This salmon gets coated with a honey mustard marinade then broiled. The result? A delicate sticky sweet caramelized layer of flavor. It’s so balanced, and so good!
Know thy fish. We should all be broiling our salmon. It’s the best way to introduce flavor and, hey, salmon loves a high heat cooking method. It’s those caramelized bits that my fork finds first. When it comes to broiling salmon, the name of the game is marinade (because moisture).
Now, here’s the thing with broiling marinated anything. You really want the right amount. You don’t want to boil your salmon in liquid because you really want an amount of dry heat to happen before the fish dries out.
I’m going to recommend a technique along with my go-to marinade today–a honey mustard sauce that coats the salmon just so. It’s delicately flavored and won’t mask the actual taste of the salmon.
While in the past, I have cut my filets into individual 6-ounce portions, I’m embracing broiling whole salmon filets right now because I can get dinner on the table in 15-minutes (and I don’t have to dirty a cutting board)! For me that’s a double win.
You just take a really good quality Dijon and mix up this marinade that you spread all over the fish. Of course, I use the honey we got from our bees (ha, like if I wasn’t so busy raising bees, maybe I’d have time to wash a cutting board!), but you could use any honey you have.
To serve, you can just present it like you would a platter: family-style with some fresh sides. Let everyone dig in. You can use foil, too, so it’s really easy to lift it off the pan and makes clean-up simple.
Broiled Salmon Really is the Way to Go
You know me, I had to test it multiple ways so I’ll save you the trouble. I tried marinating then pan-frying, played with the proportions of mustard to honey–I even tried forgoing high-heat and baked the salmon.
- Definitely, don’t pan-fry. That was the worst. I totally under-cooked the middle because I was judging the doneness on color and the outside started to burn and stick to the pan. Honestly, it was a mess.
- With the baked salmon, it was good but not great because…no color. In terms of moisture and the outcome I’m going for, the best method is to stick the salmon right up under the broiler.
- Skin-on or off doesn’t matter (more on that later).
- I definitely didn’t mind the version where I added more mustard, but in the end decided to go with equal portions of mustard to honey.
Oh, and let’s talk about the best part: the Dijon. Yes, we are obsessed with Dijon–I mean, it does open your nose and let you taste more salmon flavor (same concept as wasabi or horseradish).
Do you have a favorite Dijon? I thought all Dijon was good until I bought this store brand one that really was awful. Even that tasted good in this recipe, but I have to say, I’m really a big fan of Grey Poupon. With the white wine and the right balance of tangy to spicy flavors, it’s just so freakin good. I think their Country Dijon would be fun in this recipe because those mustard seeds are kind of visible, and I like that.
Another unexpected thing that came out of testing this recipe was the liquid factor. I found that if you pour all of the sauce on the fish, it has a tendency to cause the salmon to steam instead of caramelize. To account for this, I figured out that it’s best to coat the salmon in a bowl, lift it, and just place it on the pan. There might be a little bit of sauce leftover (not much), but if you’re worried about wasting it, you could refrigerate it and use it with some chicken wings or something (as long as it’s within 24 hours).
Point is, with this mustard sauce, less is more. We want to hit the sweet spot in terms of moisture but not too much moisture for the broiler to work its magic.
Prepping the Salmon
If you buy your fillets from Costco, they’ll probably be skinned, boned and ready to go.
You can gently run your fingertips over the flesh of the salmon fillet, feeling for any bones. Remove the bones by grabbing firmly and pulling with a pair of tweezers. I like to keep culinary tweezers with my fillet knife for this purpose.
Skin on or off? This will depend largely on how it’s sold and whether you think you can remove it. If you want to take a stab at it here’s how (video)
Even if you don’t like eating the skin, I find that it’s no big deal to cook with it on because it almost always separates easily from the flesh and you can just remove it at the time of serving. In terms of portioning, I like the practicality of serving a whole fillet (again, no cutting board needed). You could just as easily cut each fillet before cooking; for broiled salmon, I’d recommend a 6-ounce portion minimum to account for shrinkage.
Coordinating Fast, Fresh Sides with Broiled Salmon
We should talk about sides. I know salmon can be tricky because it cooks so quickly. It can be gosh darn hard to put together a side before the salmon gets cold. But it is possible!
Foil and Broil Hack: I stole the foil and broil method from my mom because I’ve seen how it can double as a moisture-locking wrap if the fish has to sit for a bit.
I like the simplicity of wild rice for fish because there’s nothing to measure. As a grass, wild rice can be simmered like pasta then strained. You know wild rice is done when the grains slightly open up. I’ve always found that the package instructions are solid. The only tip I have is to use salted water because it helps accentuate the subtle sweetness that makes wild rice so special.
My second side dish is a method that can be applied broadly to any delicate green. I’m going with snow peas today because (again) no cutting board:)
Basic 5-Minute Snow Peas Recipe
Snow peas are a cold weather crop so they are harvested in Spring and Fall. If you are making this recipe in out of season, feel free to make a substitution.
- 16 ounces (1 bag) snow peas
- olive oil
- lemon (zest and juice)
- Prep the snow peas. Grab any hard stems and pull to remove any thick fibers that might be unpleasant to eat.
- Sauté, season, and serve. Heat a skillet over medium heat and coat with a glug of olive oil. Add the snow peas and stir occasionally cooking just a few minutes. Season with salt (pepper, too, if you’d like) and shave some lemon zest over top (a quick squirt of lemon will brighten the green color even more). Serve as a bright, crisp side to salmon.
How to Broil Salmon
For perfectly broiled salmon, you need to keep a close eye on what’s happening. Since salmon fillets can vary wildly in thickness, it’s impossible to offer one standard cooking time.
Instead, use your eyes and look for caramelization.
Use a fork: cooked salmon will flake easily. If it doesn’t flake, it needs more time. While the USDA recommends an internal temperature of 145 degrees, many would call that dry. You might want to target 135 degrees and allow for some carry-over-cooking. In the end, it’s your judgment.
Tips for Buying Salmon:
Salmon is generally sold head-off and packaged so it can be hard to examine for freshness. In general, look for labels that say “fresh” and if you can, source “wild” instead of “farmed.” The flesh of fresh salmon should be firm (it can get mushy if frozen) and should smell pleasant like the sea. If it has a strong fishy odor, it’s not fresh. As a rule, I try to cook salmon that I buy from the store within 2 days tops.
If you would like to try arctic char which has orange flesh and is actually a trout, I would recommend reducing the cook time. Unlike salmon, char is a lean fish and will dry out if over-cooked by even 1 minute.
Honey Mustard Glaze Ingredients
You need a bowl, a spoon and these 7 ingredients to whip up this quick sauce:
Honey: adds a sweet elements and helps the salmon caramelize; 1 tablespoon maple syrup may be used in place of honey
Dijon mustard: The flavor mellows during cooking. If using a bottled Dijon, be sure to shake it first. Grainy mustard is a good substitute. Whatever you do, please don’t use that basic yellow stuff for this recipe.
Garlic cloves: Gives a decidedly savory dimension that’s really important to balancing the flavors.
Olive oil: when broiling at high heat, it’s important to choose a neutral oil with a high smoke point. Avocado oil (smoke point 520 degrees) is the best oil, but I tested olive oil with this recipe and had no issues.
Sea salt: Salmon is a sea fish and so sea salt is the perfect touch to making all the flavors pop.
Lemon: Just a nice accouterment for the table. I love tasting with and without lemon. It makes every bite exciting.
Parsley: Always important to add a fresh element. Chives or dill would work, too.
More Fish Recipe For You:
- Kale Salad with Pan-Seared Salmon
- Salmon Curry with Kaffir Lime
- Smoked Salmon Cream Sauce with Gnocchi
- Baked Salmon with Parsley Garlic Crust
- Thai Sea Bass
- Crispy Sea Bream with Olives and Pickled Onion
Now grab your apron and let’s make salmon for dinner!
BROILED SALMON WITH HONEY MUSTARD GLAZE
- 2 pounds salmon filets boneless and skinless
- 1 ½ tablespoons honey
- 1 ½ tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 3 garlic cloves minced (about 3 teaspoons)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 lemon cut into wedges for serving
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
- Prepare the salmon. Line a sheet tray with two layers of foil, coating the top layer thinly with a bit of olive oil to prevent sticking. Place the honey, dijon, garlic, olive oil, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir until combined. Add the salmon, toss to coat evenly. Set the salmon on the prepared sheet tray. Fold the top foil layer to hug the thin outer edges of the salmon, leaving the top of the salmon open.
- Broil on high heat (500°F) and serve. Set the oven temperature to broil and transfer the salmon to the top shelf, approximately 6-inches from the broiler. Do not walk away or forget as it will cook very quickly (especially the closer it is to the heat). Checking every 5 minutes, pull the salmon out as soon as you see it is brown and opaque (approximately 10 minutes total). Garnish with lemon wedges and minced parsley, then serve. Note: Reserve those pan drippings and drizzle over a side of sauteed vegetables or rice. If it will be a while before you can serve the fish, I recommend completely covering tightly with foil to lock in the moisture.
Photography by Adam Rahman.