How to Tell When Salmon is Done
Whether you are preparing it on the grill, in the oven, or on the stove-top, salmon is an easy, quick-cooking protein that also happens to be delicious and good for you. The only trick is cooking it correctly.
Like a piece of steak, you can cook salmon to varying degrees of doneness. And that's whether you have fillets, steaks, or a whole side of salmon. Also like a steak, salmon can go from raw to overcooked in minutes, especially if you are using high heat. Which means you have to keep an eye on it as it cooks. (Unless you're preparing it in a slow cooker. In that case, feel free to walk away!)
Cook times depend on two things: the thickness of the salmon, and how you like it prepared (medium-rare, medium, or well-done). According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the thickest part of a piece of cooked salmon should have a minimum internal temperature of 145˚F—which will be a very firm, well-done piece of fish.
At this temperature, you're more likely to see albumin, a white substance that appears when a piece of salmon is cooked, and the muscles contract. Albumin typically oozes out of the fish when it has been overcooked. It's safe to eat but it doesn't look appetizing, so you want to avoid overcooking the fish.
For medium to medium-rare, aim for 125˚F to 135˚F. The fish will continue cooking a bit after it comes off of the heat but remain tender and moist inside. If your piece of salmon still has the skin on, cook it skin-side-down first to prevent albumin from appearing.
Flakiness is another sign of doneness. Use a salad fork or the tip of a paring knife to test whether the top of the fish flakes apart easily. If it's flaky, it's done.