frozen salmon
frozen salmon

How to Cook Salmon from Frozen

September 1st, 2021

What to Do When You Have No Time to Thaw

The absolute best way to enjoy wild-caught seafood that’s been flash-frozen at the peak of its freshness is to give it the time to thaw out properly. But sometimes there is literally no time to thaw, which is when it’s good to know that while not ideal, cooking frozen salmon straight out of the freezer the right way is a great kitchen skill to have. 

While you’ll need to cook salmon after it’s properly been defrosted to best appreciate its texture and flavor in any salmon recipe,  of course there are always days when you might find yourself in a time crunch — perhaps you forgot to move your frozen salmon portions to the refrigerator to thaw the night before, or maybe you weren’t planning on cooking until this very moment. 

Can You Cook Salmon from Frozen?

Yes. Knowing the best way to cook frozen fish will help you preserve as much quality as possible from your salmon. 

Note: Cooking thawed salmon allows you to get the best texture possible from your portions. If you have about an hour to spare before cooking, you can quick-thaw your salmon rather than cooking from frozen. 

Is It Safe to Cook Frozen Salmon?

Importantly, cooking frozen fish is safe to do, as long as it has reached a safe internal temperature. 

The USDA recommends an internal temperature of 145F for salmon, which likely is more well done than most people prefer. However, this is the only way to ensure you’ve completely eliminated the risk of food-borne illnesses from your cooking. Frozen salmon does not cook as evenly as when it is thawed, so when you cook frozen salmon, check the internal temperature in a few places to ensure that the entire portion is cooked through. 

If you prefer to cook salmon to a medium or medium rare doneness, it’s best to defrost before cooking. This way, the entire piece of fish will spend less time in what the USDA considers the temperature danger zone — between 40F and 140F. In this temperature range, which is basically anywhere between refrigerated and fully cooked, there’s always some risk that raw meat, poultry, and fish will develop bacteria that can cause food-borne illness. And when you’re cooking from frozen, salmon naturally will require a longer cooking time and will be in this “danger zone” for longer than if they had first been defrosted; this is one reason why fish should not be cooked from frozen using a slow cooker. 

The USDA does suggest that it is indeed safe to cook thin fillets of fish or meats from frozen, but there is no official guidance on exactly how thin these cuts need to be in order for this guidance to apply. Because of this lack of clarity from the USDA, we can only confirm that it is proven safe to cook any fillet from frozen if you’re planning to cook the salmon all the way through. However, because cooking from frozen is an uneven process, the salmon likely will be well done anyway no matter what you do. 

The Best Cooking Methods for Salmon From Frozen

Thawed salmon is among the most versatile portions of protein that you can use, as they allow you to develop the best texture possible with wild salmon. When cooking with defrosted salmon portions, any cooking method will do. 

But frozen salmon portions, on the other hand, are best cooked using cooking methods with intense sources of heat, and sometimes take more than twice as long to cook as thawed fillets.

Baked Salmon from Frozen

baked salmon from frozen

When baking or roasting frozen salmon, cook frozen salmon portions at 425F so that they cook through as quickly as possible. Keep in mind, though, that even at this high temperature, salmon will take nearly 30 minutes to cook from frozen. We highly recommend serving baked-from-frozen salmon with a topping that has a textured and saucy consistency to add moisture to the cooked salmon. 


Wild sockeye or coho salmon portions, frozen

Lemon slices

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Topping of your choice, preferably something saucy and textured

  1. Preheat oven to 425F. 

  2. Place frozen salmon portions skin side down in a baking dish. Lay lemon slices over the tops of the portions, then cover dish with a tight-fitting lid or aluminum foil. When oven has preheated, place baking dish in oven and set timer for 15 minutes. 

  3. Check fish when timer goes off: The portions should still be cold and raw in the thickest part of the salmon, but not frozen solid. If still frozen solid, allow to cook for a few more minutes. Otherwise, remove lid/foil and season with salt and pepper, then roast for another 8-12 minutes, depending on the thickness of the salmon. Begin checking doneness at 8 minutes for thinner tail cuts, roasting for 2 more minutes at a time until the thickest part of the portions register at 140F°  with an instant-read thermometer. The salmon is properly done when the thickest part is firm but flakes easily with a fork. 

  4. Remove baking dish from oven and allow roasted salmon to rest for a few minutes before transferring to a serving platter. Discard lemon slices, then garnish with salsa, chutney, or even the soy-chili-sesame marinade from our recipe for spicy oven-baked salmon.

Pan-Fried Salmon from Frozen


frozen pan fried salmon

You can achieve crispy skin when pan-frying frozen salmon in under 10 minutes, making this one of the best ways to cook salmon from frozen.

The key to pan-frying from frozen is to steam the fish first, allowing the ice glaze on the surface of the fillet to melt off before searing the salmon skin side down. Serving these pan-fried portions with a fresh hit of lemon juice is a great way to add a little moisture to seared salmon. 


  • Sockeye or coho salmon portions

  • Parchment paper, cut to fit skillet, optional

  • High-heat cooking oil
  • Salt and pepper

  • Lemon

  1. Heat a skillet over medium heat, then set parchment paper into skillet. Place frozen salmon skin side up on the paper, then place lid on skillet. Allow fish to steam for 6-8 minutes, depending on thickness, until defrosted on the outside and still a bit cold in the center of the portion. (Use a knife to peek into the thickest part of the salmon and gauge doneness.)

  2. Remove parchment and fish from skillet, then raise heat to medium-high. Add enough high-heat cooking oil to just cover bottom of pan (peanut, canola, or grapeseed oil are good choices), allowing the oil to heat up. Meanwhile, pat dry the partially cooked portion to remove any excess moisture from both the flesh and skin side, then season with salt and pepper.

  3. Once oil is hot and has begun to shimmer, place salmon skin side down into skillet and cover with lid. Sear for 2 to 3 minutes or until skin is crispy; it is ready when the portion releases easily from the pan. Use a fish spatula to flip the salmon so that it is skin side up, then take skillet off heat. If needed, allow fish to rest uncovered in skillet for a minute or two until fully cooked through. Transfer to serving platter skin-side up, garnishing with lemon wedges.

Grilled Salmon from Frozen

grilling salmon from frozen When grilling from frozen, the best approach is to cook it using an aluminum foil packet. You won’t have to flip the fish, and it won't stick to the grill

To grill salmon from frozen, you’ll make a packet with aluminum foil that allows your frozen salmon to steam en papillote. While the salmon will cook unevenly in the packet, steaming it on the grill (rather than placing it directly on the grill) helps to keep it from drying out too much as it cooks. 

Since any fish that you cook on the grill en papillote doesn’t come into direct contact with any flames or charred flavors (it will taste the same as if it had been cooked en papillote indoors), this method of cooking is best when you are planning on directly grilling BBQ side dishes to accompany the salmon, or you simply enjoy cooking al fresco.


  • Sockeye or coho salmon portions

  • Salt and pepper
  • Foil

  • High-heat cooking oil
  • Stock or wine

  • Butter or oil

  • Herbs
  1. Preheat and clean grill. Adjust the heat to medium-high, or approximately 375F. 

  2. Season salmon with salt and pepper, then create a packet of aluminum foil to hold each portion adding in a splash of liquid, a pad of butter or glug of oil, and any complementary herbs and flavorings, then seal the packet tightly. 

  3. Place sealed packets on grill. Close the grill lid, then allow to cook for 15-18 minutes, depending on thickness of portions.

  4. Begin checking doneness at 15 minutes for thinner tail cuts, being careful when opening up one packet to avoid any hot steam that escapes. Reseal the foil and grill for a few more minutes at a time until the thickest part of the portion registers at 140F°  with an instant-read thermometer. The salmon is properly done when the thickest part is firm but flakes easily with a fork. 

Air-Fried Salmon from Frozen

pesto baked salmon

To air-fry salmon from frozen, it’s a good idea to use panko breadcrumbs to add texture to the fillets, as they won’t get as crisp as when you're cooking thawed fillets. 


  • Sockeye or coho salmon portions

  • Salt and pepper
  • Cooking spray

  • Flour
  • Egg

  • Salt and Pepper
  • Breadcrumbs

  • Lemon Wedges
  1. Preheat air-fryer to 390F. Once hot, remove the basket and lightly coat it with cooking spray. Place salmon skin-side down directly on the basket and set timer for 7 minutes. 

  2. While fish is cooking, set up a breading station with three plates: One plate should have enough flour or almond flour to lightly coat your fillets, another should have a whisked egg or two, and the third plate should have enough breadcrumbs to fully cover the fish. If you like, season the flour with a pinch of cayenne, paprika, or garlic powder. 

  3. Once fish has thawed in the first stage of cooking, open air fryer and remove salmon. Season both sides with salt and pepper, then lightly coat with flour and egg, in that order; shake off any excess. Finally, press salmon portions into breadcrumbs so that they are fully coated. Place back into the air-fryer basket, then set timer for 7 to 9 more minutes (7 minutes for thinner fillets, 9 minutes for thicker ones).

  4. When the timer goes off, use an instant-read probe thermometer to check doneness in the thickest part of the salmon. Cook for another minute or two if underdone and check temperature again until the thermometer registers at 140F to 145F. Breading should be crisp and golden when done.

  5. Remove salmon from basket and serve immediately, with lemon wedges for squeezing over the fish.

How to Season Salmon from Frozen 

When seasoning salmon, consider the type of salmon you’re using. Sockeye salmon has a robust flavor that works especially well with bold seasonings. Coho, on the other hand, is milder and benefits from more delicate flavor profiles. 

Here are some no-fail seasoning ingredients to use when cooking salmon from frozen.

  • Dijon mustard for punchy, spicy acidity. Try mixing in some honey. This can be brushed onto salmon after the fillet has thawed in the first stage of cooking. 

  • Garlic powder for umami and that garlicky bite. A great addition to spice rubs, which can be sprinkled on fillets after they have thawed in the first stage of cooking. 

  • Lemon juice as a finishing touch. 

  • Soy sauce for salty umami and color. Excellent when paired with sugar, honey, or maple syrup as a glaze.

  • Black pepper is a must. Freshly ground pepper will give you the best spice.

  • Fresh herbs for a burst of flavor to finish the dish. Tender green herbs like dill, cilantro, parsley, or chives are especially good with salmon, or any variety of fish. 

Get Healthy Seafood and Fresh Salmon Every Month

Learning how to cook frozen seafood gives you practically instant, clean protein straight from the freezer. Be sure to stock your kitchen with sustainably-caught fish and shellfish by sourcing your seafood online from Wild Alaskan Company. You’ll get high-quality, wild-caught seafood delivered straight to your doorstep. Choose your fish subscription box today.