Easy, Impressive Brown Sugar Glazed Salmon

updated Feb 3, 2020
Brown Sugar Glazed Salmon

This sweet-and-savory salmon steams inside a foil packet, resulting in flaky, juicy fish with minimal cleanup.

Serves4

Prep10 minutes

Cook25 minutes

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Credit: Photo: Christine Han/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

This foil-baked sheet pan salmon is a simple, good-for-you, unfussy dinner with minimal cleanup (read: it checks all the weeknight boxes). Serve it with white or brown rice, roasted vegetables, or a salad, and you’ve got a tasty and easy meal on your hands. Here are some quick tips for success.

A Foolproof Technique for Flaky, Juicy Fish

En papillote is a French technique that involves steaming food, often fish or vegetables, inside a parchment paper packet. This recipe uses that technique but opts for foil instead of parchment, which does a better job of catching any liquids that spill out as the salmon cooks. Still, I like to place the packet on a rimmed baking sheet for extra insurance (it’s easier to clean a sheet pan than the oven). 

The key component to a successful en papillote is sealing the sides tightly so that steam doesn’t escape. It’s a good idea to measure the foil alongside the length of the salmon so that you cut a piece large enough to cover it. Once in the oven, the liquid inside bubbles and the trapped heat steams the fish, creating a delicate, flaky, and juicy piece of salmon.

Memorize This Sweet and Salty Glaze

With a base of soy sauce and brown sugar, this glaze is composed of sweet and salty elements that are balanced by garlic, scallions, and a kick from fresh ginger. You don’t need to add salt to the glaze, as soy sauce has quite a bit of sodium to it (and you’ll season the salmon separately), but if you’re using low-sodium soy sauce, taste the glaze and add kosher salt in 1/2-teaspoon increments until it’s seasoned to your liking. And don’t just stop at salmon: Use this glaze on other proteins and vegetables (it’s particularly great with roasted broccoli).

Before serving, you’ll carefully cut open the foil, push it to the sides, and baste the fish with the juices. Then, slide it under the broiler, where the sugars in the glaze darken and caramelize for a gorgeous color and taste. 

What to Do with Leftovers

The salmon will easily pull off the skin once cooked. Store leftovers in the fridge in an airtight container, then squeeze some fresh lemon or lime juice on top before eating to liven it back up. It’s delicious on top of white or brown rice with a dash of ponzu (or soy sauce and some fresh lime juice), sliced scallions, and baby spinach, or on top of a hearty green or quinoa salad for lunch the next day.

Credit: Photo: Christine Han/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

Brown Sugar Glazed Salmon

This sweet-and-savory salmon steams inside a foil packet, resulting in flaky, juicy fish with minimal cleanup.

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 25 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 4

    medium scallions

  • 2 cloves

    garlic

  • 1 teaspoon

    grated, peeled ginger (from a 2-inch piece)

  • 1/4 cup

    olive oil

  • 1/4 cup

    tamari or soy sauce

  • 1/4 cup

    packed brown sugar

  • 2

    medium lemons, divided

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning

  • 1

    (2-pound) skin-on salmon fillet

  • Salt

  • 1/2 cup

    fresh cilantro leaves and fine stems (optional)

Instructions

  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and a second rack 6-inches from the broiling element. Heat the oven to 400ºF. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a sheet of aluminum foil, fold the foil in half lengthwise so there is a crease in the center, then unfold the foil.

  2. Make the glaze: Thinly slice the white and light green parts of 4 scallions, keeping them separate. Reserve the greens for garnish, and place the whites in a medium bowl. Grate 2 garlic cloves, and peel and grate a 2-inch piece of ginger until you get 1 teaspoon; add both to the scallions whites. Add 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce, 1/4 cup packed brown sugar, the juice of 1 of the lemons (about 2 tablespoons), and 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper. Whisk until thoroughly combined and the sugar is mostly dissolved.

  3. Generously season the salmon fillet all over with salt and pepper. Place skin-side down on the foil next to the foil crease.

  4. Pour the glaze all over the salmon, lifting the salmon to get some of it underneath. Fold the foil over the salmon, then pinch and seal it on all three sides to create a closed packet.

  5. Roast on the middle rack until the salmon is an opaque pink outside, and a light pink color inside with flesh that easily flakes, 15 to 20 minutes (15 minutes will be on the medium-rare side and 20 will be cooked through). Meanwhile, cut the second lemon into wedges and coarsely chop 1/2 cup fresh cilantro if desired.

  6. Remove the salmon from the oven. Turn on the broiler. Use a fork and knife to carefully open the foil packet by cutting it down the middle and pushing the foil to the sides. Use a spoon to baste the salmon with the liquid in the packet. Broil on the upper rack until the top is dark golden brown, 1 to 3 minutes, depending on the strength of your broiler (keep an eye on it).

  7. Cut the salmon into serving pieces — the meat will easily lift from the skin. Top with the scallion greens, black pepper, and cilantro if desired. Serve with the lemon wedges.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftover salmon, removed from the skin, will keep for 2 days in an airtight container in the fridge.

Parchment paper: You can use parchment paper instead of foil.