How to Steam Salmon
Why choose steaming?
Steaming is quick and easy, and yields perfectly cooked salmon that is moist and flavorful. Steaming avoids the use of unhealthy cooking fats or oils. Wild salmon, your best choice of salmon to buy, is packed with protein and those all-important omega-3’s, so you could not serve anything healthier than steamed salmon!
Steaming is a great cooking method that preserves a food’s natural flavor. Steaming wild salmon gently cooks the fish, producing delicious, moist, tender servings.
Directions for how to steam salmon
To steam your fish, you can use a bamboo steamer, or just a large pot and a stainless steel steamer basket. You could even use a large fry pan and a cake rack. The important thing is that your fish doesn’t touch the liquid. Whatever you choose, be sure it has a tight-fitting lid so it can trap the steam.
Add liquids: water, wine or broth
Now here’s where it gets interesting. What liquid do you have on hand that you’d like to steam your fish in? Water works perfectly. But if you’d like to experiment, other liquids add their own special flavors. You could try wine. (Sauvignon Blanc is our favorite.) Or you could use a vegetable broth or fish sauce. All of these will infuse your salmon with their own unique flavor.
Add just enough of your chosen liquid(s) to almost touch the bottom of your steamer. You don’t want it to touch the fish. (We’re not trying to poach the fish in liquid).
Spice it up with aromatics
You can also spice up salmon by adding other ingredients to your liquid, depending on what flavors you like. Consider thyme or parsley leaves, garlic shavings or scallions. Or for something sweeter, you could try orange or lemon slices (including the peel), or ginger. If you’re adventurous, you could add them all! Our two favorite combinations are wine and ginger, or broth and lemon juice.
Remove the salmon skin or keep it on?
Some people like to steam their fish with the skin on, and others prefer to take it off. We think the skin adds extra flavor and helps to keep the fish intact, so we leave it on. If you do decide to skin it, you’ll want to slide a sharp flat knife just beneath the skin, leaving as much of that healthy fat on the fish as possible.
Remove pin bones (if any)
Next, check for pin bones. These are the long, needle-like bones that run the length of a filet. (You won’t have to worry about them if you are eating The Popsie Fish Company’s Sockeye Salmon — we’ve already removed them for you.) But if you’ve caught the salmon yourself, or buy it at the supermarket, you will want to remove them.) You can feel these tiny bones as you run your finger down the middle of your filet. There are special fish bone tweezers for this purpose, but regular tweezers or a small, clean needle-nose plier can pluck these little bones out quickly and easily.
Cut your salmon filets into even portions
If your salmon is already cut into even portion sizes, you’re good to go. But if you’re working with a filet, you’ll want to cut it into three or four serving size pieces. Because you’d like to cook them all at the same time, it works best to have them roughly the same size. But salmon are tapered — thicker at the head end than at the tail. So take the flatter pieces and fold them over onto themselves so all your pieces end up about the same size. This helps the salmon cook evenly.
How long to steam salmon
Bring your liquid and aromatics to a boil, then turn to a simmer and place your fish on the steamer. (See below for possible vegetable additions at this point.) Put the lid on and check after about four minutes. Your fish should lose their transparency as they approach noneness. On a meat thermometer, they should register about 120°. Of course, you can eat your salmon as raw or as done as you like it, because it’s completely safe, and palates differ.
You can also add vegetables
Vegetables as garnishes or even as servings can be added right along with the fish. Sugar pea pods and bok choy, for example, are easy additions. If you julienne slice them, they’ll look especially fancy.
Make a sauce and enjoy!
Perhaps you’d like to create a simple sauce to pour over your steamed salmon. In a separate small pan, add a little sesame or olive oil, the shaved ginger and some lemon slices. Then add a half cup or so of the wine or broth. Let that all simmer while the fish is steaming. Check fish for doneness. It’s ready?