How to Poach Salmon

An easy and delicious method for getting great, flaky salmon every time.

Poached salmon is one of those dishes that's elegant enough to wow company, yet foolproof enough to be mastered by even the most inexperienced of cooks. The moist heat cooking method is gentle and the infused flavors are subtle, so it's difficult to accidentally go overboard. If you're new to salmon and a little nervous about the dangers of overcooked fish, poached salmon is a great dish to start with.

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1 Pick your salmon

Poaching only imparts a light amount of flavor, so make sure to start with salmon that is extra fresh. Look for a firm-fleshed filet that is bright and translucent, but remember that color can vary from species to species, so the depth of color is not an indicator of quality. Stay away from fish that looks soft, mushy, dull or has a strong fishy odor.


2 Remove the scales

The skin will help keep the filets intact as they poach, but if it still has scales (look for the telltale metallic sheen), they'll need to be removed before cooking. Simply scrape against the grain with the blade of a chef's knife to dislodge the scales and then rinse under cool water to remove any stragglers. Pat the filets dry with a paper towel and season lightly with salt.

If you purchase one large filet, it will be easier to remove the scales before cutting it into smaller single serving portions.

3 Pick your flavors

Choosing items to flavor the poaching liquid is the fun part; the possibilities are endless. You can choose any number of herbs, vegetables or broths in which to poach your salmon, but my favorite combination is fresh lemon, onion, dill, parsley and white wine. The flavor is light, fresh and perfectly complements the creamy fish. Try experimenting with other fresh herbs like thyme, marjoram, fennel, shallots or leeks.

4 Prepare the poaching liquid

Cover the bottom of a deep 12-inch skillet with thinly sliced lemon, onion and a few sprigs of fresh dill and parsley. Add two to three cups of water to the skillet (or enough to fill the skillet 1/2 way full), plus 1/2 cup of dry white wine, like Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay. A 12-inch skillet will be large enough to poach about four six-ounce portions of salmon at one time.


5 Add the salmon

Place a lid on the skillet and bring the liquid up to a boil over high heat. As soon as it reaches a boil, use a spatula to gently lower the fish into the liquid, skin side down. The liquid does not need to completely cover the fish.

6 Poach the salmon

Place a lid on the skillet, reduce the heat to low, and let the liquid continue to gently simmer for five to eight minutes, depending on the thickness of the filet. To test the doneness of the fish, gently press the thickest part of the filet with your finger. It should be firm, but not hard.

7 Remove the salmon and pat dry

Use a spatula to carefully transfer the fish to a paper towel covered plate to drain. Gently pat the top of the fish with a paper towel to remove excess liquid.


8 Serve and enjoy

Serve the salmon warm, sprinkled with a few fresh herbs, salt and pepper. Pair the salmon with a fresh salad and the remainder of the white wine for an incredibly simple and elegant summertime meal. Poached salmon can also be chilled, flaked and then added to salads and sandwiches, or used to make salmon cakes.

About Budget Bytes

Beth from Budget Bytes is a food lover and a number cruncher who dishes up  healthy recipes on her blog that won't put a huge dent in your wallet. She is the author of the cookbook, Budget Bytes: Over 100 Easy Delicious Recipes to Slash Your Grocery Bill in Half, and she also works as a microbiologist in a hospital laboratory. Follow her on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.