Paula Wolfert’s Oven-Steamed Salmon
We love eating wild salmon in the Brain Works Kitchen, both for its delectable flavor and its brain healthy profile of omega-3s. But wild salmon can be pricey, right? So the last thing I want to do is end up with a dried out filet. Ever since I discovered Paula Wolfert’s method of oven-steamed salmon from the book Unforgettable: The Bold Flavors of Paula Wolfert’s Renegade Life by Emily Kaiser Thelin, my salmon turns out perfectly medium-rare every time.
Oven-steam salmon low and slow
Low and slow is the way to go when roasting salmon in the oven. Wolfert advises an oven temperature between 225ºF and 275ºF. If I am cooking salmon for a crowd, I’ll go with the higher temp; otherwise I stick with 225ºF.
Use a thin baking sheet
The salmon filet is placed on a THIN BAKING SHEET that has been rubbed with olive oil. Sorry to shout, but using the correct pan is crucial here. Use your flimsiest baking sheet — maybe an old cookie sheet?— to help the salmon get to the right temperature. If you only have a sturdy, high quality baking pan, that’s ok too. Just place it in the oven to preheat before placing the salmon filet on it.
A pan of boiling water in the oven keeps the salmon moist
Wolfert then asks us to place a frying pan of boiling water on the lowest rack. Here’s the easiest way to do this: I use a large saucepan instead; it’s harder to spill when filled with boiling water. I place the saucepan on the lowest rack, pull the rack out, then pour boiling water from a tea kettle into it. Much easier (and safer) than filling a shallow frying pan with hot water then transferring it to the oven.
When cooking salmon, an instant read thermometer is your friend
Once your salmon is in the oven and the pan is filled with boiling water, close the oven door and set the timer. A 5-0z filet should take 10-12 minutes. A 2 1/2 pound side of salmon should take 20-22 minutes. If you have an instant read thermometer, it takes the guesswork out of perfectly cooked salmon. Insert into the thickest part of the salmon: 110ºF for rare, 115ºF for medium-rare, and 120ºF for medium. I like mine between rare and medium-rare so I’ll pull it from the oven when the thermometer hits 112ºF and let it sit for a few more minutes on the pan.
Once you’ve made this a few times in your own oven, you likely won’t need to take the salmon’s temp. You’ll be able to tell when it’s done based on its rosy hue.
Salmon steamed in the oven turns out juicy and moist every time. It’s great served warm or at room temperature, making it a perfect potluck dish. I also like leftover salmon served cold atop a grain bowl or salad the next day.
Choose the most sustainable, healthful salmon
I have a most excellent salmon source — Pride of Bristol Bay — so I buy my salmon by the case at the end of the Alaskan salmon season. It’s the highest quality wild sockeye salmon available, and I get a good price by buying direct from the fisherman. You can read more about choosing the most healthful, sustainable salmon here and order from Pride of Bristol Bay on their website here.
Great salmon deserves a great sauce: Try it with my Roasted Lemon Salsa Verde.