Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Jun 14, 2010 05:12 PM

What am I doing wrong with Sockeye Salmon

My brother in law (who lives in Alaska) sent us some frozen sockeye salmon. They are whole side fillets with the skin on. Tonight I basted them with a maple syrup and dijon mustard sauce I made, threw pineapple around the edges, and stuck it all under the broiler for about 8 minutes. The fish was sooo dry - even though it didn't seem over cooked if that makes sense. Is it the nature of the fish, is it that they could have been frozen for too long, or did I simply cook them for too long? I have about 5 more large pcs in the freezer and would like to get it right next time. Any theories or fool proof recipes would be appreciated.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. sounds like you overcooked it - sockeye is pretty fatty, the only species that's oilier is Chinook/King, so the issue wasn't leanness. with that high broiler heat i probably wouldn't leave it in there longer than 3 minutes on each side. it might be easier for you to control the temperature if you bake it instead - it'll take a bit longer but there's less of a chance of overcooking.

    9 Replies
    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

      Actually, in my experience, sockeye is the leanest salmon. Great flavor, but dries out very quickly.

      1. re: EricMM

        really? i've never had that problem. i've always found it to be fattier than Coho or Pink...though it's undoubtedly leaner than King.

        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

          Yes, sockeye is fattier than Coho/Pink and leaner than King, but that said it is still much closer to Coho/Pink in texture than it is to King.

          Also, since the OP said the sockeye was coming from Alaska, I'm presuming it was *wild* sockeye (and not farmed). Wild sockeye is even more lean than its farmed counterpart.

          All of that is a long-winded way of saying, sockeye is easily overcooked. 8 minutes under the broiler (no idea at what temp b/c it was unspecified by the OP) would most likely be too long.

          And, really, why put a fish like sockeye salmon under the broiler in the first place. If you are going to use your oven, bake, don't broil -- much, much too harsh.

          1. re: ipsedixit

            Thanks for the advice. I was in a hurry which is why i chose to broil. What about steaming or poaching? Or am i the safest in baking in the oven?

            1. re: JennyHunter

              Baking is safest, yes. However, pan-frying good salmon in clarified butter is the single best fish in the world to me. Set your pan to medium/medium-high and use a fish spatula. If you're feeling really wicked, use a ton of fat (part oil is fine) and baste the fish as you go.

              The time all depends on the thickness of your fish, but I just use the Bittman technique -- peek inside with a small, sharp knife. Ignore that nonsense about "letting the moisture out," as if a piece of flesh is a plastic baggie.

              1. re: dmd_kc

                :) I like pan frying. Do you get your clarified butter from ghee?

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  No, I usually make it myself, but sure, ghee would work great!

                  1. re: dmd_kc

                    That is what my friend said -- that I can do it myself. Oh well.

              2. re: JennyHunter


                For something like sockeye salmon, I would recommend pan frying in some EVOO, skin side first. This way you get a nice crispy skin, and you minimize the risk of overcooking.

                Steaming is also a great way to go, but you don't get that crsipy skin which I always enjoy.

                If you must use the oven, try this. Preheat to about 350. Put in your salmon, turn off your oven, and leave it in there for about 10-12 minutes. You'll have the perfectly cooked sockeye.

      2. Because salmon is fatty with lots of oils in the flesh (much more so than white fish), you don't want to broil it. Low heat is best, and these tips were the best I've ever received when I ordered Copper River sockeye from Seabear:

        Slow Down! - Slow cooking seals in the juices, particularly for wild salmon. In an oven, bake at 300ยบ for approximately 25 minutes (less for whitefish). When grilling, let the coals burn down, or place the grill up high. Seafood is done when it turns translucent to opaque, and flakes begin separate easily with a fork. Your seafood will keep cooking even after you remove it from the heat.

        I've actually cooked salmon at 250 and it works just fine, perhaps adding a few minutes. A light oiling on the outside, some cracked black pepper and flake salt, cook, and you've got dinner 30 minutes later. :-)

        2 Replies
        1. re: LindaWhit

          once it flakes, it is overdone. I like pan searing for my salmon, and if it's verythick (not usually with sockeye), I finish it in the oven on 350. Salmon is about the only fish I prefer with very little added flavor, other than salt and pepper.

          1. re: cocktailhour

            Well, Seabear does say "begin to separate easily". -) I usually test it at 20 minutes using the above cooking method, and then put it back in for few minutes. Their translucent to opaque (or just barely opaque) is correct - at least for my tastes.

            And I agree - salmon has so much flavor as-is that I like it just with the light seasonings.

        2. Easiest solution is to bake, adding preferred glaze/sauce towards the finish. Preheat oven to 375-400. Lightly coat pain surface with a bit of EVOO, placing salmon skin side down, then sliding fish a bit allowing for the skin to ease in with the oil. Drizzle just a bit more EVOO on the fish, along with a pinch of sea salt. Place fish in the oven, checking on it at the 5-6 min. mark. (True cooking time will depend on the thickness of the pieces.) Pull fish from oven at that point, lightly poking with index finger, as you would a steak on the grill. If there's a lot of "give", then the salmon is rare, a bit of give means med.-rare, very little implies well done. My opinion is to NOT turn the fish. Just let it cook to your desired point of finish, taking in mind to pull it just before that as it will continue to cook a bit once out of the oven. It is then that I'd add the glaze/sauce, making sure that it is room temp. so as not to cool down the salmon. Try it again, even a few times, and you'll nail it! (

          1. Dry, but not overcooked huh?

            It could have been frozen twice. AND whether they froze it before or after rigormortis. It is a problem called gaping. It may have also been brined before freezing. Maybe it was done too long or too late. And then there is the issue of sockeye just not freezing all that well.

            Anyway, I suggest a fast searing in the pan. I would yank the skin off and trim out the bloodline. I like it blackened in clarified butter and a blazing hot cast iron skillet.

            Alternatively, grill it skin side down. The skin will stick to the grill and then slide the spatula between the skin and meat.

            Or - A thin coat of dill mayo or EVOO rub and then

            Grill it in portion sizes for easier handling. Frozen fish falls apart easier.

            Also a final note - the tail section is going to have very very little fat. Just past the stomach to tail is leaner. Consider that when you are cooking it along with other pieces. If you know where the cold spot is on your grill, slide that sucker to that spot.

            Sorry this is so random. I am thinking and typing. My mind wanders.

            1. How to cook salmon. see america's test kitchen show on this....preheat pan and oven to 500 deg F....rub salmon with olive oil, salt & pepper. Cut little slits in skin side of fillets so oil can drain out.
              Place fillets skin side down on hot pan...they will sizzle...turn oven down to 275 and cook for about 10 minutes or until done 125 internal temp. Moist and crunch...good luck Sam