With time-starved schedules and the desire to eat healthy, everyone needs easy favorite recipes they can turn to. Here is one I’ve done a lot this summer – steamed salmon. Never done it? It's an easy, healthy and fast way to cook salmon. Steaming: it’s not just for vegetables but an all round great cooking method. Read on to learn how to steam salmon fillets.
Why Steam Salmon
For years I have roasted, seared and oven finished, sautéed, baked in parchment, poached, even grilled salmon. A few months ago I started steaming salmon. You can have dinner on the table in minutes. About six minutes to be exact.
Steaming produces delicious, healthy, nutritious, moist salmon in a matter of minutes. Once water passes the boiling point, it turns to steam, and steam cooks quickly and gently. It’s a great cooking technique for delicate seafood. An average thick salmon fillet takes 5-6 minutes to steam (not much time!).
Skin the Salmon
Either ask the person at the seafood counter to do it for you, or do it yourself with a thin, flexible knife like a fillet knife. See photos below for how to skin a salmon filet. Next trim the bloodline.
Trim the Blood Line
The bloodline is the purple area you will see after skinning the salmon. It can be strong tasting, which is why many people think they don’t like salmon. Try trimming out the bloodline for milder flavor. If that doesn't bother you, leave it.
Remove Pin Bones
Run your fingers lightly over the fish feeling for any pin bones. If you find any, gently pull them out with clean pliers. You can buy fish pliers just to keep in the kitchen. I use mini needle nose fisherman's pliers because they are small and don’t take up much room in the drawer. You can also use tweezers.
When you pull out the pin bones, place two fingers over each side of the pin bone with one hand, and with the other hand and pliers, pull gently with (not against) the salmon so you disrupt the flesh as little as possible.
If your salmon filet has a thick end and a flatter, thinner end, not to worry. So that the thinner end does not over-cook, fold it under to create a more evenly thick piece of fish.
Season the top of the salmon fillets with sea salt, black pepper, and optionally granulated garlic. Lemon pepper is nice too.
You will need a large pot with a tight fitting lid. I use a Le Creuset 5 ½ quart Dutch oven. To hold the salmon during steaming use a stainless steel steaming basket. Be sure it opens flat and has a removable center post. The silicone ones work well too, as does a bamboo steamer basket.
Create a quick and flavorful broth for your salmon to steam in. Add water, lemon juice and lemon slices, white wine (optional), dried or fresh herbs, bay leaf, and garlic plus salt and pepper to the bottom of the pot.
With the lid on, bring broth to a boil over medium-high heat, then turn the heat down to low to simmer for 15-20 minutes allowing flavors to develop. If you are in a hurry, skip the simmering part.
Give the steamer a spritz of non-stick spray to insure easy release. Insert the steamer and place salmon on the rack. Place the lid back on for 5-6 minutes of cooking time. The salmon will be a light orange color when finished.
If you are nervous about cooking fish, it should be at 145º (63º C) when measured with a digital thermometer.
Steamed salmon can be served hot, near room temperature, or chilled. If serving chilled, you can steam it, place it on a sheet pan in the refrigerator, and chill it a few hours ahead of time.
For serving ideas, add a squeeze of lemon with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (lemon olive oil is terrific). For an Asian accent, try a toasted sesame oil and soy sauce combination sprinkled with green onions. Here are other sauce ideas for tasty steamed salmon:
- Creamy Citrus Mango Sauce (works nice with chilled steamed salmon as a dressing over fresh salads greens)
- Blackberry-wine sauce (from this recipe)
- A dollop of fresh basil pesto
- A tropical pineapple-mango salsa
- Nectarine and tomato chutney
- Preserved Lemon Sauce
- Mix together fresh dill, fresh lemon juice, a little Dijon mustard and mayo.
For more healthy recipes, try steamed salmon in a classic South-of-France salad called a Nicoise. It’s a delicious meal unto itself. Steaming salmon is an easy way to get this heart healthy fish into your diet. Looking for another salmon recipe? Try black and white sesame salmon or this simple stovetop seared salmon.
How To Steam Salmon
- Steamer rack (without center post) or bamboo steamer
- Large pot or Dutch Oven
- 1 ½ pounds salmon filet preferably wild
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon granulated garlic
- 3 cups water
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 garlic cloves peeled and crushed
- 1 cup white wine optional, add 1 cup water if not using
- 1 handful fresh thyme sprigs or 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 1 lemon quartered and squeezed into water and rinds added
- A few pinches of salt and pepper
Prep the Salmon Fillets
- If not skinned, first skin the salmon. See photos in post for help. Cut salmon filet into four equal pieces. If one has a flatter, thinner end, fold it under first to create an even piece. Drizzle with the oil then sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic.
Make the Steaming Broth
- Add water, bay leaf, garlic, wine, thyme, lemon, salt and pepper to the pot. Bring to a boil with lid on, then turn down to a low simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes to create a flavorful steaming broth. Note – the broth should come just to the bottom of your steamer. The quantity might need to be adjusted depending on the legs of your steamer. Turn the heat up until the broth is boiling and steam is coming out of the pan lid.
Steam Salmon Fillets
- Spray steamer rack with non-stick spray, add to pot, add salmon, and steam with lid on for 5-6 minutes or until salmon reaches 140°F-145ºF internally when measured with a digital thermometer. Timing will depend on the thickness of your salmon. Serve warm or chilled with sauce of choice. See post for ideas and recipe links.