Does Vinegar Cook Salmon?

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There are many ways to cook salmon -- you can poach it, sauté it or bake it. But, you can also cook salmon simply by marinating it in vinegar and citrus juices. This method of preparation originates from Latin America and is known as ceviche, cebiche or seviche. It’s a simple way to enjoy fresh salmon or other seafood.

The Science of Ceviche

When you cook raw fish, heat kills off bacteria to make it safe to eat. When you prepare raw fish in the style of ceviche, the acid subtly “cooks” the fish, setting the exterior of the fish and rendering the flesh opaque, though much more tender than traditional seafood preparations. While vinegar does indeed cook salmon, fish cooked in this fashion has a higher risk of containing food-borne pathogens. People with certain illnesses or health conditions and pregnant woman should refrain from eating raw fish or fish cooked in the ceviche fashion.

The Right Salmon for Ceviche

Use salmon that’s sushi grade or as fresh as possible so that bacteria hasn’t had time to significantly proliferate. Buy salmon that smells fresh and has firm flesh, or that has been frozen immediately after being caught. If you purchase frozen salmon, let it thaw under cool, running water or briefly in the refrigerator just until thawed.

Prepping for Ceviche

Cut your salmon into small, half-inch cubes or thin slices. Combine enough vinegar to coat your fish with any other spices you’d like. White wine and rice vinegars are great choices for ceviche. Using only vinegar can result in a sharp, caustic taste for your final dish. It’s best to combine the vinegar with citrus juice for a more well rounded flavor profile. You can use salt, pepper, garlic, fresh herbs, or just about any seasoning with which you’d like to flavor your salmon. Vegetable lovers can also dice onions, peppers or cucumbers to toss with your fish and marinade.

Cooking the Salmon

Once your fish and marinade are prepared, toss together in a bowl and place in the refrigerator. For “rare” salmon, you can let the mixture sit for only 15 minutes before eating. For a more “medium” preparation, let the mixture sit for an hour or up to three hours. If your cubes or slices are on the thick side, add additional time to allow the vinegar to penetrate the flesh of the salmon. Ceviche can be enjoyed on its own, with fresh greens or spread across crackers or bread.