Skip to Content

How long does pink salmon take to cook?

Pink salmon, also known as humpback salmon, is one of the smaller species of Pacific salmon. It gets its name from the light pink color of its flesh. Pink salmon have a mild, delicate flavor that makes them a popular choice for cooking. But how long does it take to cook pink salmon to perfection? Here we will explore the different cooking methods for pink salmon and how long each takes.

What is Pink Salmon?

Pink salmon, or Oncorhynchus gorbuscha, is one of the smaller species of Pacific salmon, with an average weight of 3-5 lbs. They have a light pink flesh that gives them their name. Pink salmon is one of the most abundant salmon species, with large populations in Alaska, Russia, and Canada. Unlike other salmon that can spawn more than once, pink salmon have a fixed 2-year lifecycle, dying after spawning. During their ocean phase, they eat small crustaceans and fish.

Why Choose Pink Salmon?

Here are some of the reasons pink salmon is a great choice for cooking:

  • Delicate, mild flavor – The flesh has a very subtle flavor compared to other salmon.
  • Affordable – Pink salmon is one of the most economical salmon options.
  • Sustainability – Pink salmon is considered a sustainable seafood choice, as populations are well-managed.
  • Nutrition – Salmon is high in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and an excellent source of protein.

With its versatility, nutrition, and great flavor, pink salmon is a smart choice for home cooks.

Cooking Methods for Pink Salmon

There are several different ways pink salmon can be cooked, each requiring different cook times. The main methods include:


Baking is a simple, hands-off approach to cooking salmon. To bake:

  • Preheat oven to 400°F.
  • Place salmon fillets skin-side down on a baking sheet.
  • Brush with oil or spices and season with salt and pepper.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes until opaque and flakes easily with a fork.

Baking time can vary slightly depending on thickness of fillets. Plan for approximately 10 minutes per inch of thickness at 400°F.


Sautéing on the stovetop in a hot pan is a quick cooking method:

  • Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Cook fillets skin-side up for 3-4 minutes until browned.
  • Flip and cook second side for another 3-4 minutes until opaque throughout.

Sautéing cooks the salmon through in just 6-8 minutes total.


Grilling salmon over direct high heat:

  • Oil the grill grates and preheat grill to medium-high.
  • Place salmon fillets skin-side down and grill for 4-5 minutes.
  • Flip and grill second side for another 4-5 minutes until opaque.

Grilling gives great flavor in just 8-10 minutes total cook time.


Poaching gently cooks the salmon in hot liquid:

  • Bring a pan of water, wine, or broth to a bare simmer.
  • Add salmon fillets and poach at 150-160°F for 8-12 minutes until opaque.

Poaching produces tender, delicate salmon. Cook time depends on thickness.

Is Raw Pink Salmon Safe to Eat?

It’s not recommended to eat raw pink salmon. Raw salmon may contain parasites that can cause foodborne illness. Pink salmon should always be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 145°F to kill any potential parasites or bacteria. Sushi-grade salmon has been flash-frozen to kill parasites, but it’s difficult to find pink salmon marketed as sushi-grade. If using for sushi or sashimi, it’s safest to choose other salmon varieties like sockeye or Atlantic salmon.

How Long Does It Take to Cook a Pink Salmon Fillet?

Now that we’ve covered different cooking methods, how long does it take to cook a typical 4-6 oz pink salmon fillet?

Here are estimated cook times for a 1-inch thick, 5 oz pink salmon fillet:

Cooking Method Estimated Cook Time
Baking 10-12 minutes at 400°F
Sautéing 6-8 minutes over medium-high heat
Grilling 8-10 minutes over medium-high heat
Poaching 10-12 minutes at 150-160°F

As you can see, most cooking methods take a pink salmon fillet about 10-12 minutes. Factors like thickness and cooking temperature will affect the precise time.

Tips for Cooking Pink Salmon Fillets

– Brining – Soak fillets in a saltwater brine for 30 minutes prior to cooking for added moisture and flavor.

– Add fat – Cooking with oil or butter will prevent overcooking the lean pink salmon.

– Don’t overcook – Cook just until opaque in center, as it dries out easily.

– Let rest – Let salmon rest for 5 minutes after cooking to allow juices to redistribute.

How Long to Cook a Whole Pink Salmon

For whole pink salmon weighing 2-3 lbs:

Grilling – Grill over medium heat for approximately 12-14 minutes per pound, turning halfway through. Use a fish basket to easily turn the whole fish.

Baking – Bake at 400°F for about 8-10 minutes per pound until flesh flakes easily.

Poaching – Gently poach in simmering liquid at 150-160°F for about 10 minutes per pound, until cooked through.

So for a 3 lb whole pink salmon, expect grilling and baking times around 36-42 minutes, and poaching time of 30 minutes. Whole fish will have slightly shorter cook times than cooking each fillet separately.

Always use a food thermometer to confirm the thickest part of the fish reaches 145°F when cooked. Let rest at least 5 minutes before serving.

Cooking Times for Thicker Pink Salmon Cuts

Thicker salmon cuts like salmon steaks will require longer cook times. For salmon steaks cut 1 1⁄2 – 2 inches thick:

– Grill or pan-sear for 6-8 minutes per side.

– Bake at 400°F for about 15-18 minutes.

– Braise for 15-20 minutes in sauce or stock.

For each additional 1⁄2 inch thickness, add approximately 5 more minutes to the cooking time. Cook until 145°F internally and fish is opaque and separates easily with a fork.

Is Overcooked Pink Salmon Safe to Eat?

Yes, pink salmon that is cooked beyond the recommended time is still safe to eat, though the quality will decline. Overcooked salmon will be dry and flaky rather than moist and tender.

As long as the internal temperature reaches 145°F to kill bacteria and parasites, longer cooking times will not make the fish unsafe, only less enjoyable to eat. Setting a timer and using a food thermometer can help avoid overcooking.


Pink salmon fillets take about 10-12 minutes to cook thoroughly when baking, grilling, sautéing or poaching. Whole pink salmon will need 12-15 minutes per pound at 400°F or on the grill. Cook times increase for thicker cuts, with each 1⁄2 inch requiring about 5 more minutes. While it’s always safe to eat thoroughly cooked salmon regardless of cooking time, for best flavor and texture aim to cook just long enough to reach an internal temperature of 145°F. With its mild taste and silky texture when cooked properly, pink salmon is a delicious and sustainable seafood choice.