Salmon always seems like a good idea. You know it’s a strong source of protein. You know that it contains massive amounts of all those heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids everyone is always talking about. And you know that there are a few times that you’ve ordered salmon at a restaurant and it tasted pretty delicious.
So you pick up some salmon filets from the supermarket, all hyped up that you made healthy choice for your diet, you bring them home and cook them up and taste one and then you’re like … eh?
It’s bland. It’s kind of dry to the point of being crumbly. There’s a white ooze-like substance seeping from the flesh (are the omega-3s escaping??). And it’s not pretty delicious.
Unfortunately, too often, salmon turns out this way because the vast majority of recipes you’ll find on the internet tell you to cook it in the oven using temperatures upward of 350°F. And, like the vast majority of all things on the internet, these recipes don’t know what they’re talking about.
It’s not the oven that’s the problem, it’s the temperature.
To cook salmon in the oven the right way, you have to steal a technique from barbecue. You have to bump down the heat to a gentle 250°F and then lengthen the time needed to cook the fish so you can coax it to doneness.
High heat blasts all the subtle flavors out of the fish. High heat dries out the flesh. High heat is what forces that white ooze-like substance (which is actually called albumen) to seep and make your meal look kind of gross. And high heat is ultimately makes your well-intentioned salmon dinner so disappointing.
Low heat fixes all that—and will restore your faith in the fish.
skin-on or skinless salmon fillets
lemon, thinly sliced
1. Preheat (but not too much)
Preheat your oven to 250°F. This lower heat means that the fish will take a little longer to cook, yes, but it is far less likely to overcook.
2. Prep the Fillets
On baking sheet, season the fish with salt and three or four lemon slices along the length of the fillets, depending on their size.
Slide the baking sheet into the oven and roast till cooked through and the thickest part of each fillet is easily flaked with a fork, above 20 minutes. Serve immediately.
Paul is the Food & Nutrition Editor of Men’s Health.