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How To Sous-Vide Salmon

Salmon’s one of the best-known things to sous-vide, with low-temperature cooked salmon having attracted a lot of attention from people like Heston Blumenthal (or Dr B, as we like to call him.) And for good reason - ultra-low-temperature sous-vide salmon is pretty stunning stuff.

There appear to be two seperate approaches in sous-vide cooking toward fish - Thomas Keller’s, who advocates cooking fish at (comparatively) high temperatures for very short times, and the more conventional approach where the fish is taken slowly to its target temperature. From experience, I’m a fan of Keller’s approach, particularly on oily fish.

h2. The conventional approach to salmon

Douglas Baldwin’s got a full recipe for salmon Mi-Cuit in his sous-vide guide

, but here are the highlights:

  • Remove the salmon’s skin

    • Leave it in very salty water for 10 minutes ( to avoid albumen leaching out)

    • Season with salt and pepper

    • Cook it between 101°F (38.5 C) and 126°F(52 C), depending on how rare you want your fish, according to his chart of times against thickness.

This produces a very rare, tender salmon. You need to cook very good, very fresh salmon for this recipe - like all sous-vide fish, sous-vide salmon tends to intensify any fishy smells present, which can be really quite unpleasant if the fish is going off.

h2. A La Thomas Keller

This is an experimental approach I haven’t played with too much, but you might find it interesting.

To get a salmon cut sous-vide that feels a fair bit firmer, and possibly a bit fresher, try this approach. You’ll also get more variation in cooking throughout the fish, which is certainly extremely nice in Keller’s mackerel recipes. Since salmon is a similar fish in many ways, I’d expect this to work well. Let me know if you try it! (And I promise to try it myself soon).

Prepare the salmon as with Douglas’s guide, but alter the cooking times - assuming a piece of salmon about an inch thick, cook it for 13 minutes (yes, that’s a VERY short time) at 61 degrees C. Note that like Douglas’s Mi Cuit, this will NOT be pasturised, so don’t serve it to anyone who will keel over if they contract food poisoning!

h2. The Safe Approach

There’s nothing wrong with well-cooked salmon.

If you’re serving to the elderly, children, or people who are otherwise immune-compromised, cook your salmon at 60 degrees C for the times listed in Douglas’s guide.

It won’t be as meltingly tender, but it’ll still be tasty!

Again - let me know your experiences with salmon!