wild salmon cooked
wild salmon cooked

How Do You Know When Wild Salmon is Done?

February 15th, 2021

Mastering the Art of Perfectly Cooking Salmon

Wild salmon is a truly versatile fish that can be cooked any number of ways. If you follow a majority of the recipes on the internet, you’ll learn the hard way that your wild salmon can be overcooked in just as many ways; which is because many salmon cook times are designed around the fattier, farmed fillets.

Wild salmon is cooked sooner than its farmed counterpart, so you can’t simply follow any given recipe to determine when your salmon is cooked. That means you will need to keep a close eye on your fillets to max out their intense flavor and sublime texture. As a general rule, wild salmon reaches medium-doneness when the flesh flakes easily, but this doesn’t apply to all preparations — and some methods are less forgiving than others.

The good news is that any home cook can learn when their wild salmon is prepared perfectly, no matter how you do it. 

Suggested Salmon Doneness Temperatures

Internal temperatures can be a great indicator of doneness.

Here's a quick reference for the internal temperature you should aim for, depending on your preference for doneness:

  • Medium-rare, moist and flaky: 120F

  • Medium, no longer translucent in the center with firmer flakes: 125F to 130F

  • Medium-well, drier texture: 130F to 140F

  • Well-done, very dry and completely cooked through: 145F

How Do You Know When Wild Salmon Is Done Cooking?

You want to make sure your fish is prepared to your liking, whether you want it cooked all the way through or you like it a bit raw on the inside, and not cooked so much that it becomes dry or tough to chew. So how much is too much? What should you look for? Here is how you know your wild salmon is done for each common cooking technique.


Pan-frying is the quickest and easiest way to cook salmon fillets a stovetop. When you pan-sear or pan-fry, It only takes about 3-4 minutes per side. 

To check if the fish is done, cut the filet at the thickest point and make sure the fish is flaky in the middle. If it is a thinner cut of fish, reduce the cook time by 1 minute per side, and remember you can always cook your fish more, but you can’t go back in time once your fish is too well done.


If you are baking wild salmon or broiling wild salmon it’s a little bit harder because you aren’t watching your fish every second while it cooks. With both of these cooking methods there is no need to flip the fish, just let it cook and check to make sure it is cooked to your liking once it is ready.

With roasted fish typically 8-12 minutes at 400 degrees will do the trick (less time for a thinner cut of fish), and for broiled fish 5-7 minutes at medium-high heat will be enough. Again, make a small cut at the thickest part of the fish to see if it is flaky but still translucent; remember less is more and you can always add an additional minute of cooking time as needed.


When poaching salmon, bring water to a boil and then reduce the heat so the liquid begins to simmer. Place the fish filets in the liquid so they are submerged and cook for 6-8 minutes. When the fish is ready the inside at the thickest point should be slightly translucent but not raw. Think pink and slightly shiny but not like a piece of sushi.  

Additional Tips to Tell That Salmon Is Done

Use a Timer

Even with foolproof recipes and specific cooking times, we all get distracted and forget to take our fish off the heat or out of the oven. When given a range cook times, always set the timer for the shortest possible cook time. It's always better to err on the side of underdone. Then, check its doneness and adjust the cooking time as needed.

Use Your Eyes

Keep an eye on the fish as it cooks. When salmon is nearly done — especially when you're cooking with very hot cooking methods — a white protein called albumin will start collecting on the surface of the fish. 

Use a Fork

You can use a fork to break off a small bite of fish, and if it flakes nicely, it’s done. If it’s hard to break off and raw inside, it needs more time. And if the texture seems tough and dry, it’s overcooked.

Assume It Will Finish Cooking on the Plate

Most importantly, even after you remove your fish from the oven or stovetop, it will continue cooking! The internal temperature of the fish will continue to increase even if the exterior temperature has gone down, so the fish will cook a bit more on the inside even after you think it is done. Which is why making sure that your fish is slightly translucent on the inside is so crucial — even once your fish is plated and ready to serve, it will continue cooking until it is perfect.