For The Most Buttery Salmon, Break Out The Sous Vide Equipment

If you don't cook fish often because you're edgy about doing it properly or worried about the aroma lingering, the sous vide technique is about to become your best friend. Sealing almost any fish in a zip-top bag and submerging it in a precisely heated water bath is a simple and foolproof way to ensure you're not overcooking the delicate meat, but for salmon, there's extra alchemy. The method calls for a lower temperature which effortlessly keeps the fish flavor and the texture buttery.

You might notice that salmon fillets have a pattern of white lines throughout the pink flesh. The lines are made of collagen and fat — as the fillet cooks, the collagen softens and causes the meat fibers to separate, resulting in a soft texture. If you cook salmon to an internal temperature of 140 F, the meat becomes flaky, dry, and less flavorful as the collagen breaks down. With the sous vide method, the temperature stays at 125 F, avoiding that breakdown point so the salmon retains its moisture and taste.

Sous vide salmon is easier than you think

You can opt for a simple salt and pepper seasoning on your salmon, or amp up the flavors with herbs like thyme, rosemary, or lacy fennel fronds slipped into the sous vide bag. A little butter or olive oil helps the aromatic notes spread throughout and also prevents adjacent fillets from sticking together as they cook. After removing the air from the bag with a vacuum sealer or by dunking it into a container of water using the displacement method, the salmon is ready for cooking.

Many sous vide recipes have a relatively long cooking time due to the lower temperature, however, fish fillets are thin so the target temperature of 125 F doesn't take long to hit. For an average piece of salmon, 45 minutes in the water bath is plenty. Although that's longer than the time it takes to bake or pan-sear the fish, this hands-off method will guarantee perfect fish every time. 

You can serve the salmon right out of the cooking bags when it's ready, either as is or after a quick pan sear to crisp the skin. You can also chill the bagged salmon in an ice bath and refrigerate it to serve later. The beauty of this cook-ahead method is that you'll only need to warm up the salmon for a few minutes, which makes getting dinner on the table quick and easy.