How do you cook wild salmon?

Every time I try to cook wild salmon the texture comes out dense and dry and awful. I most recently tried Sally Schneider's Slow-Roasted recipe to the same effect. Just wondering if other people have experienced the same and what they do. TIA!

  • Posted by: GourMel
  • August 29, 2018


greenglass August 30, 2018
Serious Eats has a good article on this, arguing that high-heat cooking is much better than baked:

"The reason is simple: the intensity of the broiler's heat. With salmon, we generally want to sear the exterior while leaving the interior tender and juicy. That means cooking the outside of the fish quickly before the heat can fully penetrate the interior and dry it out. A frying pan on the stovetop works well for this, because the fish can make direct contact with the hot pan and oil, searing the exterior rapidly."

The Best Baked Salmon is Broiled Salmon
MMH August 31, 2018
ATK has a recipe where you preheat a rimmed baking sheet to 500. In the mean time you score the skin on the salmon and brush the flesh with olive oil. When the pan is preheated, place the fish on it skin side down and return to the oven at 280 degrees for 8 min. Works every time.
mwasif August 30, 2018
Place fish, skin side down, on a foil-lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Brush fish with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sprinkle dill and rind over fish; arrange lemon slices over fish. Bake at 450° for 10 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork or until desired degree of doneness.
GourMel August 29, 2018
Thanks for all the responses! I really didn't think it was overcooked but my husband did the cooking tonight and it turned out much better so he's now the salmon maker of the household :)
Lori T. August 29, 2018
Wild salmon has a firmer flesh with much less fat than a farmed salmon, so you need to adapt your cooking to allow for that. I follow the advice of America's Test Kitchen, which found that wild salmon is best cooked only to an internal temp of 120F, rather than the 125 for a farmed salmon. When I spring for wild salmon, I watch it a lot closer in the cooking, to catch it just as it begins to flake. Otherwise, yeah, it gets dry and nasty. No sauce in the world will resurrect it either. The only advice I can give is to cook with a bit extra fat- like bacon, butter, or olive oil, and watch the temperature.
Nancy August 30, 2018
Lori - same advice in the magazine article I quoted, published by or associated with ATK.
Lori T. August 30, 2018
It's the advice I got from my local fishmonger, and confirmed at ATK- which is why I cited them. I smoke my own salmon, and was curious about why the wild salmon differed in texture from the farmed salmon I had used in the past. My early attempts with wild salmon tended to be dry and unappetizing, though I used the same method I used for farmed fish. Since the price point was much higher, I wanted some insight on why it happened. Wild salmon is too expensive to make repeated mistakes with, and too good in taste to give up on.
HalfPint August 29, 2018
Do you only have this problem with wild salmon? Not an issue with farmed salmon?

It sounds like you are overcooking the salmon. I usually aim to pull the salmon when it's still mostly rare in the middle. I don't wait until it 'flakes easily' because for me, if it flakes easily, it's already overcooked.
ChefJune August 29, 2018
FWIW, that "flakes easily" thing is terrible advice. Any fish that's cooked until that point will be overcooked. Checking the internal temp with a thermometer is your best bet, always. Once you're comfortable cooking fish, you'll be able to tell without it.
Nancy August 29, 2018
Agree with HalfPint and ChefJune.
Use a thermometer two or three timed to get an idea of how fast your oven gets the fish to desired internal temp.
See also march 2016 article in cook's magazine, recommends low desired internal temp and explains why/how the proteins in wild fish can toughen up.
Nancy August 30, 2018
Here's the article. Cook's Illustrated. May 2016
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