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22.11.2013 admin
At least, that's what I would've said about a decade ago, when the only salmon I had tasted was over-poached at buffets or overcooked at restaurants that frankly didn't quite know what they were doing. It wasn't until I started cooking in nice restaurants (the kind that I could never afford to go to as a civilian) that I realized that it wasn't the salmon that was at fault, but rather (as usual) the cook. But before we even begin cooking it, let's take a quick look at what you might find at the fish counter.
King Salmon, also know as chinook, are the largest salmon species and one of the most popular at the fish counter. Sockeye Salmon get their name from a Halkomelem word from the indigenous people of British Columbia. In general, I prefer larger, fattier King Salmon for high-heat cooking methods like pan roasting.
Like the TMNT character of the same name, there may be something soft and tender underneath, but the dried out, stringy, crusty, downright malicious exterior is all you can pay attention to.
Just like all meats, the texture of salmon flesh alters as a direct result of the temperature is it raised to. So your goal is really to keep as much of the salmon below the 140°F temperature range (and preferably closer to the 125° range) as possible.
It fulfills the exact same role that a batter or breading supplies on a piece of fried chicken or a tempura shrimp—a buffer to slow down heat transfer and provide a crisp element while still keeping the flesh underneath from overcooking. First off, if you aren't careful, you still get the leaky albumen problem with skin-on salmon filets. It's not the end of the world—what's left of the skin is still relatively crisp, and the flesh underneath may be perfectly cooked, but it's certainly not the kind of thing that's gonna impress the mother-in-law. After cooking through several pounds of salmon filets on at various temperature ranges, it turns out that the key to getting your skin to stay intact is serendipitously the same method that gets you the most evenly cooked, moistest, tenderest salmon. With tender fish, on the other hand, it's very easy for it to stick to the pan better than it sticks to itself.
Salmon skin shrinks as it cooks due to proteins tightening and water and fat being driven off.
To counteract this problem, I use a flexible metal fish spatula to hold the filets firmly in place as their bottom layers cook.
In order to get perfectly crisp, rendered skin, three things need to happen simultaneously: fat needs to render out, water need to evaporate, and proteins need to set. You end up with salmon skin that is slightly crisp in spotty patches on the exterior layers, while still gelatinous, greasy, and fatty underneath. And here's another bird to kill with that same stone: slow and steady cooking also leads to a more evenly cooked finished result.
If there's one most important trick I've learned about pan-roasting foods in all my years cooking, it's this one: never force your food out of the pan.
That is, unless you are like me and stop to take photos while the salmon is in the skillet thereby letting it come all the way up to 137°F when you were aiming for 120°F. Just a repeat from what I said earlier: cook your fish almost all the way through skin-side down, as this is the side that's insulated. Perfectly renderd, brown, crisp, thin, salty, crackling skin with no more greasy, gelatinous fat underneath. It's good enough to eat on its own (or with a squeeze of lemon and a big drizzle of olive oil), but I feel like the strong flavor of salmon does very well with other bold flavors, so I went ahead and topped mine with a chunky relish made with oilves, capers, anchovies, and a few other aromatics. It's bold enough to pair well with the salmon flesh, but soft-spoken enough to let the fish do the talkin'. Cut your broccoli as pictured, and put it in the pan with the rest, covering again once done. Apply a little salt to the top, I used pink Himalayan rock salt, and I can’t recommend it highly enough! I don't know if I was running the right circles, but it seemed de rigeur in my youth to cook salmon to a shade just past well-done. It was the pink fish that skinny people ordered at restaurants or fancy ladies in French hats would pick at on a high class buffet.

Over the course of the next few weeks, the folks at Copper River Salmon will be sending us samples of various salmon species, so stay tuned for some more detailed updates! In the wild they an grow to over 100 pounds and live for several years, making them prized amongst game fisherman. With relatively little intramuscular fat and a very fine texture, they're great for cured preparations such as gravlax. Their thicker size and higher fat content offer a little more protection from overcooking or drying out, things that salmon is prone to do in the high heat of a pan or an oven. Not only does it make the finished cooked filet look like a pock-marked teenage crater-face, it also makes the pan a bitch and a half to clean when you're done. The white gunk that gets squeezed out of the layers of salmon flesh, oozy and unattractive like a popped pimple (what's up with the blemish similes today?). This is the bulk of the matter, and if you get your salmon filets skinless, then it's basically all you're left with. Depending on the species of salmon, the time of year, the availability of food, and a number of other factors, the thickness of the fat can vary, but all salmon have got it.
We know that the role of that fat is to insulate the salmon against rapid temperature changes, so why not harness that feature in our cooking method?
The connective tissue between layers of flesh has begun to weaken and if you insert a cake tester or toothpick into the filet, it should slide in and out with no resistence.
Flakiness will increase, and a chalky texture will start to develop, though it won't be extreme. To do this, make sure to always cook your salmon skin on if you're pan-roasting, even if you plan on serving it skinless*. At its worst, the skin gets solidly fused to the skillet and you end up completely separating the meat from the skin as it cooks. It's not just a matter of being, well, sticky, it's actual a chemical bond that occurs between the fish and the pan at a molecular level. Rather than working towards searing your meat, the energy from the hot oil ends up getting used to evaporate excess moisture.
Preheating the pan over a relatively high heat to prevent the sticking problems explained in Tip #1, then immediately reducing the heat once the salmon is added solves this problem. If you've been following my work at all, you'll know I'm a huge fan of the Thermapen instant-read thermometer. Let me rephrase that to say, you will rarely, repeat rarely overcook your meat, and when you do, you'll know it's overcooked before it ever reaches your mouth. A thin layer of ever-so-slightly flaky meat underneath that, followed by a wide expanse of tender, juicy, not-the-least-bit-chalky flesh, and a central core with a creamy, buttery texture bordering on sashimi-esque. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Managing Culinary Director of Serious Eats, and author of the James Beard Award-nominated column The Food Lab, where he unravels the science of home cooking. This recipe teaches you how to perfectly cook a fillet of salmon, and we’re going to couple it with mushrooms and broccoli to make for a massive hit of potassium. It will look like the skin is burning, and a tiny part of it might be, but it’s usually safe to keep going for a little while. We didn't seem to exit these culinary dark ages until some time in the '90s, by which time my bias against the fish had already been firmly established. Crisp, crackly, crunchy skin that can rival the best roast chicken's; tender, moist, flavorful meat that melts across your tongue like butter.
These days, diners are a little more aware of what's out there, or at least that there are options when it comes to specific salmon species.
Large, thick filets make for relatively easy cooking, though they are not the most flavorful species.
Known for their deep red flesh and full flavor, they are quite small, which makes them difficult to cook—thinner filets are prone to overcooking. But they have a similar reddish-orange flesh colored by the carotenoid pigments they get from feasting on small shellfish.
It's not just that it's something you don't want to eat, it's also a pretty surefire indication that the salmon you are about to put in your mouth has been overcooked beyond repair.

When was the last time you looked closely at the cross section of a salmon filet, I mean really closely? Depending on the species of salmon, the color can vary from a deep, dark red to a paler orangey pink. It serves both as an energy store for the fish, and as a means of insulating its body from the large temperature changes between ocean waters and the rivers is swims to during spawning season. Salmon skin is some of the nicest around, very similar in thickness and texture to chicken skin, making it ideal for cooking.
The meat is relatively opaque, but still juicy and moist without and chalkiness or fibrousness. Albumen will start to get expelled from the between the contracting muscle fibers and will begin to coagulate in unattractive white clumps on the exterior of the salmon. This is what salmon that sits in the steam table at the cafeteria looks like, and probably why you didn't like eating salmon as a kid. By cooking salmon with the skin on, you can all but alleviate any sort of overcooking problems on the outer layers of flesh.
This in itself is not a terrible thing if you don't plan on eating the skin anyway, and indeed, if you want a skinless filet, it's the best way to do it: cook the filet skin-on, the slide a thin spatula in between the skin and the flesh to separate them.
The temperature rapidly climbs, and your proteins set and start to burn before your fat has had a chance to render out properly.
You end up with shatteringly crisp, perfectly rendered, brown crunchy skin just like the best pan-seared chicken. I use a thin, flexible metal fish spatula for all of my flipping, but if I find that after some very gently prying the fish doesn't release, it means that it's not ready to come yet.
A restaurant-trained chef and former Editor at Cook's Illustrated magazine, he is the author of the New York Times best-selling cookbook The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science, available now wherever books are sold.
Farm-raised king salmon tend to be smaller with a bit more intramuscular fat, giving them more richness. Their flavor and cooking qualities are quite similar to Sockeye Salmon, though they tend to be a little fattier. In the early stages of this clumping, your salmon is still rescuable (just stop cooking it IMMEDIATELY).
The insulative subcutaneous fat acts as a heat barrier, transmitting heat to the interior flesh very, very slowly. With a hot enough pan and enough fat in it, the skin will have heated up, causing its proteins to tighten and coagulate before it even comes into contact with the hot metal. I press my salmon filets firmly between paper towels before I transfer it to the pan skin side down.
This curvature can cause uneven cooking—the edges of the skin in tight contact with the pan will end up overcooking and burning, while the central regions that are lifted off the pan will barely cook at all. Let it continue cooking and once the skin is completely rendered and crisp, it should detach itself from the pan quite easily.
This slow heat transfer means that skin-on salmon cooks much more evenly and gently than skinless salmon. This prevents it from forming a strong molecular bond with the metal and makes subsequent flipping easier.
The worst you'll get is a deposit of browned proteins that have been expelled from the meat as it cooks. Fancy pants French chefs who want to sound nerdy like to call this unilateral cooking—cooking from one side only. Personally, I cheat just a bit, flipping the salmon over for the last 15 seconds or so, just to firm up the second side.

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