Cara is a web writer and website owner with over 15 years of experience providing information to readers on a number of topics.
Baking salmon in foil is very easy to do which makes it the perfect meal for a weeknight or lunch. It only takes 20 minutes to make this delicious main dish that is healthy, seasoned to perfection, and simple. This baked salmon filet features Asian-flavored butter and all you have to do is pick your favorite veggies and put them in the oven to create a nutritious meal with almost no cleanup!
Throughout this instruction set, I will mention aluminum foil to create the packets. However, if you are more comfortable using parchment paper, feel free to do so.
This approach to baking salmon leaves you with a flaky, well-seasoned, moist piece of fish. I recommend opening the foil package and putting the oven on broil for a few minutes to add color to the top of the salmon before serving it.
If you follow this recipe all the way through and use the vegetables I recommend here, you will have the best crisp-tender carrots and snow peas that have steamed in mouthwatering ginger, garlic, and sesame-flavored butter. Once you taste it, I’m sure it will become a family favorite for you, just like it did for my family.
Baking salmon in the oven is extremely easy. In my opinion, it's one of the best ways for people who are new to cooking salmon at home to approach the protein with confidence. By cooking your entire meal in foil packets on a single baking pan, you are guaranteed to have an easy and quick cleanup. I have designed this recipe to be low-carb, but keep in mind that if you change out the vegetables I recommend you will change the carb count and I cannot guarantee that your meal will be low-carb. There are also substitutions mentioned to allow you to make this recipe gluten free.
Why Bake Salmon in Aluminum Foil?
One of the best and healthiest ways to cook fish is to steam it. Whether you choose to use aluminum foil or parchment paper, will not change the amazing outcome of this recipe. This approach comes from a French technique known as “en papillote” or “in paper." This process gently steams meat, fish, and vegetables inside a paper packet to ensure that the food cooks evenly and that your food remains moist and tender. As a busy person, self-contained meals just make for a beautiful presentation and minimal clean-up makes it look even more appealing.
Ingredients You Will Be Using
Salmon: For this recipe, you can use your favorite cut of salmon. Sometimes I pick up a side of salmon at the grocery store and other times I pick up individual salmon fillets. Usually, I decide what I’m going to purchase based on my meal plan for the week. You can choose skin-on salmon or skinless salmon, but I always lean toward skin-on. Purchasing skin on salmon will help your fish stay moist when you are baking it or searing it. Don’t worry about fighting with the skin. Once your salmon is cooked, the skin will be really easy to remove.
Butter: Butter is great for keeping fish moist and it can add a lot of flavors that complement the fish. I use salted butter, but you can easily substitute unsalted butter if you are trying to cut back on sodium intake. If you need to for health reasons or personal preference, you can also use a butter alternative.
Garlic: I personally prefer fresh garlic for this recipe but if you need to cut corners, or you just don’t have time to cut fresh garlic, you can substitute a garlic paste or pre-minced garlic, which can both be found in the produce department of most grocery stores.
Ginger: I prefer the slightly pungent and sweet flavor of fresh ginger, but I have also been known to use a ginger paste from the produce department of my local grocery store also. If you are using fresh ginger, you will need a ½ inch piece for this recipe. If preferred, ½ to 1 teaspoon of ground ginger can be used in its place.
Toasted Sesame Oil: This glorious oil is the color of maple syrup, but I have purchased brands that were a little darker. Keep in mind that toasted sesame oil is different from regular sesame oil. Regular sesame oil is very mild in flavor and for this recipe, we’re looking for a stronger, more present flavor. This is the brand I use for this recipe.
Soy Sauce: I personally use regular soy sauce. However, if you need to make adjustments to accommodate your diet, you can use low-sodium soy sauce. If you need to avoid gluten, tamari is a great gluten-free option for this recipe.
Chile Garlic Sauce or Sambal: Adds some spice to the dish.
Salt and Pepper: Seafood, especially fish loves salt. The recipe does call for soy sauce, which has salt in it, but I still recommend seasoning the vegetables and fish lightly with salt and pepper. If you need to reduce the amount of salt you are taking in, No-Salt is a great low-sodium alternative.
Vegetables: I highly recommend that you make a full meal in your packets by cooking everything together. It is important that you choose vegetables that can cook in about 15 minutes, which leaves you with a pretty long list of options. Some of my favorites are shredded carrots, snow peas, green beans, and asparagus. If you want to add a starchy vegetable like potatoes, make sure to parboil them before letting them cook inside the packet with your fish.
Garnishes: I absolutely love serving this meal with fresh sliced green onions.
Making Baked Salmon in Foil
This recipe is really easy to make. It takes several steps to prep the meal, but once it goes in the oven, simply set a timer and the packet does the rest!
- To make this delicious baked salmon, preheat your oven to 375°F.
- While your oven is preheating, Combine melted butter, sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and sambal. Allow this mixture to cool while you assemble your cooking packets.
- In this step, you can decide whether you want to make one large packet or individually portioned packets. Make sure to line the bottom of the baking sheet with aluminum foil in case one of the packets springs a small leak.
- Start by placing the salmon in the center of the foil, we will build the rest of the meal around the fish.
- If you are using vegetables, arrange them on one side of the salmon. Make sure you choose veggies that only take about 15 minutes to cook. If the vegetables you have chosen will take longer than 15 minutes to cook, par-cook them before placing them in the packets.
- Spoon your garlic, ginger, and soy mixture over top of the fish and vegetables. Season your fish and vegetables with salt, pepper, and whatever seasonings you like.
- Close your foil packets in a tent shape and crimp the edges tightly. Make sure to leave room between the foil and the meal to ensure there is room for air circulation so the food can steam. Make sure all edges are properly crimped tightly to avoid moisture from inside the packet escaping.
- Place your salmon packets in the oven for about 15 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven and carefully open the top of each packet. There will be a lot of steam that escapes the packet, and it can burn you extremely easily. Switch your oven to broil and allow the salmon to sit under the broiler for about 5 minutes to add color to the top of the salmon fillets.
- At this point, you can remove the contents of each packet so you can plate it, or you can serve the packet on a plate to prevent the sauce from escaping and minimize mess.
How Long Does It Take to Bake Salmon?
Like other fish, salmon doesn’t take long to cook. The exact time it will take to cook your salmon to cook will depend on how thick the fish is. Most salmon fillets are about 1 ½ inches thick, so it takes between 15 and 18 minutes to cook through. A thinner piece of salmon may only take 10 to 11 minutes to cook all the way through so using a meat thermometer is the best way for a home cook to determine whether their fish is thoroughly cooked.
How to Know Your Salmon Is Done
A perfectly cooked piece of salmon will be tender, moist, and flaky. The fillet should be slightly opaque and have a pinkish center. The best way for a home cook to determine whether their salmon is thoroughly cooked is to use an instant-read thermometer. My family prefers their salmon medium, so I serve it between 125°F and 130°F. It is important to note that the internal temperature of fish tends to rise between 5 and 10 degrees after it is removed from the oven, so it will continue cooking for a while, especially if you leave it in the packet.
Temperature to Bake Salmon
For this recipe, you will bake the fish at 375°F. As a general rule, salmon can be baked between the temperatures of 350°F and 400°F. You can also broil salmon under high heat, but it is important to use an instant-read thermometer to determine doneness.
How Long to Cook Salmon at 400°F
If you are cooking salmon at 400°F, the cooking time will average about 15 minutes. This time can be affected by how thick your salmon fillets are, but I’m using the average thickness of 1½ inch thick. The cook time may also be affected by the type of salmon you purchase as well.
My family prefers wild-caught salmon if it is available. Not only is wild-caught salmon lower in saturated fats and calories, but it is also more sustainable and more humane than farm-raised salmon. There are a lot of differences between wild-caught and farm-raised salmon that present themselves on the dinner table. Wild-caught is typically firmer fish and has a more pronounced flavor. If you want to try wild-caught options, look for names like coho, sockeye, and king salmon.
Fresh vs. Frozen Salmon
If you live in an area where buying catch of the day salmon is difficult, frozen salmon is a great option. Since frozen salmon is flash frozen as soon as it is caught, it is usually very good quality. Since it is flash frozen on the same day it is caught, it can be a lot better than buying fish that has been sitting on ice at the grocery store, which is typically just fish that was flash frozen and later thawed for presentation.
Skin On or Off?
Choosing between skin-on salmon and skin off salmon is a personal choice. I prefer to purchase skin on salmon because it does hold in the moisture of the fish easier. However, this recipe focuses on cooking the fish in foil to steam it, so using the skin off fish will work just fine and you won’t lose moisture the same as if you were searing it or baking it unprotected. If you don’t like to eat the skin, keep in mind that it is really easy to remove it from the salmon after it is cooked.
Internal Temperature of Cooked Salmon
Let’s face it, nobody likes overcooked fish. There is a happy point with fish that makes it perfect, but if you take it too far, salmon can end up dry and chalky. Nobody wants chalky salmon, so let’s take a look at the recommended cooking temperatures.
The FDA recommends cooking salmon to an internal temperature of 145°F. Chefs worldwide agree that this leaves salmon dry and starts to affect the flavor of a delicious fish. Here is a generalized recommendation for internal temperatures for salmon, recommended by chefs across the world.
- 110°F to 125°F. This results in a medium-rare piece of salmon. The salmon should be opaque and juicy.
- 125°F to 140°F. Provides a medium to well-done fish. A white chalky exterior begins to develop.
- 140°F and above. Your fish will be well done. The exterior will have a chalky texture and the inside will be well done.
|Prep time||Cook time||Ready in||Yields|
- 1 1/2 pounds salmon side or 4 (ounce fillets)
- salt, to taste
- pepper, to taste
- 6 tablespoons butter, melted
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sambal chlie garlic sauce
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1 cup snow peas (optional)
- 1 bunch thin asparagus, ends trimmed (optional)
- 2 cups shredded carrots (optional)
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- In a small bowl, mix sambal, soy sauce (or tamari), toasted sesame oil, garlic, ginger, and butter. Set aside, for now, to allow the butter to cool.
- Line a baking sheet with a large piece of aluminum foil or parchment paper. To make foil packets, you will need 4 pieces of aluminum foil approximately 12” by 18”.
- Place your salmon in the center of the foil. If you are adding vegetables, arrange them on one side of the salmon to allow the fish to cook properly. Season your salmon and vegetables with salt, pepper, and any other seasoning you really like. Spoon the butter mixture over the salmon and vegetables. Sprinkle scallions over the meal.
- Carefully fold the foil into a tent-shaped packet, leaving room between the salmon and the foil for ventilation. Crimp the edges tightly to ensure the sauce and moisture do not escape the pack.
- Bake your salmon for 15 minutes. Open just the very top of the foil packets, avoiding the steam that is escaping because it can cause severe burns. Turn on your broiler and allow the salmon to develop some color. It should take between 3 and 5 minutes. Check the internal temperature of your salmon and compare it to the temperature recommendations I provided in this article.
- Gently remove the tray from the oven, being careful of the steam escaping from the packets. You can serve your meal while it is still inside the packet, or you can remove it and plate it as desired. If you would like, garnish your meal with extra scallions before serving.
© 2022 Cara Garrison