Sous Vide Atlantic Salmon

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Fish is one of the best foods you can cook sous vide. The flesh of fish is delicate and easy to overcook with traditional techniques, but cooking sous vide ensures that your fish remains moist, flavorful and vibrant.

Sous vide salmon [left] vs. traditionally cooked salmon [right]. Both are cooked to the same internal temperature. Look at the difference in colour!

In the photo above, both salmon fillets were cooked to the same internal temperature of 48°C. The fillet on the left was cooked sous vide (instructions below) while the fillet on the right was prepared in an oven. The difference is dramatic: the outside of the traditionally cooked salmon got too hot, causing the flesh to contract and dry out. However, the sous vide salmon retains its vibrant color, its tasty juices, and produces a soft texture that is unmatched in traditional cooking.

  1. Preheat the sous vide bath to 48°C.
  2. (Optional) remove the skin from the salmon fillet. Better yet, ask your fishmonger to do this for you when you purchase your salmon. Remove the bones. Cut the fillet into the portions you plan to serve – the fish will cut much cleaner when it’s raw than after it has been cooked, where it tends to fall apart.
  3. Add 1 tbsp. olive oil to a vacuum bag, then add a salmon fillet. Set your vacuum sealer to the lowest setting and seal the bag, ensuring not too much air escapes. Alternatively, use a zip-lock bag, then use the water displacement method to remove air from the bag. Bagging each fillet individually will ensure that they don’t become stuck together during cooking.
  4. Cook 30 minutes for a 2.5 cm thick fillet, or until the core temperature of the fish reaches to 47°C (one degree below the bath temperature).
  5. Remove the salmon from the bag. If you with to sear the salmon to get that nice, crispy layer, do the following:
    1. Preheat a heavy skillet (cast iron, or high-carbon steel) over high heat. Add a high smoke point oil, such as grape seed or safflower, to coat the bottom of the skillet.
    2. Pat your fillets dry. Then, place them skin-side-down onto the hot skillet. Try not to move them, as the skin may stick during the first moments of cooking.
    3. Sear for 30 seconds, or until the skin is crisp and releases from the bottom of the pan. If you chose to remove the skin earlier, sear for only 20 seconds instead, as the heat will move through the cutlet quicker and may dry it out if left too long.
  6. Plate, and season with high-quality olive oil, flaky sea salt or any other sauces or garnishes you prefer.

While 48°C might seem a bit low for cooking meat, the duration of the cook in the waterbath ensures pasteurization to an acceptable level. Briefly searing the salmon will also help. Be sure to handle your meats with care, even if you plan to cook them. Always use clean chopping boards and make sure you are using BPA-free sous vide bags.

Recipe and image sourced from