When Should You Season Salmon?

Salmon remains the most popular fish in the United States, with annual consumption of almost 450,000 tons as of 2021, per National Geographic. That's a whole lot of pink-fleshed upstream swimmers making their way onto dinner plates across the country. From wild-caught to farm-raised, with species including sockeye, king, coho, pink, and Chinook, we all crave the fresh taste and rich flavors of a well-cooked piece of salmon from Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, and Atlantic regions.

Getting it right in the skillet, oven, or on the grill is an art that many master over time and considerable experimentation. The process includes finding the perfect heat balance and cooking techniques, as well as seasonings for flavor enhancement. Most culinary professionals agree that adding seasonings to salmon is a good idea, but flavor is not the only reason. Here's a look at why and when seasoning your salmon can add value and deliciousness to your seafood lunch or dinner.

Seasoning your way

In addition to creating a burst of flavor on your plate, the right seasoning can help salmon flesh remain firm during cooking rather than flaking and falling apart, according to Traeger. It also leads to retention of the natural pink hue of wild salmon imparted by an orange-red astaxanthin compound, per Quartz. It all works together for a successful meal — one that happens to infuse your body with a wealth of nutrition including protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats, notes Healthline.

So, when should we season salmon for optimal results? Always, and prior to cooking or smoking, suggests Traeger. Seasoning options range from simple salt and pepper to typical household spices, rubs, marinades, and glazes. About 1 teaspoon of salt per pound of salmon pre-cooking, along with the addition of other preferred spices, helps cure the fish and contributes to firmness and flavor.

The type of seasoning varies by personal taste and cooking method. A New York Times recipe suggests adding a mixture of coriander, cloves, cumin, and nutmeg to the salmon before pan-frying, coated side down, in oil or butter until the spice mixture forms a gently browned crust. More adventurous flavor-packed approaches to salmon seasoning kick things up a bit. Watkins, one of America's oldest spice companies at 150-plus years, provides pre-mixed organic spice seasonings, rubs, and marinades in flavors such as smoked or spiced maple and chili lime. The company suggests marinating for 15 to 30 minutes before cooking.