For many home cooks, broiling is an underutilized cooking method. As far as the mechanics of it go, it is basically the indoor version of grilling. It's fast, and it gets extra points in the broil-vs.-bake debate for creating a crisper, more nicely browned sear on the outside of seafood, meats and other food. Fatty fish like salmon are great candidates for this method because they hold up well to the heat and stay pretty moist even if you overcook them a little.
Prepping Broiled Salmon Steaks or Fillets
One of the great things about broiled salmon steaks or fillets is that they work as such a simple meal. Salmon's natural flavor is versatile but really requires minimal accompaniment. Combined with a rich sear from the broiler, the dish is delicious without doing much else to it.
So, while you preheat the broiler to high heat, brush the salmon with melted butter or cooking oil. Then, all you need is a liberal dose of salt and pepper and maybe a few squirts of lemon juice and/or some lemon zest. You can also place thin slices of lemon on the fish. Dill and garlic powder or minced garlic complement lemon flavoring too. Also, salmon is receptive to blackening seasoning mix, Cajun seasoning or just about any other herbs and spices you like.
Line a baking tray with aluminum foil and apply a coating of oil or nonstick spray. Center the salmon fillets (skin side down) or steaks on the tray without them touching each other.
Marinating Salmon Before Broiling
If you want to marinate your salmon fillets or steaks, that's always an option. Soak them in the marinade in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes in a glass baking dish or other nonreactive vessel covered with plastic wrap, turning them over once 10 minutes in.
Make a marinade with equal parts acid (red or white wine, vinegar, orange or lemon juice, etc.) and cooking oil. Add any herbs, spices and other aromatics you want, and something like soy sauce or tamari works nicely when you want a salty preparation.
Remove the fish from the marinade and let the excess drip off. Center the salmon steaks or fillets (skin side down) on a lined, greased baking tray. Discard the marinade after use since it has had raw fish sitting in it.
Broiling the Salmon
A key difference when you broil vs. bake is that instead of controlling the oven temperature, you regulate cooking by controlling how far below the broiler element you position the food. If the salmon cut is less than 1 inch thick, center it 4 inches below the broiler. If it is more than 1 inch thick, center it 6 inches below the broiler.
As for broil time, salmon fillet or steak cooking varies by the oven, the thickness of the fish and other considerations. A general rule of thumb for this method is to cook salmon for five minutes per 1/2 inch of thickness.
When you broil salmon, temperature as determined by a meat thermometer is the surest way to know when it's done. Fish should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. However, sometimes it's hard to get a good reading, especially with thinner cuts, so you can always check by pressing into the thickest part of the salmon with a fork to confirm that it flakes easily and that the flesh is opaque all the way through. Remove it promptly from the baking tray when it's done to prevent overcooking.
Eric Mohrman is a food and drink, lifestyle, and travel writer. He spent 10 years working front- and back-of-house in a few casual and upscale restaurants, adding professional experience to his love of eating and cooking. He lives with his family in Orlando, Florida. His stories on food and beverage topics have appeared in numerous print and web publications, including Visit Florida, Orlando Style Magazine, CrushBrew Magazine, Agent Magazine, Dollar Stretcher Magazine, The 863 Magazine and others.