When we're having salmon for dinner, I have to remember to pull the frozen fillets from the freezer that morning and tuck them into the fridge to thaw peacefully. But life is hectic and more of my mornings are harried than those occasional thoughtful ones, and I find myself at 6 p.m. on Wednesday staring at rock-hard fillets and a hungry family to feed.
Luckily, it is perfectly safe to cook salmon from a frozen state and, let me assuage any worries right now, it can taste as delicious as properly thawed and cooked salmon too. I've found the secret is to use the power of a hot oven, a little foil, and a flavorful sauce to get you from frozen to dinner in less than 30 minutes.
Is It Safe to Cook Frozen Salmon?
Absolutely. As long as the frozen salmon is cooked to a safe internal temperature, it is safe to eat. Of course, the real challenge is cooking frozen salmon so that it's just as tender and flaky as thawed fillets. The key is to use a two-step cooking method in the oven — covering the salmon for the start of baking and then cooking it uncovered until it reaches temperature.
For Your Information
- This method works best for small salmon fillets in the 6-ounce range. Save larger sides of salmon for proper thawing and cooking.
- You'll need an 8x8-inch baking dish and heavy-duty aluminum foil.
- The filets bake at 425°F for five minutes covered, and five to eight minutes uncovered. Salmon should reach a minimum internal temperature of 145°F for doneness.
Steam, Then Roast Frozen Salmon Fillets
I mentioned that we are using a two-step method for cooking frozen salmon. The initial five minutes of covered cook time steams the salmon as moisture releases from the frozen fillets and is trapped by the foil. This helps tenderize the salmon. After five minutes, carefully remove the foil from the salmon and return it the hot oven. Now we're roasting. Roasting drives off the excess moisture so we don't end up with salmon that tastes like a sponge.
3 Steps for Perfect Salmon from Frozen Without Thawing
- Don't rinse it. A few recipes suggest this step before cooking as a means for removing ice crystals. It's great for frozen shrimp, but it leaves the salmon tasting waterlogged.
- Make a flavorful sauce. This is kind of a no-brainer, but it helps the salmon steam and protects it during its short roast. Here we're jazzing up maple and mustard with garlic and red pepper flakes.
- Use heavy-duty foil for covering. It just ensures that all the steam is trapped and working magic on your fillets. Plus, you should really always buy heavy-duty anyway.
How to Serve Cooked-from-Frozen Salmon
Okay, truth-telling time: Your frozen salmon might not be as beautiful as a magazine spread. Some proteins will have been pushed out in the rapid thawing and cooking in the oven, and you may have some white spots from these along the edge of your salmon. You can scrape these off or you can flake the salmon and serve it over the ramen noodles you cooked while the salmon roasted, or maybe that frozen rice you just sautéed instead. See? From frozen to dinner in under 30 minutes. It's a miracle!
How To Cook Frozen Salmon in the Oven
What You Need
(6-ounce) frozen salmon fillets (do not thaw)
red pepper flakes (optional)
Measuring cups and spoons
8x8-inch baking dish
Brush or spoon
Heat the oven to 425°F. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 425°F. Place the frozen salmon fillets skin-side down in an 8x8-inch baking dish.
Combine the mustard, maple syrup, garlic, and salt in a small bowl. Place the mustard, maple syrup, garlic, red pepper flakes if using, and salt in a small bowl and stir to combine.
Brush the salmon with the mustard mixture. Brush or spoon all of the mustard mixture evenly over the salmon.
Cover the baking dish and bake for 5 minutes. Cover the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil. Roast for 5 minutes.
Uncover and roast for another 5 to 8 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. Continue roasting until the salmon can be easily flaked with a fork or a probe thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the salmon registers 145°F, 5 to 8 minutes more.
Rest and serve. Remove the salmon from the oven and let rest uncovered for 3 minutes. Serve with a hearty salad or quick pasta side.
Storage: Leftover salmon can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.