How To Cook Sockeye Salmon

How To Cook Sockeye Salmon

Sockeye salmon is among the most sought-after wild salmon species in the Northern Pacific ocean. You can make an unforgettable, delicious sockeye salmon at home with a little know-how. Salmon lovers agree that sockeye salmon is one of the most delectable and brilliant-colored of all Pacific wild-caught salmon.

Healthy, delicious, and effortless to prepare, you can have sockeye salmon on your plate in less than 20 minutes. Follow these chef-approved tips and learn how to make a moist and flavorful sockeye salmon that will wow your dinner guests. 

What is Sockeye Salmon?

If you are looking for an easy wild salmon dish, there’s no better choice than a sockeye salmon recipe. Sockeye is one of the most beautiful and flavorful salmon varieties. The wild salmon species is usually found in the Northern Pacific Ocean and the streams that empty into it. Sockeye is one of the smaller Pacific salmon but has a higher nutritional value than most larger varieties. The juveniles usually thrive in freshwater and only migrate to the ocean later.  

Sockeye, unlike other varieties, isn’t farmed. Sockeye salmon have a unique diet and lifestyle that’s hard for humans to replicate, so they must be wild-caught. They also have a distinct deep red hue instead of the pink-orange hue typical of other salmon varieties. The flesh is rich and has a buttery flavor. Because of that, sockeye salmon is sometimes referred to as red salmon or blueback salmon. If you love oily salmon, sockeye is an excellent choice. It also has a rich flavor that appeals to most salmon lovers. 

Health Benefits

Salmon is a delicious and nutritious food, low in saturated fat and a great source of protein. The popular fish contains nutrients that may help lower your risk of certain diseases. What’s more, salmon are versatile in cooking. While there are different types of salmon, sockeye is unique, living in the calm waters of the North Pacific Ocean and the rivers that discharge into it. Unlike other Pacific salmon species, sockeye feeds heavily on zooplankton in fresh and saltwater during different life stages. 

Sockeye salmon is delicious and flavorful and has a pinkish-orange flesh. So, is sockeye salmon healthy? The oily flesh of sockeye salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids (DHA), B vitamins, the antioxidant astaxanthin, selenium, and potassium. 

The omega-3s found in fish are important for heart health, supporting the overall vascular system. Other benefits may include lower blood pressure, improved thyroid function, nervous system, brain protection, and reduced risk of disease. 

Sockeye salmon isn’t farmed; the meat is leaner and contains more proteins and fewer calories. In addition, salmon has lower mercury levels in comparison to other fish varieties. 

Ways to Cook Sockeye Salmon

Sockeye salmon usually cooks faster because the filets are thinner and leaner than other varieties like pink, coho, and king salmon. For instance, a thin coho salmon might be ready in about 15 minutes, while a lean sockeye salmon will require only 10 minutes. That’s something to keep in mind when choosing a good sockeye salmon recipe. Here are a few ways to cook sockeye salmon at home. 

Baked with Lemon and Herbs

One of the best ways to enjoy your lean and oily sockeye salmon is by baking it. Since sockeye salmon is leaner, keep an eye on the cooking time to avoid overcooking it. The delicious baked sockeye salmon is made in a foil to lock in the moisture and flavor, resulting in a richly flavorful and tender fish. Finish with a drizzle of oil, herbs, garlic, and lemon. 

So how do you go about making a baked sockeye salmon recipe? Here’s how:
  • Preheat your oven to 375° F. Take a baking pan and line it with foil or parchment paper. If you don’t have foil, you can always grease a pan with cooking spray or high-heat oil. 
  • Prepare your herbs by removing the leaves from half of the herbs and chopping the leaves finely. Set them aside for later. 
  • Take your sockeye salmon filets and place them skin-side down on your baking pan, ensuring they are a few inches apart. Drizzle with oil and season with sea salt and white pepper. You can scatter the remaining fresh herbs and a few lemon slices around and on top of the fish. 
  • In your preheated oven, bake the filets until the internal temperature is a few degrees shy of 130° F if you are going for medium cooked. If you like your salmon well done, aim for an internal temperature of 145° F. If you don’t have a kitchen thermometer, you’ll know your meat is ready when the flesh begins to darken or flake. Usually, sockeye salmon should take 10 to 15 minutes to cook. 
  • Take out of the oven and garnish with olive oil and the chopped herbs you set aside. At the same time, squeeze a little lemon on top and then serve with lemon vinaigrette. 

Grilled

If you like grilled salmon, this recipe is for you. Grilling is a great way to infuse your rich sockeye salmon with a smoky flavor. Try this delicious grilled sockeye salmon recipe: 

  • Prepare the grill by setting it to medium heat. If you use a charcoal grill, the flames should have subsided, and the coals should be glowing before starting the grilling. Clean the grates using a grill brush and spray or rub on a high-heat oil like avocado. 
  • Place your sockeye salmon filets with the skin facing down and leave them to grill undisturbed until the flesh begins to flake. This shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes. Aim for an internal temperature of 125° F to 130° F for medium-rare to medium-well doneness. If you prefer well-done, aim for an internal temperature of 145° F.
  • Remove the salmon from the grill using a large and steady spatula. The best thing to use is a fish spatula to ensure that your salmon doesn’t break apart. 
  • Serve your grilled sockeye salmon with a squeeze of lemon, chopped herbs, and lemon vinaigrette. 

Shallow-Fried or Pan-Roasted 

If you are going for that restaurant-style salmon dinner, pan-roasting is a great choice. When done well, you will have a perfectly cooked sockeye salmon that’s a little crispy on top and perfectly moist inside. There are different ways to pan-roast your salmon filets – shallow frying or pan-roasting with a thin oil coating. Whatever method you choose is down to you. 
  • Preheat a thin layer of high-heat oil like avocado or olive oil in a large sauté over medium-high heat. If pan-frying it in a thin layer of oil, ensure the coating is an eighth of an inch high. If you’re shallow-frying, make sure the oil comes halfway up your largest filet. 
  • Place your salmon filets on a cutting board or prep tray and coat both sides with a thin dusting of all-purpose flour. You can also use tapioca flour, cornstarch, or Wondra-brand flour. Sift the flour over your filets with a fine mesh strainer to create a thin coating. Go easy with the flour; you don’t want to coat the fish with too much flour. 
  • When your oil shimmers and appears to thin out, carefully place the salmon inside with the flesh side down first until a brown crust forms. Carefully flip the fish and finish cooking until the skin side turns flakey and opaque. When cooking, turn the heat down to prevent burning and keep your oil from smoking. 
  • To reach your preferred doneness, use a kitchen thermometer to measure the internal temperature. For medium-rare to medium-well doneness, go for an internal temperature of between 125° F to 130° F and 145° F for a well-done salmon.
  • Garnish your fish with a squeeze of lemon and freshly-chopped herbs, and serve with lemon vinaigrette. 

What to Serve on The Side

Sockeye salmon pairs well with pasta, grains, and vegetable dishes. Some of the side dishes you can prepare to go with your grilled, baked, shallow-fried, or pan-roasted sockeye salmon include:
  • Roasted honeynut squash with miso maple butter - a beautiful and sweet winter squash with a delicious dressing.
  • Roasted purple potatoes-  top with herbs and garlic for a perfect dish.
  • Mediterranean grilled vegetables - try tomatoes, zucchini, and peppers for easy grilling.
  • Roasted garlic herb butter - add a scoop to your veggies or when cooking your salmon. 

Extra Cooking Tips

To elevate your home cooking, try these extra tips to nail your sockeye salmon every time. 
  • Salmon is tastier when it's moist inside. The best way to ensure that is by trapping the moisture inside to create a sear on the outside. To do that, bring your salmon to room temperature before you cook it. 
  • Remove any excess moisture using a paper towel before adding any seasoning. This helps easily create a sear on the outside that ensures that your filet is moist after cooking.  
  • If you grill your sockeye salmon, cook it skin side down against the grill grates. 
  • You can also broil the fish if you prefer. 
  • When baking or grilling your sockeye salmon, if you love a little more browning on top, place the filets on a sheet pan under a broiler for the last minute or two of the cooking time. 
Now you have the knowledge to cook sockeye salmon just the way you like it. The fatty and succulent fish is sure to be your next show-stopper. 
If you are a seafood lover, try our chef-selected Seafood Sampler Box, curated with the purest, most sought-after sea ingredients. The box contains renowned South African Lobster Tails, sustainably raised Cobia Filets, and wild-caught Sockeye Salmon.