Cooking Salmon

salmonI have a shameful secret. Although I live in the Pacific Northwest, I do not enjoy salmon. It’s nothing personal. It’s more that I just do not like any fish that tastes fishy. That pretty much precludes anything except for halibut, and sometimes even that is over the top as far as I am concerned.

On the other hand, I live in a household of fish lovers, and we frequently entertain other fish lovers. Therefore, in spite of my personal taste, I’ve had to learn to cook salmon. I have two recipes that glean particular praise and are relatively easy. Even I don’t mind eating salmon prepared this way. Love might be going a bit far because I simply do not like fish, but others do love these and I can eat them without gagging. Thanks to Cooks Illustrated, where I learned the perfect method for grilling salmon using a two-level heat system.

Some tips for selecting salmon.

  • Select the freshest fish you can get, and cook it within 24 hours. The flesh should be bright pink, and it should not smell “fishy,” but rather clean and slightly briny.
  • Rinse and dry the fish before you cook it.
  • For best flavor, choose wild caught Pacific salmon. If you’d like a real treat, use these recipes with Copper River salmon when it becomes available in the spring.
  • I prefer cooking filets to steaks. Use pliers to remove any small bones, and cut the salmon into individual-sized pieces to cook.
  • These are grilling recipes. You can alter them for sauteing on the stovetop, however. Heat your pan over medium high heat, add a little olive oil, and saute starting skin side down. It should take about 3 minutes per side. Glaze before flipping the salmon. You can also use an indoor grill like the Foreman grill. Glaze the salmon before placing on the grill. It will take about 2-4 minutes to cook the salmon through.
  • Other glazes that work well with salmon include honey and reduced balsamic vinegar with a little sugar added.

Salmon with Cherry Orange Glaze

  • Juice of one orange and 2 strips of orange zest about 1″ x 1/2″
  • Juice of one lemon
  • One cinnamon stick
  • 3-4 whole cloves
  • 1/2 cup cherry preserves
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup port
  • 1/4 cup marmalade
  • 2 teaspoons of cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne (or to taste)
  • Salmon filets, cut into individual sized pieces
  • Salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste


  1. Over a high heat, bring orange juice and zest, lemon juice, cinnamon, cloves, cherry preserves, and chicken broth to a boil. Lower heat to medium and allow to simmer and reduce by about 1/4 – about 10 minutes.
  2. Remove cinnamon, cloves, and orange zest.
  3. Add port and marmalade and simmer about five minutes.
  4. Dissolve the cornstarch in water and whisk into glaze. Simmer to thicken, about 15 seconds.
  5. Add cayenne and taste for seasoning. Add salt and pepper as needed.
  6. Cool sauce.
  7. Season salmon fillets, and preheat your grill over high heat. Turn off one half of the grill and leave the other on high.
  8. Carefully clean the grill and oil it.
  9. Place salmon on grill over the hot side, flesh side down for one minute.
  10. Flip salmon to skin-side and glaze the top. Allow to cook for 3-4 minutes, until salmon is opaque about 1/2 to 3/4 through the fish. Glaze the salmon with sauce.
  11. Oil the side of the grill with the burners turned off. Flip the salmon flesh side down again onto the oiled part of the grill. Allow salmon to cook through and begin to caramelize, about two minutes. Serve immediately with glaze on the side.
  12. Reglaze the salmon, and serve.

Maple Glazed Salmon

  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • Dash cayenne
  • Salmon filets cut into individual portions
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Preheat grill on high.
  2. Combine maple syrup and soy sauce in a shallow pan.
  3. Place salmon fillets, flesh-side down, in soy/maple mixture and allow to marinate at room temperature, about 15 minutes.
  4. Remove salmon from marinade and pour marinade into a pan. Bring marinade to a boil and simmer to reduce until thick and syrupy. Add cayenne.
  5. Season salmon with salt and pepper.
  6. Clean the grill and turn heat off on one side.
  7. Oil the grill on the hot side.
  8. Place salmon, flesh side down on hot oiled grill, about one minute.
  9. Flip the salmon to skin side down on the hot side and grill for about 3-4 minutes. Glaze salmon.
  10. Oil the cooler side of the grill. Flip the salmon onto the oiled grill, flesh side down, and allow to cook until glaze begins to caramelize, about two minutes.

A classic northwest pairing? Salmon and Pinot Noir. Try a powerful Oregon Pinot from Beaux Frerers.


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