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Poached salmon guidance?

I have two skin-on sockeye salmon filets (defrosting in fridge, TJs Alaskan wild), and I usually pan sear, broil, or bake, but I've heard a lot about poaching salmon.

I did some searches online, and it looks like in general you create a flavorful broth with wine and water, place in the salmon (and the liquid doesn't totally cover it?), and cook to desired doneness.

I cook a lot, but fish is where I lose confidence and I overcook it often. Some of the recipes I saw online were almost identical with one KEY difference... poaching time was ranging from 5 to 20 minutes!!

Any guidance here please?
-Nico

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  1. I cant give you specific times, but when I poach mine I use wine and whatever flavorings, then i cut onions about 1/2 inch thick and set the salmon on top of this, then I cover it. I cant remember but I believe about 7 minutes depending on thickness of the cut

    3 Replies
    1. re: ROCKLES

      Does the wine based broth totally cover the salmon? Or does it simply go up to the level of the onions where the salmon is set on top? I wasn't sure based on some of the pictures I saw. Is the salmon more steamed in this way?

      1. re: nasv

        The sauce comes up about half way on the sides of the fish, I haven't ever covered it completely, to me that would be boiled?

        1. re: ROCKLES

          It would only be boiled if the liquid were at a boil. Poaching liquid is at a very very low simmer, no where near a boil.

    2. Steaming is completely different from poaching. For poaching the liquid definitely MUST completely cover the fish. And the liquid must be kept to a low simmer, otherwise the fish will disintegrate. Poaching time will vary according to the thickness of the fish, so it can definitely range from 5 to 20 minutes. You just have to keep checking for doneness.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Breezychow

        Agreed, to poach, you cover the fish (or whatever you are poaching) completely with the liquid.

        1. re: tzurriz

          That was my understanding of poaching too, but some of the recipes I'm finding, such as http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/poac... suggest just a cup of liquid for the amount of fish, which I find very difficult to believe will cover the fish. The pictures are at odds too with covering the fish, it seems like it just comes up the sides.

          1. re: nasv

            I wouldn't call that poaching. That's just simmering. IMHO

      2. I've poached a salmon filet or two in the past. Generally, I used a court boullion, with a little white wine. The salmon was to be served at room temp, for people to graze on, so it was only heated until it got a nice pink shade. Carryover time did the rest. I would say that 20 minutes is way too long. You could probably go with about 7 minutes at a gentle simmer. This depends on the thickness of the filet, of course.

        1 Reply
        1. re: gilintx

          And in addition to letting it finish cooking in the poaching liquid with the heat turned off, instead of pulling the salmon out when it's done, you can also let it cool in the court bouillon if it's going to be served cold. Then it will be more flavorful.

        2. try olive oil poaching, it is fabulous!

          1 Reply
          1. re: mommasue

            Or butter, just did a large hunk of swordfish that way, yummy.

          2. I have done lots of poached salmon. Bring your court bouillon to a boil. Add the salmon and it should quickly return to a strong simmer. Cover it and TURN OFF THE HEAT. A 2 1/2 lb fillet should take about 15 minutes.

            1. Maximum eight minutes to height of fish. Seven if you like it really pink in the center.
              In addition, keep your eye on the fish. Once you see little fissures, it's got around 30 secs to go. You'll get good at this.

              Remember, fish keep cooking for a bit out of water.

              Put fish covered completely in water.(More about "water" in a moment.)

              Start counting when the water returns to a simmer; if it returns to a boil before you catch it, say "godamnit" and lower heat.

              Poaching is lower than simmering. You should see/hear a lazy bubble plop up every second/half second or so.

              About the "water." if you have the time, and especially if you plan to serve the fish cool (which uses a trickier technique of letting the fish lie in the once-poached state until it cools) use a court-boullion.

              Throw a good handful of salt, half a carrot, half a celery,, half onion, halved lemon, some parsley, and a bunch of whole black peppercorns. Simmer for half an hour, strain. Make sure the final amount of liquid is enough to poach with. You can taste the difference.

              For a quickie poaching liquid, heaping handful salt, lemon (or, in a pinch, decent white wine vinegar). Ready to go.