot of versatility in preparation. To keep things quick and easy, I leave the skin on if it hasn’t already been trimmed off at the store. You can remove the salmon skin in just minutes if desired. It’s a simple technique to master.
As the proteins in the fish cook during baking, it will be easy to separate the skin later by using a spatula. I don’t eat the skin because it will be very chewy and soft, not like a pan-seared salmon that is delightfully crispy.
Customize the seasonings
- Fat: Extra-virgin olive oil is a good swap for melted butter. Browned butter adds a nutty butterscotch taste. Use Ghee if you want to be free of milk solids.
- Spices: Dried onion powder or garlic powder and a concentrated earthy allium flavor. A small amount of smoked or sweet paprika for a red hue.
- Heat: Dried chili powder or chipotle adds a hint of sizzling spice.
- Herbs: Fresh or dried rosemary, thyme, or oregano. Sprinkle on Italian seasonings or Herbs de Provence with lavender and marjoram for a quick herb blend. Place whole sprigs on top to infuse aromatics while baking.
- Sauce: Slather an herbaceous pesto on top. Add some homemade barbecue sauce for a sweet and tangy taste. Serve with hollandaise sauce on the side for a luxurious brunch dish.
How to bake salmon
This method is fantastic because it has minimal clean-up! Just grab a rimmed baking sheet and line it with foil. Grease the pan with oil or cooking spray to prevent sticking. Place the salmon in the center, then season evenly with melted butter, salt, black pepper, and minced garlic.
I like to add lemon wedges because the juices will cook as they bake, mellowing out in acidity and tartness. Squeeze some on top for a simple and delicious sauce. Now just bake until the fish reaches medium-rare doneness, around 125º (52ºC). Then a quick 3 to 4 minutes broil will complete the cooking process and deepen the flavor on the surface with additional browning.
Baking temperature and time
Bake at 375ºF (191ºC), until it reaches 125ºF (52ºC) for a medium-rare texture. Using a moderate temperature will ensure the flesh stays moist. Salmon does not experience carryover cooking like red meat because it does not hold heat well. The fish will continue to cook once broiled, to about medium doneness.
For a 1 ½ pound salmon, you need about 10 to 12 minutes for medium-rare doneness. The cook time depends on the fish’s thickness. Note that the tail end cooks faster than the thicker body portion. Generally, it takes about 5 minutes for every half-inch thickness. For example, for a 1-inch thick fillet, you need at least 10 minutes of cook time.
Finish with a quick broil
To add extra flavor to the surface, broil the salmon for 3 to 4 minutes after baking. Keep a close eye on the fish after the first 2 minutes of broiling. Make sure the garlic browns but doesn’t burn. This step is optional but deepens the flavor of the fish and citrus with roasted notes. If you skip broiling, add a few more minutes of bake time for medium-cooked doneness.
Checking for doneness
Use a fork to gently separate a few layers of flesh in the thickest part to test for doneness. It should flake easily with the fork. The color should be opaque unless you like it medium-rare, and it will be a little more glossy in the center.
If you have an instant-read thermometer, insert the probe in the thickest part of the salmon. If you like a medium-rare center, target 125ºF (52ºC). For medium and fully opaque flesh, target 140º (60ºC). Above 145ºF (63ºC) the fish will taste dry.
Serve this with
Bake at 375ºF (191ºC) to gently cook the fish, then briefly broil to finish cooking and brown the surface.
At 375ºF (191ºC), about 10 to 12 minutes for a 1 ½ pound whole fillet for medium-rare doneness. Smaller portions will cook faster. You can cook longer for medium doneness if you skip the broiling step. To estimate based on thickness, factor about 5 minutes of cook time for every half-inch thickness.
The flesh should go from translucent orange to opaque pink. It should flake easily with a fork in the center. The internal temperature will be between 125 to 140ºF (52 to 60ºC) in the thickest part.
The skin contains the highest amount of omega-3 fatty acids, which has heart health benefits. However, it’s easier to eat when pan-seared and crispy as baked salmon skin will be rubbery and harder to chew.
Benefits of two heat sources
Salmon cooks very quickly as its flesh is high in moisture and fat. Within minutes, the texture can rapidly change. To prevent it from drying out, cook at a gentle moderate temperature to just about medium-rare. Then for the last few minutes, adjust the heating element to broil and brown the surface.
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- 1 ½ pound salmon fillet
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 8 lemon wedges
- 1 teaspoon chopped parsley
- 1 teaspoon chopped dill
- Set the oven rack to the center position—Preheat to 375ºF (191ºC).
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and lightly grease with vegetable oil or cooking spray.
- Place salmon on the sheet, skin-side down (if still intact). Brush half of the melted butter over the fillet. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle the rest of the butter on top.
- Sprinkle the minced garlic evenly over the salmon. Place lemon wedges around the sides.
- Bake until the thickest part reaches an internal temperature of 125ºF (52ºC), about 12 minutes.
- Change the oven setting to broil on high. Cook until the surface is a light golden color and garlic just begins to brown, 3 to 4 minutes.
- Carefully remove and discard the skin, then transfer to a serving platter.
- Garnish with parsley and dill, serve with roasted lemon wedges.
- Baking Sheet
- Make it Whole30: Ghee or extra-virgin olive oil can be substituted for butter. Substitute kosher salt for sea salt.
- Larger Side of Salmon: Adjust cooking time as needed until the 125ºF (52ºC) internal temperature is reached.
- Individual Fillets: Cut into 4 to 6-ounce pieces. Bake according to recipe directions. Check for doneness a few minutes earlier to prevent overcooking.
- Storing: Store leftover salmon in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Reheat: Cover and reheat in the microwave in 30-second intervals until warm. Bake on a foil-lined sheet pan at 275ºF (175ºC) until warm, about 15 to 20 minutes.
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