Do a quick search for the best salmon temperature and chances are you’ll see the big, bold number “145°F” right at the top of your search page. Unfortunately, cooking salmon at this temperature will ruin your fish, leaving it tasting tough and chewy, and quite tasteless.
In truth, salmon is best cooked between 120°F and 125°F. But where does the 145°F figure come from? And is it safe to cook salmon lower than that?
If you have any questions about where these numbers come from, read on.
Cookbook: Salmon marinated in miso
Why Some People Say Salmon Should Be Cooked at 145°F
145°F is the temperature recommended by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which sets food safety regulations here in the United States. The USDA arrived at this number because the primary microorganism that causes foodborne illness in seafood and fish is Listeria, and 145°F is hot enough to more or less kill bacteria instantly.
Howeveras J. Kenji Lopez-Alt notes in his book Food and Science, food laboratory, “there is no simple temperature limit that defines when chicken [or fish, or meat of any kind] are safe to consume: it’s more of a combination of temperature and time.”
So, although 145°F can kill Listeria bacteria immediately, if salmon is cooked at a slightly lower temperature it should still be safe to eat, as it will not immediately return to the lower temperature.
Why 125°F is a much better temperature for cooking salmon
If you’ve ever cooked fish at 145°F, you’ve probably noticed that it tastes dry, rubbery, maybe a little chalky. You may notice white slime (albumin) coming out of the fish and accumulating on the plate or on the fish itself. It’s overcooked! However, between 120°F and 125°F, salmon is much softer and tastier. It can be cut easily with the side of a fork and doesn’t flake or fall apart as easily.
Cookbook: Salmon with Butter
Can salmon be cooked even below 125°F?
Some people prefer cooked salmon even rarer – and that too can be safe, if you use good fish from a good source. As sushi lovers know, even raw salmon is safe to eat and, in general, the risk of foodborne illness is low if the ingredients have been properly handled and stored.
What happens if I overcook the salmon?
Although not as tasty, overcooked fish is completely safe to eat, as long as it hasn’t been charred in charcoal. So if you find you’ve left it in the pan or oven too long, don’t worry! You can still eat it – and you can try again the next time you cook it.
What is the best temperature to cook salmon?
When cooking salmon, the higher your oven temperature, the faster the salmon fillets will cook. So if you’re trying to cook dinner faster you might want to use a higher temperature but if you’re constantly overcooking your fish then lowering the temperature will give you more dampening in terms of checking the fish and making sure it is not overcooked.
No matter what temperature you use, you should never just put fish in the oven, set a timer, and then walk away; oven temperatures can vary widely and the thickness of the fish (more if it’s straight from the fridge or has been fully thawed) will make a big difference. So it’s always a good idea to check it regularly, preferably with a food thermometer.
But in general, when cooking fillets, at 425°F, salmon will be cooked in 7-9 minutesand if you want to cook it a little slower, at 350°F, the salmon will be cooked in 15-20 minutes.
Read more: 25+ smart and easy ways to turn salmon into dinner tonight
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