The Cooking Tip Ree Drummond Uses For Flaky Salmon Every Time

Celebrity chef Ree Drummond is no stranger to making delicious salmon. Since the Pioneer Woman launched her cooking blog in 2006, she has released dozens of recipes that center on this popular fish. She has amassed quite a number of tips for cooking it, but her best one actually comes from her good friend Pam Anderson, a critically acclaimed cookbook writer who runs a blog with her two daughters. Drummond credits Anderson for giving her the secret method that guarantees a moist, flaky filet, and it all has to do with starting to cook the meat in a cold oven.

To make perfectly cooked salmon, simply put the fish on a baking tray and place it in the oven before you begin preheating. As the stove warms up, your filet will begin to roast under low temperatures before the heat comes on full blast. This lessens the chance that the salmon will become overcooked by the oven's searing heat, which can draw out its moisture and ultimately leave you with a tough, dry meal. If you want to get specific with your cooking times and temperatures, Drummond and Anderson roast their fish in an oven set to 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 minutes. However, you might need to change your timing based on your salmon filet's thickness.

Don't skip the parchment paper for your cold oven salmon

While cold oven salmon can be as easy as just plopping some salmon on a baking tray and roasting it to perfection, you'll want to do the extra step of lining your baking tray with parchment paper beforehand. A little bit of it can not only prevent your fish from becoming stuck to the cookware, but it also helps you get some shatteringly crispy skin as well. Just line the bottom of your baking tray with some parchment paper, and watch how easy it can be to not only cook perfectly flaky salmon but to have a minimal mess to scrub off afterward. 

If you really want to take things up a notch, feel free to completely wrap salmon with parchment paper as it roasts, which allows the meat to retain all its moisture and become infused with all the aromatics around it. This specific method of cooking fish is called en papillote. To make your cold oven salmon this way, just fold over the parchment paper into a bag and tightly crimp the edges until all the food has been sealed — similar to an empanada. You can kick things up by serving your food in its en papillote encasement, and watch your guests be wowed as they release all those wonderful aromas at the dinner table.

Other tips for making oven-baked salmon at home

Before you even begin to cook your cold oven salmon, you must not make the common mistake of selecting the wrong type of filet at your local grocer or fish market. Center-cut pieces are your best bet here, as they have a uniform thickness that allows all sides to roast evenly in the oven. You should also try to select skin-on salmon when possible, as it helps protect the flesh from overcooking and crumbling into pieces.

Regardless of whether you use parchment paper for your fish or not, you'll also want to coat it with the cooking fat of your choice beforehand. This can not only prevent your filet from sticking to the pan, but it will help your seasoning stick. A lot of cooks recommend using neutral cooking oil with a high smoke point but feel free to use something like extra-virgin olive oil or butter if you prefer something a little more flavorful.

Lastly, don't forget to season your salmon generously before it goes into the cold oven. While this fish already features a delectably rich, potent flavor on its own, it will only stand out if you use (at least) a generous amount of salt and pepper. Dried or fresh herbs and savory spices, such as garlic powder or oregano, are classic pairings for roast salmon, but feel free to get creative with your flavor profile and garnishes.