While fish may not be quite as popular in parts of the world that are not too close to bodies of water, in river-, lake-, and ocean-adjacent locations, seafood becomes a staple that countless people love and appreciate.
There are numerous fish in the waters to pick from, with each and every one of them having their perks over another kind of fish.
If you are interested in cooking your fish in the oven, you will first want to remember that things aren’t quite as straightforward and specific as you might expect them to be.
While you can often put some meats on a baking tray and leave them alone for half an hour, you have to tend to fish a little bit more than this if you want them to turn out properly.
The question then becomes a matter of the type of fish you are working with. Some types of fish are easy to handle, easy to cook, and generally easy to digest, while other more exotic kinds of fish will require extensive preparation.
Naturally, not everyone wants to deal with lengthy preparations to eat a single serving of seafood, so it is best to learn how to cook some of the more common and easier to work with types of seafood, such as salmon.
Salmon is one of the most popular fish to eat all across the world and because of this, there are a few ways that you can go about cooking your fish in the oven so that it turns out perfectly.
There are three main ways that people can cook their salmon, including on top of foil, underneath foil, and even wrapped with paper.
Whether or not you should use foil for your salmon is completely up to how you want it to cook your salmon, with covered salmon often being better at retaining moisture than uncovered salmon.
Baking Salmon with Foil
This is by far the easiest and most prominent way that people will bake their salmon for home cooking and even some restaurants use. All you will need for this is an oven-safe baking dish of any material and enough foil to cover the dish completely.
As you can imagine with those materials, cooking the salmon with foil on it is incredibly simple. First things first; you will want to prepare the salmon however you choose.
Because salmon is such a versatile fish, there are quite a few ways that you can prepare the salmon to be cooked. If you are planning on putting it in a baking dish and covering it with foil, the main points you will want to keep in mind are leaving the skin on the filet of fish you are working with and cooking with that side of the skin facing downward.
Doing this will help the fish retain its moisture, which is even more important in salmon because it tends to lose moisture easily, especially when cooking it in the oven. This is partially what the foil is for as well.
Once the salmon is prepared, you will want to set your oven to a temperature between 325 degrees Fahrenheit and 375 degrees Fahrenheit, which is between 175 and 195 Celsius.
You should have your temperature on the lower end of this scale for smaller filets or if you want to be cautious about moisture, though if you know what you are doing and have a larger filet, you should have the temperature on the higher setting.
Next, all you need to do is use a sheet of foil and cover the baking dish with it, making sure that it is fully covered, though not too tightly.
The foil will be used to trap the steam back in the container, allowing it to be reabsorbed into the fish, which will help it from losing too much moisture while it is cooking so you don’t have a dry salmon to work with.
From here, all you have to do is check the fish every so often to ensure that it is properly cooked and that it does not dry out when you are cooking it, as it can take some practice to cook salmon perfectly.
What About Uncovered?
You can absolutely cook your salmon in the oven without covering it, but be mindful that your salmon will be particularly prone to drying out this way.
For people who do not mind a dry salmon or who have dipping sauces that will negate the dryness, this method may end up working out quite fine.
Rather than placing the salmon in a baking dish that you can cover, you will want to grease some foil and line a baking tray with it. The baking tray should be large enough to fit the salmon slice that you are working with.
The oven temperature should be about 450 degrees for salmon filets, or closer to 350 degrees if the fish is completely ready to cook with its organs removed (pan-dressed).
For this method of cooking, you will want to aim for about four to six minutes per half inch of thickness, and for dressed salmon, you will want to cook it for six to nine minutes per eight ounces of fish you have.
Using Paper to Cook Salmon
A rather unique yet elegant way to cook your salmon in the oven is to use parchment paper and a low temperature. Baking salmon in this method is officially known as baking it en papillote, which literally means “in paper.”
The oven should be no hotter than 350 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 177 degrees Celsius for this method of cooking, since you will be using parchment paper to essentially wrap the salmon and parchment paper should not be exposed to extreme heats.
Additionally, cleaning up after this method of cooking is notoriously easy, as all you have to do is throw away the paper that you baked the fish on.
When preparing salmon to be cooked in paper, you will want to leave the salmon skin on the filet and bake it skin-side down as you normally would. You will also want to rinse the filets you are cooking with cold water and dab them dry with paper towels (or letting them air-dry, if you would rather).
You will then want to fold your sheet of parchment paper in half, placing the salmon on the center side of one half of the paper, which will allow you for enough room to fold the paper over it again.
You will then want to decorate the salmon with whatever herbs, vegetables, or even aromatics that you want to add to the salmon to enhance the taste.
You can add either olive oil or white wine (or both) to the wine to keep the bit of fish flavorful and moist while it is cooking in the oven. You can substitute butter for the olive oil if you prefer, adding a tablespoon of butter in place of a small drizzle, as some people say this offers a much deeper flavor to the salmon.
You will then want to fold the parchment paper into a triangle, folding the edges over and creating overlapping sections that will effectively let the salmon cook in its own juices as well as any vegetable juice that comes from the garnishes you added.
Be mindful not to seal the fish too tightly in the paper as it should end up being snug but not cramped, and do not tape it together.
You should place the salmon on a small, oven-safe baking dish that can hold the salmon. You can then bake the salmon for about 20 to 25 minutes, with the filet being opaque and flaky by the time it comes out of the oven; by the time that’s done, you can unwrap your salmon and serve it to be eaten.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.