How to Poach Salmon

Simple Poached Salmon

Moist, silky flaky poached salmon is such a simple and crowd-pleasing main course, we should all think of it more often than we do.

There are a number of ways to poach salmon – on the stovetop or in the oven are two methods, for starters.  Some cooks choose to use different liquids to poach their fish, such as white wine, or even a diluted broth.  Sometimes seasonings or aromatics are added to the liquid, such as herbs, carrots, celery, and so on.

This is a very no frills poached salmon, the kind of poached salmon you can make while you are doing other things and essentially it will take no time out of your life.

What Kind of Pan To Poach Salmon In

This recipe gives directions for poaching two 8-to-10 ounce salmon filets, but the method for cooking more or less fish filets is largely the same.  Also, while you may have to add a few minutes if you are poaching a single large piece of fish, and a few more still if you are poaching a whole side of salmon,the method remains the same.

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.

How to Poach Salmon

Should you have a fish poaching pan, hooray.  These are long, usually oval pans that are especially 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, so they are not for everyone, and also not necessary to use to make perfectly poached fish (unless you’re going for the whole side; then you kind of have to go for it, or do an oven poached method)..

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 instead of “regular” salmon.  Arctic char has a slightly milder flavor and more delicate texture than its salmon cousin, and for those who find the taste of salmon a bit strong (and the taste of wild salmon very strong), is an appealing fish.  The color gets muted when it’s cooked, but raw or rare it is a pretty, vivid hue.

What Fish Can Be Poached?

The following method 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.  And of course, artic char.

How to Poach Salmon: The simplest way to poach salmon filets.

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How to Poach Salmon

Poaching 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 of the skin once the fish has cooled to room temp or chilled.  If you have filets that do not have the skin, that’s fine, just use care (and a large sptula!) when removing the fish from the pan if you want the filets to stay whole.  If you are using the fish in a salmon salad, for instance, or another dish where the salmon will be chopped of flaked, this matters not a bit.

Is Poached Salmon Healthy?

Poaching salmon is not only one of the easiest ways to cook this fish, it’s also one of the healthiest.  Salmon itself is super healthy (though there are definitely some types of salmon that are better for you, and some to avoid or eat sparingly; see what seafoodwatch.org has to say about that.)

How to Serve Poached Salmon

Poached salmon can be eaten warm, at room temperature, or chilled.  Served on its own, the flavor is very straightforward, though it you choose to add some other ingredients to your cooking liquid, or use a cooking liquid with a pronounced flavor, like wine, the fish will pick up those flavors, too.

Whatever temperature you choose to serve your salmon, you have the option of adding a sauce of some sort.  It could be a smooth, creamy sauce, like this Creamy Cilantro Sauce.  It could be more of a relish, like this Green Olive Tapenade.  It could be a roasted tomato sauce, a tahini dressing, or a chimichurri sauce.  Really there are few limits to what would pair up nicely with a piece of poached salmon.

Poached Salmon with Cilantro Sauce

The sauce or condiment can also be served at the same temp as the fish, so you have choices there.

How to Make Poached Salmon

Place the fish skin side down in a deep skillet with a lid.  

How to Poach Salmon

Add water to just cover the fish. 

How to Poach Salmon

Add the salt.

How to Poach 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 for 10 minutes.  

How to Poach Salmon

Lift the lid and check to see that it is cooked to your liking; you can add another few 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.  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 the fridge for up to 2 days before serving.

What to Serve with Poached Salmon:

Other Salmon Recipes:

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How to Poach Salmon

The simplest way to poach salmon filets.
Yield: 2 People
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes

Ingredients

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

Directions

  • 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; you can add another few 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 the fridge for up to 2 days before serving.

Nutrition Information

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

The nutrition values are provided as an estimate. It is not intended as a substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare professional.

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