If you’ve ever wondered how to bake a whole salmon, you’re in luck because we’re divulging all of the tips and tricks you need to get the BEST and PERFECT whole baked salmon. We’re talking brine, the complete process, and we’re even including a chart that includes the best temperature to reach your desired salmon doneness.
It’s actually quite easy to do and the fish stays very moist and tender- salmon the way it should be!
We love salmon recipes and while you can’t go wrong with a sweet Bourbon-Glazed Salmon Fillet or this Pan-Seared Salmon with Dill Hollandaise Sauce, our whole salmon fillet in the oven is the perfect showstopper for lunch, brunch or dinner.
Why you’ll love this easy salmon recipe:
Baking a whole salmon doesn’t have to be intimidating. In fact, the process is really easy and results in an ultra flakey and flavorful whole baked salmon that makes a beautiful presentation.
Here’s why we know you’ll love this whole baked salmon recipe:
- It’s simple and quick to prepare
- The skin and spine is easy to remove once the fish is baked
- Brined and stuffed with aromatics, this whole salmon has so much flavor in every bite
- It is moist, flakey and fork-tender
The first three ingredients on the list are used to make the salmon brine. It is completely optional but it does have a few purposes, which is why we recommend brining the salmon before baking.
First, the brine helps the salmon retain moisture during the bake. It also serves as a seasoning and it prevents that white albumin from seeping out of the salmon as it cooks. We used a brine for our Copper River salmon and it turns out fantastic.
Here’s what you need to make a whole baked salmon:
- Cold water (for brine)
- Kosher salt (for brine)
- Brown sugar (for brine)
- Whole salmon, about 3-5 pounds
- Oive oil
- Seafood seasoning salt
- Onion, thinly sliced
- Fennel, thinly sliced
- Garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- Lemons, thinly sliced
- Fresh dill
- Parsley Sprigs
- Fresh thyme
How to Bake a Whole Salmon:
- Brine the salmon (optional): Simmer the brine ingredients in a saucepan until the salt dissolves. Cool the solution, then pour it in a container large enough to hold the salmon. Place the salmon in the refrigerator for 6-8 hours.
- Prepare the whole salmon: Dry the salmon with paper towels, place it on a lined baking sheet, then brush on the olive oil and season it with salt. Stuff the cavity with onion, fennel, garlic, lemon and herbs.
- Bake the salmon: Bake for 20-30 minutes or until it registers 130°F (or see chart below for your desired temperature and doneness).
- How to serve whole baked salmon: Peel the skin off and remove the spine (see notes below, step-by-step photos and the recipe at the bottom). Season with salt and pepper and serve the salmon on a platter.
how to remove salmon bones
After the salmon has baked, removing the skin and bones is a very simple process.
- With the salmon on a wide platter, pull up on the skin and it will peal right off.
- Using a wide spatula or knife, lift up on the spine. The spine will easily pull free from the bottom fillet.
- Flip the top fillet over so the spine is on top.
- Pull the spine off of the top fillet (use the spatula to hold the flesh down under the spine).
Tips for baking whole salmon in the oven:
Now that you know the process for how to bake a whole salmon, don’t skip these important tips!
- Brining the salmon: If you choose to brine the salmon (and we hope you do!), make sure the salmon brine has enough water in it to completely cover the fish in the brine. If you need more water, add 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of sugar for each additional cup of water.
- Salmon temperature: While the FDA recommends cooking salmon to 145°F, the fish ends up pretty dry when it is cooked to that temperature. We prefer our salmon between 122°F and 130°. It is more tender and juicy at that doneness level. See our chart below and use your own judgement regarding the salmon temperature.
- On removing the spine: The more well-done the salmon is cooked, the easier the two fillets will separate from each other. If you cook the salmon on the rare side, you might have to use a knife to pry the spine away from the fish.
- Leave the skin intact. Some recipes will have you slice slits through the skin and into the flesh of the fish. We don’t do that for salmon. The salmon will bake evenly without slicing into the flesh PLUS, keeping the skin intact will hold moisture in and give you a tender salmon.
Frequently asked questions:
We prefer cooking this whole baked salmon at 425°F. It remains tender and moist but still comes together quickly.
Bake this whole salmon in the oven uncovered. There’s no need to cover it with foil (and no, it won’t dry out! The skin helps keep it moist).
Use our chart below to bake your salmon to the doneness level you prefer. An instant-read meat thermometer will make it easy to determine if your salmon is cooked to the desired temperature.
Temperature Chart for Salmon Doneness
|Rare (soft, buttery, juicy)||110°F|
|Medium rare (tender, flakey, moist)||125°F|
|Medium (flakey, firm)||130°F|
|Medium-well (dry, firm)||140°F|
|Well-done (dry and tough)||145°F|
We hope this info will help walk you through the process of how to bake a whole salmon with ease! It’s an impressive, showstopper of a main course that works well for any type of gathering, any time of the year.
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Some Other Recipes We Are Sure You Will Love:
- Salmon Asparagus Strata: This crowd-pleaser of a dish is an elevated breakfast or brunch recipe with fresh flavors infused into a rich and creamy egg base.
- Wild Alaskan Smoked Salmon Chowder: Thick and creamy with tender potatoes, onion and tender chunks of smoked salmon, this chowder has an intense smoky flavor that is delicious on a cold day.
- Salmon with Thai Yellow Curry: Moist broiled salmon fillets are served with a flavor-packed curry sauce. Spoon it on black rice and serve with bok choy for a nutritious, Thai-inspired meal.
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For the Brine (optional)
- 4 quarts cold water (see notes)
- 1 cup Kosher salt
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
For the Baked Salmon
- 1 whole salmon (3 to 5 pounds)
- 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons seafood seasoning salt
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 1 fennel, thinly sliced or shaved with a veggie peeler
- 8 to 10 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 2 lemons, thinly sliced
- Fresh parsley sprigs
- Fresh dill
- Fresh thyme
Brine the Salmon (optional)
- Combine the sugar, salt, and 3 to 4 cups of water in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer and stir until the salt dissolves. Cool the solution down by tossing in a couple of cups of ice cubes. Pour the solution into a container large enough to hold the salmon. Pour in the rest of the water.
- Place the salmon in the brining solution. Cover and place in the fridge for 6 to 8 hours (Make sure the brine covers the salmon. If it doesn’t, make some additional brine solution).
Bake the Salmon
- Preheat the oven to 425°F and pat the salmon dry with paper towels. Place the salmon on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Brush olive oil on the outside and in the cavity of the salmon then sprinkle it generously with seasoning salt.
- Stuff the cavity with slices of onion, fennel, garlic, lemon, and several sprigs of the herbs.
- Transfer to the oven and bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until a meat thermometer registers 130°F (or 122°F for rare salmon, see notes).
Serve the salmon
- Place the salmon on a wide platter. Pull up on the skin. It will peel off very easily.
- Starting at the head end, lift up on the spine with a wide spatula or knife. The top fillet and the spine will peel off of the lower fillet. (See the photos in the post for reference). Flip the top fillet over so the spine is on top.
- Pull the spine off the top fillet. Use the spatula to hold the flesh down under the spine.
- Season the salmon with salt and pepper and serve.
- If you brine the salmon, make sure you use enough water to cover it in the brine solution. The amount of brine solution will vary depending on the size of your salmon and the size of the container you place it in. If you need more water, add 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of sugar for each additional cup of water.
- Brining the salmon is an optional step but it improves the flavor and texture considerably. The brine helps season the salmon more thoroughly. It also helps the fish stay moist and juicy and prevents it from leaching out white albumin.
- The FDA recommends cooking salmon to 145°F. Salmon gets pretty dry when it is cooked to that temperature. We prefer salmon cooked between 122°F and 130°F since it is more tender and juicy at that doneness level. Use your own judgment regarding the temperature.
- The salmon fillets will separate very easily after the salmon finishes cooking. The more well-done the salmon is cooked, the easier it will separate. If you cook the salmon on the rare side, you may have to pry it away from the spine with a knife.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 169Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 18mgSodium: 8138mgCarbohydrates: 17gFiber: 1gSugar: 13gProtein: 7g
Nutrition information is a guideline only, is calculated automatically by third-party software, and absolute accuracy is not guaranteed.