Here is how I make sure my salmon is perfectly done, every time. This method works for me whether I’m broiling the salmon, baking it in the oven at 450 F, or cooking it on the grill.
This recipe evolved from a similar dish in one of my favorite cookbooks, Weber’s Art of the Grill. (Which is now out of print, but you can still find used copies on Amazon.) You can grill it if you like, or broil it in the oven. The herbs get nice and crispy as they cook, and marry together in a wonderful, savory complement to the flavor of the salmon. Over the years, I’ve come to just throw it together by memory, and I tend to put in quite a bit more herbs than the original called for. (The recipe that follows is my version.)
It involves a little bit of herb chopping, but if you want, you can let your food processor do that. Then, it’s just stir, spread, and broil or grill. So easy!
Recipe: Herb-crusted salmon
1 lb. salmon fillet
1 handful of fresh cilantro, rough chopped
1 handful of fresh parsley, ditto
1 handful of fresh basil, ditto (or about a tablespoon of dried)
2 T. olive oil
1 t. soy sauce
1/2 t. chili powder (or ancho chili powder)
1/4 t. kosher salt
pepper to taste
Preheat your grill or broiler (whichever you’re using). If using the oven, place the top rack about 6″ from the heat.
If using a broiler, coat a 9 x 13″ pan with cooking spray, a generous brushing of canola oil, or line the bottom with foil.
Chop all of the herbs coarsely and put them in a small bowl. They don’t need to be finely minced, because they will shrink some and get crispy as they cook. Here’s the cilantro, before and after.
Add in the 2 T. olive oil, the soy sauce, and chili powder, and stir till everything is well combined.
Lay your salmon skin side down in the baking pan (or on whatever surface you’ll use to transfer it to the grill). Scoop the herb mixture on top of the salmon, and spread it around into a thick, fairly consistent layer. There will be bits of salmon showing through here and there; that’s okay.
Once the herb mixture is on, sprinkle it lightly with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to your liking. You don’t need much salt, because the chunks are big and will be the first thing to hit your tongue. (I highly recommend kosher salt, but if you’re using regular salt, use half as much.)
For the grill: Place the fish herb side down on the grate. I know, it seems wrong! You think all the herbs will fall off, but trust me. A few may fall off, but most of them don’t! Our propane grill instructions say to turn the three burners to medium/off/medium. Do what works best on your particular grill. Close grill and cook that side for half the total cooking time. When it’s half through, flip it herb side up, and cook until it’s done.
For the broiler: Place the baking pan — with the fish herb side up — in the oven. Bake it there for five minutes, then move the rack down one row to complete cooking.
Your total cooking time should be 10 minutes per inch of thickness, measured at the thickest part.
When is it done? I’ll repeat an earlier posting… “A minute or two before the recommended time, check your fish. Just poke a fork gently into the side at a thick place, and pull it up a bit to see if it flakes easily. You can also pull up just enough to see the interior of the fish, and see if it’s done to your liking. Some people like their salmon a bit rare, so that it’s orangey-er on the inside. Not me: I like it just done all the way through, but just so — not overdone and dry.”
Then remove from the heat, slide a spatula between the skin and the fish, and slip it onto your serving plate, herb side up.
Once you’ve tried this, feel free to experiment with your choice of herbs and spices. Let me know how it comes out!