Food & Recipes

How to Cook Salmon in an Air Fryer So It Stays Tender and Doesn’t Dry Out

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Salmon is a popular fish to prepare because you barely have to season it and it will taste amazing — and learning how to cook salmon in an air fryer will make it even more convenient to enjoy as a weeknight meal!

Unfortunately, it’s easy to make a silly mistake like overcooking this fish and drying it out. Luckily, with these simple tips for air frying salmon, you’re guaranteed it will stay moist and tender for every bite.

What is the best method to cook salmon?

From pan-frying it to baking, there are so many ways to cook salmon. Cooking it in a skillet gets the salmon super crispy in a little under 10 minutes, depending on the size of the fillets. The downside is, you’ll need to use a non-stick pan or plenty of oil, otherwise the fish will stick to the skillet and require lots of scrubbing afterwards. 

Salmon typically takes about 14 to 16 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit to cook in the oven. So it’s a slightly longer cook time compared to the pan-frying method, but it’s less messy because you can line the baking sheet with foil or parchment paper for easy clean up.

While each cooking style has its pros and cons, you’re getting the best of both worlds by air frying the salmon. The hot air circulating in the appliance gives the fish a nice crust without needing to fry it in tons of oil. (It also saves you on calories!) And the fish ends up being super tender as if it were baked in the oven.

Depending on how large your machine’s cooking rack or basket attachment is, you can fit up to four fillets at a time. Whether you are making dinner for one or a few, air frying is the clear winner when it comes to preparing salmon. Take a peek at our list of the best air fryer toaster ovens to snag one that’ll become your go-to appliance to cook pretty much everything in!

Do you eat the skin on salmon?

It’s perfectly fine to eat salmon skin. Air frying the fish allows the skin to develop a crunchy exterior, which is a nice contrast with the moist and flaky flesh. Frozen fillets tend to already be skinless, so your chances of buying skin-on salmon fillets are higher from the seafood counter at the store.

If you still want to buy the freshest salmon without dealing with the skin, you can leave it on the fish and just not eat it once dinner is served or ask the fishmonger remove it for you. Also, chef Curtis Stone has quick guide for removing salmon skin at home that’s a great option if you want to test out your knife skills. First, he suggests placing the fillet on a cutting board and slicing straight down the thinner end of the fish with a sharp chef’s knife. Once the knife touches the skin, he angles it sideways so it’s flat and begins slicing the flesh until it’s completely skinless.

See how simple it is to remove salmon skin the video below:

Are you supposed to wash salmon before cooking?

You don’t have to wash the salmon before cooking especially if you’re in a hurry to cook the meal. However, if you plan on doing so to get rid of any slimy liquid from the packet, just be careful that water isn’t splashing around everywhere. Otherwise, it can cause cross contamination if it gets on other surfaces (yikes!).

To avoid this, the USDA recommends thoroughly sanitizing your sink, counter, knives, and cutting boards right after they’ve come in contact with meat or fish. We shouldn’t forget to wash our hands with soapy warm water afterwards as well. This way, you’ll eliminate any risk of getting food-borne illnesses and tummy troubles.

How long does it take for salmon to be cooked?

Salmon is done in about 10 minutes in the air fryer, which is roughly the same amount of time it would take cooking in a pan on the stove just without the oily mess. The oven takes a little longer with a 14 to 16 minute cook time at 375 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re in a pinch and want a healthy and tasty meal, air fried salmon is the way to go!

How do you cook salmon without drying it out?

When making salmon, we all want to avoid drying out and causing it to be too tough to enjoy for dinner. Overcooking the fish is the number one way this happens with the salmon’s delicious fat and juices seeping out the longer it’s under intense heat.

In the air fryer, it’s best to check on the salmon fillets every two or three minutes as they’re cooking. It goes against the “set it and forget it” mindset we have of putting food in the air fryer, but trust us, keeping an eye on the salmon ensures the tastiest results with perfectly tender fillets.

How do I know when salmon is done?

After all the prep work and cooking time, there’s a few ways you can tell salmon is done. If you have a meat thermometer, inserting it into the thickest part of the flesh and checking for a temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit will make sure it’s safe to eat.

You can also try home cook Vanna Tran’s Wikihow tip of poking a knife or fork into the salmon to see if it’s opaque with a slightly translucent pink center. She adds that if the fish is still completely translucent, it needs to cook longer. The salmon should also pull away easily without flaking apart too much when you gently press it with a fork. Checking for these clues will allow you to enjoy the salmon as soon as it’s finished cooking!

How long should salmon be cooked on each side?

The only time you would be turning salmon is if you’re pan-frying. It needs an equal time cooking on both sides, which can be a real balancing act as you carefully flip it so the salmon doesn’t break apart in the pan. Thankfully, air fryers offer a much less daunting way of evenly cooking salmon with the appliance’s hot air circulation function. Plus, the machine mimics traditional frying methods, which leaves the outside perfectly crispy without needing to flip or turn it as it’s cooking (yay!).

How do you cook salmon in an air fryer?

There are countless recipes for cooking salmon on YouTube. You can easily go down a cooking video rabbit hole (we’ve all done it!), but this one by KikiFoodies is easy to try at home. You can even mix it up and use your own favorite seasonings and marinades with the same cooking method.

One thing to keep in mind: She uses a one pound salmon steak rather than individual fillets, so you’re going to want to adjust the measurements of the seasonings based on your fish’s weight before cooking. Now, onto the instructions:

  1. In a bowl, combine one teaspoon of chilli powder, two teaspoons garlic powder, one teaspoon Old Bay seasoning or black pepper, and two teaspoons garlic powder. Spread the dry spice mix on both sides of a one pound salmon steak.
  2. Pour one teaspoon of lemon juice over the salmon. Let it marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes uncovered so that the skin dries out and gets crispy as it cooks.
  3. Drizzle one teaspoon of vegetable or olive oil over the fish. 
  4. Place the steak on a rack in the air fryer and cook at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes.
  5. The fish should be opaque before serving.

How to Cook Frozen Salmon in Air Fryer

The week can get pretty hectic and you might forget to defrost frozen salmon fillets for dinner. Fortunately, there’s no need to fret, because you can still cook them in an air fryer straight out of the freezer. It’ll take a few minutes longer because the salmon will need time to thaw out in the air fryer, but it’s definitely worth the wait!

The experts at Wild Alaska Seafood shared their air-fried salmon recipe on their website that’s worth giving a try:

  1. Preheat the air fryer to 400 degrees Fahrenheit for five minutes.
  2. Mix two tablespoons of olive oil, one teaspoon lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, and 1/2 teaspoon salt together in a small bowl. Set aside.
  3. Rinse four (4-6 ounce) frozen salmon fillets under cold water to get rid of any ice crystals and pat dry with a paper towel. Put the salmon on the tray or basket in the air fryer and cook for four minutes. 
  4. Stop the machine and brush the tops of the fillets with the oil mixture. Lower the heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and cook for another eight to 10 minutes, depending on the fillet’s thickness. 
  5. The salmon should be opaque and tender. Serve with your favorite side.

Keeping these tips in mind, whipping up salmon fillets in the air fryer should be a breeze! Check out our guide on how to reheat salmon to savor those leftovers without stinking up your kitchen. You can also check out our tips on how to reheat burgers and how to reheat wings.

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