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How to Season Salmon

Salmon is one of the most flavorful types of fish. Still, just like any food, a little bit of extra care can enhance flavor and presentation. Let's see the best methods for seasoning salmon.

Tips for Seasoning Salmon

Chefs and home cooks have a few different methods for seasoning salmon before cooking. These are some of the most popular methods.

  • Salt and pepper
  • Homemade dry rub (usually salt, pepper, and additional herbs and spices)
  • Store-bought dry rub
  • Salmon marinade
  • Salmon glaze

Do You Season Salmon Before Cooking?

Yes, season salmon before cooking. Seasoning will enhance the flavor of the fish, help the flesh stay firm, and protect the vibrant pink color of the salmon.

Salmon is also seasoned before making smoked salmon over very low temperatures. This article will focus on salmon that is cooked at 350 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

What Flavors Work With Salmon

Just about all flavors work with salmon. Because salmon is high in fat content and a firm fish, it has its own flavor that can hold up to strong flavors like garlic, ginger, hot pepper, and others.

But like all fish, salmon is a little delicate, and also works well with more subtle flavors like fresh herbs and citrus.

Marinades that are excessively sweet or extremely sour are a bad pairing, but most seasonings that you find will taste fine. Since salmon can handle most flavors well, it's a good fish to experiment on with new flavor combinations.

Salmon Seasoning With Household Spices

One excellent seasoning for salmon can be done with the most basic of household spices: salt and pepper.

Salt works to slightly cure the fish before it is cooked, absorbing into the flesh of the fish to make it firm and flavorful. You can salt fish just before cooking, but for best results, salt at least 30 minutes beforehand. Use a teaspoon of salt per pound of salmon.

A light dusting of ground pepper after salting will lend a slight bite to the finished product.

You can also add other common household spices to the mix. The amounts and combinations are really up to your personal taste. Here are some spices you may have that could be good as part of a homemade salmon seasoning.

  • Paprika
  • Chile/Chili powder
  • Garlic powder/salt
  • Ground cumin
  • Onion powder
  • Ground ginger

Use approximately one-half teaspoon of these flavorful seasonings per pound of salmon.

Store-Bought Salmon Rub

The condiments or gourmet section of your market will likely have premixed rubs specifically for fish or even specifically for salmon. If these interest you, we'd recommend reading the ingredients list first to see if the contents are likely to match your taste.

Our Traeger Fin & Feather Rub is designed for poultry and fish, and features the flavors of garlic, onion, and paprika.

Here, Chef Eduardo Garcia shows how to cook fresh steelhead salmon on a Traeger using his Montana Mex line of seasonings.

https://youtu.be/PpvdY-nqZLM

Salmon Marinade

Marinating salmon can add additional flavor and help the fish stay moist during cooking. Most marinades include an acidic element like lemon or vinegar which add a pleasant tanginess to the fish.

Salmon is considered by some to be a "fishy" tasting fish because it is firm and high in fat. Fillets that aren't perfectly fresh may also have a slightly fishy flavor. If you're worried about an overly "fishy" taste, an acidic or spicy marinade will mask those flavors.

Our Sweet & Spicy Sriracha Salmon recipe is a good choice.

Salmon can be marinated for up to one hour, except in the case of a marinade that's extremely acidic. Overly acidic marinades will start to firm up fish, and dry them out before cooking, so keep an eye on any marinade that's heavy on lemon or vinegar.

Salmon Glaze

A thin layer of glaze, applied to the surface of the salmon before cooking, adds flavor and also acts as a protective layer that helps prevent the fish from drying out during cooking.

Because the glaze needs to stick to the fish, most salmon glaze recipes include a spreadable fat or oil component like mayonnaise.

You can use a glaze on its own, or season the salmon and then apply the glaze, like in our Simple Glazed Salmon Fillets recipe.

Sauce for Salmon

Another method for adding flavor and moisture to cooked salmon is a sauce added after cooking. Creamy sauces go well with salmon because they complement the fattiness of the fish.

If you use a sauce, we would recommend seasoning the salmon before cooking in addition to applying the sauce after cooking, as in our Red Curry Salmon with Avocado Creme recipe. The seasoning will help the fish stay firm and bright in color during cooking.

Salmon Seasoning Recipes

These recipes have Traeger-approved salmon seasonings to make at home.

Grilled Salmon with Fin & Feather Salmon Rub

Cook time: 30 minutes

Serves: 6

Ingredients

(Salsa)

3 large avocados, halved and pitted

1/2 medium red onion, diced small

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced

1/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped

1 lime, juiced

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

(Salmon)

1 (3-pound) salmon side

1 tablespoon Traeger Fin & Feather Rub

Grilled Salmon Tacos with Homemade Seasoning

Cook time: 50 minutes

Serves: 2

Ingredients

1 tablespoon salt

1/2 tablespoon ancho chile powder

1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika

1/2 tablespoon brown sugar

1/2 tablespoon garlic powder

1/4 tablespoon dried oregano leaves

1/4 tablespoon ground black pepper

1 pound tomato

1 medium jalapeño

1 small red onion, peeled and halved

Extra-virgin olive oil

Salt

1/2 cup fresh cilantro

3 whole limes

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 whole cabbage, head

Citrus Salmon Seasoning

Cook time: 15 minutes

Serves: 2

Ingredients

2 tablespoons butter, softened

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon lemon juice

2 teaspoon fresh chopped dill

1/2 teaspoon salt

Black pepper

4 (8-ounce) salmon fillets, skin on

1 lemon, thinly sliced

Simple Glazed Salmon Fillets

Cook time: 25 minutes

Serves: 2

Ingredients

4 (6- to 8-ounce) center-cut salmon fillets, skin on

Traeger Fin & Feather Rub

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon fresh chopped tarragon or dill

Lemon wedges

BBQ Roasted Salmon Seasoning

Cook time: 15 minutes

Serves: 4

Ingredients

1/3 cup honey

3 tablespoons whole grain mustard

1 cup ketchup

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves, finely chopped

1/8 teaspoon Jacobsen Salt Co. Pure Kosher Sea Salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 whole salmon fillets, 6 ounces each, skin on

Garlic Salmon Seasoning

Cook time: 25 minutes

Serves: 4

Ingredients

1 (2- to 3-pound) salmon fillet, skin on

Traeger Fin & Feather Rub

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1/2 tablespoon minced parsley

Lemon wedges

Honey Balsamic Salmon Seasoning

Cook time: 25 minutes

Serves: 2

Ingredients

1 medium salmon fillet

Traeger Fin & Feather Rub

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 tablespoons honey

Sweet and Spicy Sriracha Marinade for Salmon

Cook time: 15 minutes

Serves: 4

Ingredients

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon Sriracha

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1/4 teaspoon chipotle chile powder

1 teaspoon Traeger Chicken Rub

1½ teaspoons sesame oil

4 (4-ounce) wild salmon fillets

2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions

2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds

Cooked white rice, brown rice, or quinoa, for serving

Grilled baby bok choy, for serving

Teriyaki Salmon

Cook time: 10 minutes

Serves: 2

Ingredients

1 cup soy sauce

6 tablespoons brown sugar

4 cloves garlic

1 tablespoons ginger, minced

2 whole oranges, juiced

zest of 2 whole oranges

4 pieces (5-ounce) salmon fillets

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Scallions, chopped

Toasted sesame seeds

Red Curry with Avocado Cream Sauce for Salmon

Cook time: 8 minutes

Serves: 4

Ingredients

1 medium avocado, halved, pitted, and peeled

5 tablespoons coconut milk

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 clove garlic

1/4 cup cilantro leaves, plus more for serving

3/4 teaspoon salt, divided

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste

1 pinch cayenne pepper

4 (5-ounce) salmon fillets

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 medium lime, cut into wedges

Grilled Blackened Saskatchewan Salmon

Cook time: 30 minutes

Serves: 4

Ingredients

1 salmon fillet

Zesty Italian dressing

Traeger Blackened Saskatchewan Rub

Lemon wedges