As a child, salmon was a frequent item in my family’s kitchen. My mother (a big shout out to my amazing Super Mom) has been a pescatarian since long before I was brought into this world and has perfected the art known as baking salmon. Luckily for me, she passed on her love and finesse of cooking this beautiful fish, allowing me to make it an absolute staple in my diet.
There are few things more beautiful and delicious than fresh, wild salmon. Salmon has been boasted far and wide for its seemingly endless list of health benefits. Not only is it a fantastic source of protein, it also contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential monounsaturated fatty acids vital for maintaining normal metabolism and human physiology!
So… what exactly does that mean?
Let’s break these words down. A fatty acid is a large molecule composed of a long chain of carbon atoms with an acidic group of atoms on one end. Think of it as a tadpole with an acidic head and a long carbon tail. The term “omega-3” literally describes the location of the unsaturated double bond on the carbon tail (yes, that is why they are called unsaturated fats). The “3” refers to a double bond on the third carbon from the tail end (a.k.a. the “omega” end), thus the name omega-3 fatty acid!
Why should we care about this? Finding great sources of omega-3 fatty acids is important because your body cannot produce these specific fats and yet they are vital for healthy living. Research to date has found that diets high in omega-3 fatty acids can potentially slow the process of mental aging, improve memory, lessen depression and anxiety, lower inflammation, and potentially aid in the prevention of certain cardiac diseases. I definitely suggest asking your physician and/or nutritionist about more information as to how omega-3 fats can be a great addition in your diet and how they can improve your health.
Class dismissed. Let’s get back to the REAL reason we’re all here…
The secret to the perfect salmon is starting from a cold oven (What did she say?!).
I know, I know, this goes against everything you’ve ever heard about baking. Use every ounce of willpower you have to avoid preheating your oven, and I promise that you will be rewarded with a perfectly cooked fish. Unsaturated fats, such as the omega-3 fatty acids just described, have a much lower melting point than saturated fats such as those found in chicken or beef, and thus require overall lower temperatures when cooking. However, we still must make sure that a high temperature is eventually reached to ensure that the fish is safely cooked. Allowing the salmon to cook as the oven is increasing in heat prevents melting out all of the fat from the fish, which would result in a dry piece of salmon, while still ensuring that the fish is cooked to a safe temperature (145°F to be exact).
So, everyone, repeat after me: “I, [insert name here], do solemnly swear that I will NOT preheat the oven prior to baking salmon, so help me cod.”
I love to pair this dish with a refreshing creamy dill sauce to add a little brightness to the fish. If you’re not a fan of creamy sauces or any of those shenanigans, just squeeze some fresh lemon juice onto the salmon and you will be all set!
Next time you have an oppor-tuna-ty to cook salmon, remember these helpful tips (and if you have any better fish puns, then drop me a line and let minnow).