Salmon is a flavorful and healthy dish. In fact, because it's high in protein, full of omega-3 fatty acids and low in saturated fat, the American Heart Association advises eating at least two servings of salmon and other fatty fish at least twice weekly, with one serving equaling 3.5 ounces of fish. This fish's unique flavor lends itself well to so many different recipes, you can easily eat salmon on a weekly basis without often repeating preparations. Breaded baked salmon is a simple dish with appealing textural contrast that every home cook should add to the repertoire.
Thaw frozen salmon fillets or steaks in the refrigerator for about 24 hours. While it's safe to bake frozen fish, it takes longer and the fish usually doesn't cook evenly, so you may end up with chewy, dry parts. Salmon may also be defrosted faster by submersing it in leak-proof packaging in cold water for about one to two hours; refill the bowl with new, colder water every half hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Typically, it's best to roast fish around 450 degrees for a minimal amount of time to keep it as moist as possible. However, a coating of breading is likely to burn at higher temperatures, so breaded salmon calls for lower heat. Give the oven a good 20 to 30 minutes to preheat fully.
Hold the salmon fillets or steaks under cold running tap water to rinse off any scales. Blot them dry with paper towels.
Cover a baking tray with foil. Grease it with cooking oil or a nonstick cooking spray.
Make the breading for the salmon. For the most basic preparation, use panko or other breadcrumbs. Packaged seasoned breadcrumbs or crushed seasoned croutons add flavor, or mix in some of your own additions to plain breadcrumbs. Cornmeal, salt, pepper, thyme, oregano, dill, rosemary, marjoram, a chili powder, Cajun seasonings, finely chopped garlic or shallot, finely chopped pecans or pistachios and grated Parmesan cheese are some possible inclusions.
Prepare an adhesive to keep the breading stuck to the surface of the salmon. If your breading is light, a brushed-on coating of cooking oil or melted butter will suffice. As a more flavorful option, you can mix one of these with a small amount of spicy brown mustard and brush the mixture on, if it goes with the seasonings in your breading. If your breading contains chopped nuts, crushed croutons or is otherwise fairly substantial, an egg wash is the most secure adhesive. Beat an egg and brush it over the salmon.
Dredge the fish in the breading. Place the fillets or steaks on the baking tray. Place the flat side of fillets down, whether or not they still have the skin on. Put the salmon into the middle of the oven to bake.
Cook salmon fillets or steaks for approximately 20 minutes. Don't completely rely on the clock, however. Cooking time isn't a reliable way to know when fish is done, due to a number of variables, including oven temperature accuracy and the thickness of the fish. Use the time as a guide, and once the breading is nicely browned, press into the center of the thickest piece of salmon with a fork; if there's no resistance and the flesh is opaque and flaky all the way through, the salmon is done. Serve it right away.
- It's safe to defrost frozen salmon steaks or fillets in the microwave, but the outside of the fish will usually start to cook. This can have a negative effect on the texture of the finished dish. It also necessitates cooking the fish right away after thawing, as it's at increased risk of developing rapid bacterial growth in a partially cooked state.
Eric Mohrman is a food and drink, travel, and lifestyle writer living with his family in Orlando, Florida. He has professional experience to complement his love of cooking and eating, having worked for 10 years both front- and back-of-house in casual and fine dining restaurants. He has written print and web pieces on food and drink topics for Orlando Style Magazine, CrushBrew Magazine, Agent Magazine, Dollar Stretcher Magazine, The 863 Magazine and other publications.
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