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Moist, flaky poached salmon is such a simple, crowd-pleasing main course — we should all think of serving it much more often than we do. It makes such an elegant lunch, and since it’s terrific served at room temperature, it’s also the perfect make-ahead entree. Consider pairing it with a sauce. It could be a smooth, creamy sauce, like this Creamy Cilantro Sauce, or it could be more of a relish, like this Green Olive Tapenade

This recipe is for the easiest, no-frills poached salmon — the kind of poached salmon you can make on the stove while you are doing other things. There are a number of ways to poach salmon, and I usually choose the stovetop method. Then you can use the salmon in all kinds of ways, from Herbed Salmon Salad, Salmon Salad with Jalapeno Dressing, or Salmon, Arugula, and Avocado Salad.

How to Poach Salmon: The fastest and easiest way to poach salmon filets.

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Arctic Char vs. Salmon

You may notice the raw fish in these photos has a distinctly reddish-orange hue — that’s because I actually used arctic char here instead of “regular” salmon. Arctic char has a slightly milder flavor and more delicate texture than its salmon cousin and is an appealing fish for those who find the taste of salmon a bit strong (and the taste of wild salmon very strong). The color gets muted when the fish is cooked, but raw or rare, arctic char is a pretty, vivid hue.

Salmon in a skillet of water on a stovetop.

Ingredients

Additional seasonings or aromatics can be added to the water, such as peppercorns, sprigs of fresh herbs (dill and tarragon are very nice), sliced carrots, onions, celery, and so on. You can also sub in a cup or so of dry white wine for some of the water.

  • Salmon fillets – Or Arctic char, of course! No matter which type of salmon you buy, you’re going to want to find skin-on salmon for this recipe.
  • Kosher salt – That’s right, the only flavor you need to add to poached salmon is salt. That means you might as well use the good stuff. Go kosher!

How to Make Poached Salmon

  1. Put fish in the skillet: Place the fish skin side down (if applicable) in a deep skillet with a lid.
  2. Add water and salt: Add water to just cover the fish. Add the salt.
Woman pouring water into a skillet with salmon.
  1. Cook the salmon: Cover the pot and bring to a rapid simmer over high heat. As soon as the water is bubbling, remove the pot from the heat (or turn off the heat if you have a gas stove), and let the salmon sit, with the cover on, for 10 minutes.
Woman putting a lid onto a skillet with water, salt, and salmon.
  1. Check if it’s done. Lift the lid and check to see that it is cooked to your liking; it should be opaque throughout (no translucent parts in the center) and flake easily with a fork. You can replace the lid and let it sit in the hot liquid for a few more minutes if more well-done salmon is desired.
  2. Serve: Remove the salmon from the pan with a slotted fish spatula, or a regular spatula is just fine. Place on a plate and either serve warm or cool to room temperature. Or, transfer to the fridge and cull if desired.
Pouring cilantro sauce over poached salmon with sides.

Tips

  • This recipe gives directions for poaching two 8- to 10-ounce salmon filets, but the method for cooking more or fewer fish filets is largely the same. Add a few minutes to the prep if you are poaching a larger piece of fish.
  • Use a deep skillet with a lid, large enough to hold the fish with room for water to cover the filets. You will get the best results if you keep the fish in a single layer in the pan, so allow the amount of fish to dictate the size of the pan, and if you need to poach more salmon, do it in batches. Again, so little effort is required; this is not such a big deal.
  • Should you have a fish poaching pan, hooray! These are long, usually oval pans that are specially made for poaching large filets or whole fish. They usually have a rack inside so that once the fish is cooked, you can remove it from the pan without it falling apart. They aren’t that expensive, but they do take up storage space; they’re also not necessary to make perfectly poached fish.

Storage

When the salmon has cooled a bit, transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate until completely cooled, then serve chilled. You can keep the poached salmon in the fridge for up to 2 days before serving.

Person lifting a lid off of a skillet of salmon in water.

FAQs

What fish can be poached?

The poaching method I describe here works with salmon, arctic, char, and any other fish you find suitable for poaching. The most common fish to poach is salmon, but other fish like trout, halibut, and sole are also good. 

Is poached salmon healthy?

Poaching salmon is not only one of the easiest ways to cook this fish, but it’s also one of the healthiest. Salmon itself is super healthy, packed with lean protein and healthy Omega-3, and without any added fat, it’s at its most healthful. There are definitely some types of salmon that are better for you and better for the planet, and some to avoid or eat sparingly; see what seafoodwatch.org has to say about that.

Can I poach salmon with the skin on?

Keeping the skin on the fish helps hold its shape during cooking. You can remove the skin after poaching, as it will be softened and not all that texturally appealing. It’s easiest to peel off the skin once the fish has cooled to room temp or chilled. If you have fillets that do not have the skin, that’s fine, just use care (and a large spatula!) when removing the fish from the pan. That’s especially true if you want the filets to stay whole. If you are using the fish in an Herbed Salmon Salad, for instance, or another dish where the salmon will be chopped or flaked, this matters not a bit.

How long does it take to poach salmon?

It takes about 15 minutes to poach salmon, depending on the thickness of the fish. and the size of the piece. If you plan to poach it ahead of time and serve it cooled to room temperature or chilled, you’ll need to plan for that extra time.

What is the best liquid to use for poaching salmon?

I used just salted water here, which is obviously the easiest way to prepare poached salmon. You can also use a diluted vegetable broth, or seafood broth. You can add some dry white wine to the water or the diluted broth for a nice additional flavor.

How do I know if the salmon is fully cooked while poaching?

The salmon will be an opaque pink throughout and flake easily with a fork.

What to Serve With Poached Salmon

Poached salmon can be eaten warm, at room temperature, or chilled. Sauces like dill sauce or horseradish sauce are very popular accompaniments but also try other ideas like roasted tomato sauce, a tahini dressing, or a chimichurri sauce instead. (Honestly, there are few limits to what would pair up well with a beautiful piece of poached salmon.)

Summer Corn, Tomato and Bacon Salad

Braised Baby Artichokes with Leeks and Capers

Tomato, Zucchini and Bulgur Salad

Poached Salmon topped with Cilantro Sauce on a plate.

More Salmon Recipes

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How to Poach Salmon

5 from 4 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Total: 20 minutes
Servings: 2 People
The fastest, easiest way to poach salmon filets.

Ingredients 

  • 2 (8 to 10 ounce) filets salmon. (preferably with skin)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

Instructions 

  • Place the fish skin side down in a deep skillet with a lid. Add water to just cover the fish. Add the salt.
  • Cover the pot and bring to a rapid simmer over high heat. As soon as the water is bubbling, remove the pot from the heat (or turn off the heat if you have a gas stove), and let the salmon sit for 10 minutes. Lift the lid and check to see that it is cooked to your liking; it should be opaque throughout (no translucent parts in the center) and flake easily with a fork. You can replace the lid and let it sit in the hot liquid for a few more minutes if more well-done salmon is desired.
  • Remove the salmon from the pan with a slotted fish spatula, or a regular spatula is just fine. Remove the skin carefully if you plan to serve it warm. If not, you can remove the skin when the salmon has cooled to your serving temperature.
  • Place on a plate and either serve warm or cool to room temperature. Or, when the salmon has cooled a bit, transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate until completely cooled, then serve chilled. You can keep the poached salmon in the fridge for up to 2 days before serving.

Notes

  • This recipe gives directions for poaching two 8- to 10-ounce salmon filets, but the method for cooking more or fewer fish filets is largely the same. Add a few minutes to the prep if you are poaching a larger piece of fish.
  • Use a deep skillet with a lid, large enough to hold the fish with room for water to cover the filets. You will get the best results if you keep the fish in a single layer in the pan, so allow the amount of fish to dictate the size of the pan, and if you need to poach more salmon, do it in batches. Again, so little effort is required; this is not such a big deal.
  • Should you have a fish poaching pan, hooray! These are long, usually oval pans that are specially made for poaching large filets or whole fish. They usually come with a rack inside so that once the fish is cooked, you can remove it from the pan without it falling apart. They aren’t that expensive, but they do take up storage space; they’re also not necessary to make perfectly poached fish.
  • Additional seasonings or aromatics can be added to the water, such as peppercorns, sprigs of fresh herbs (dill and tarragon are very nice), sliced carrots, onions, celery, and so on. You can also sub in a cup or so of dry white wine for some of the water.
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Nutrition

Calories: 403kcal, Protein: 56g, Fat: 18g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Cholesterol: 156mg, Sodium: 3613mg, Potassium: 1390mg, Vitamin A: 113IU, Calcium: 36mg, Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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