The best salmon is buttery, rich, and so tender that it flakes at the touch of a fork. The worst salmon, on the other hand, is chalky and dry. With a stovetop, grill, or broiler, these opposites are mere minutes apart. But in a low oven, salmon becomes more flexible and forgiving. Today, we’ll break down our test kitchen’s go-to roasting method, so you can say so long! to overcooked fish for good.
What temperature should I bake salmon at?
Anywhere from 275°F to 300°F will lead you to greatness. And yes, this temperature is quite low! We learned this Genius approach from journalist Sally Schneider, who published a recipe for Slow-Roasted Salmon in her cookbook, A New Way to Cook. As our Genius Recipes–hunter Kristen Miglore explained it: “Cooking is like coming up to a stop light. If you're going slowly, it's easy to hit your mark.”
What internal temperature should salmon reach?
Speaking of “your mark,” let’s talk internal temperature. What number you’re looking for depends on, well, what you’re looking for. If you want ultra-rare, aim for 110°F. Medium-rare, 120°F. Medium, 130°F. And if you don’t have a thermometer—though, may I take this opportunity to say how much I love my thermometer, how many mistakes it’s helped me sidestep, how many dinners it’s saved in the nick of time—just wiggle a paring knife in the center and take a peek. Rare salmon will still be glossy and transparent-ish; the longer the fish cooks, the more opaque and flakable it becomes.
Actually, no! Despite its “slow-cooked” description, salmon will cook in roughly 15 to 30 minutes with this method, depending on the size of your fillet. And since that’s totally inactive time, you can spend it getting together your side dishes (see our recs below).
Okay, I’m ready! Give me the cheat sheet.
Heat the oven to 275°F to 300°F (the former gives you more overcooking insurance, the latter will take less time).
Brush a sheet pan or baking dish with a bit of oil (olive, canola, whatever works). Add salmon fillets skin side-down, rub with oil, and sprinkle all over with salt. At this point, you can also add spices (like black pepper or cumin), or fresh herbs (like thyme or rosemary) if you want them.
Roast for about 15 to 30 minutes, until the flesh easily flakes when poked with a fork, or an instant thermometer reaches 120°F for medium-rare. Serve right away, or warm, or cold.
Emma is a writer and recipe developer at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram and Twitter at @emmalaperruque.