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Is salmon 145 or 165?

When it comes to cooking salmon, knowing the proper internal temperature is crucial for food safety and achieving the right texture. There is some debate over whether salmon should be cooked to 145°F or 165°F. In this article, we’ll examine the evidence behind both temperatures and provide recommendations so you can decide what’s right for you.

What does the FDA recommend?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provides guidelines on safe minimum internal temperatures for various foods. For finfish like salmon, cod, tuna, and halibut, the FDA recommends cooking to an internal temperature of 145°F for 15 seconds to control potential pathogens and parasites.

Here are some key points on the FDA’s 145°F salmon recommendation:

  • 145°F is sufficient to kill bacteria, viruses, and parasites that may be present in salmon.
  • Cooking to this lower temperature helps preserve moisture and texture.
  • The FDA based this guideline on extensive research into salmon safety.
  • A 15 second hold time ensures heat penetrates to kill pathogens throughout the fish.

So according to federal food safety standards, 145°F is an appropriate minimum cooking temperature for salmon.

Why do some recommend 165°F?

While the FDA approves 145°F for salmon, some cooks and recipes call for cooking salmon to 165°F instead. Here are some of the reasons behind this higher temperature recommendation:

  • 165°F kills bacteria, viruses, parasites more rapidly than 145°F.
  • It provides an added safety buffer for those at higher risk of foodborne illness.
  • The texture may be firmer and flakier at 165°F.
  • 165°F is recommended for cooking ground meats like beef or lamb.
  • Some are unaware of the FDA’s lower 145°F guideline and default to 165°F.

While 165°F does result in very thorough pathogen destruction, the FDA assurances show it’s not actually necessary for intact salmon fillets. And the higher temperature does result in drier, overcooked salmon.

Properly handling raw salmon

No matter what temperature you cook salmon to, proper handling of the raw fish is critical for safety.

  • Purchase fresh, sushi-grade salmon from a trusted source.
  • Keep raw salmon chilled at 40°F or below.
  • Rinse salmon under cold running water before cooking.
  • Sanitize any surfaces the raw salmon touches.
  • Wash hands and utensils thoroughly after handling raw salmon.
  • Use salmon within 1-2 days of purchasing.

Safe handling makes it very unlikely pathogens present in or on the salmon will multiply to dangerous levels before cooking.

Minimum internal temperatures for salmon

Authority Minimum Temperature
U.S. FDA 145°F
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture 145°F
Health Canada 145°F
U.K. Food Standards Agency 140°F

As this table shows, major government food safety agencies in the U.S., Canada, and U.K. unanimously endorse cooking salmon to 145°F or lower. While their guidelines have small differences, they are aligned on 145°F being safe for intact salmon fillets.

Factors that impact salmon texture

Cooking temperature isn’t the only thing that affects the moisture and texture of cooked salmon. Here are some other factors to consider:

  • Salmon cut – Fattier salmon belly may stay moister than leaner fillets.
  • Cooking method – Gentle poaching, baking, or sous vide lock in moisture better than grilling or broiling.
  • Doneness – Salmon at medium doneness retains more moisture than cooking to well-done.
  • Freshness – Fresher salmon stays moister than older fish.
  • Thickness – Thinner fillets overcook quicker than thick center-cut fillets.
  • Marinades – Salt, acid, and enzymes in marinades help keep salmon moist.

So for moist, tender salmon focus on choosing fattier cuts, gentler cooking methods, and fresh fish. Marinating can also help retain moisture, just be sure to factor the marinade time into the total cooking time.

Recommended minimum temperatures for salmon

Based on the available food safety research, salmon cooked to an internal temperature of at least 145°F for 15 seconds is safe to eat. Higher temperatures up to 165°F can provide an extra safety margin but result in drier texture.

For most home cooks, aiming to cook salmon to 145-150°F will kill any potential pathogens while maintaining moisture and texture. Use an instant-read thermometer to check temperature in the thickest part of the fillet. Let the salmon rest 3 minutes before serving.

For people at higher risk of illness, including young children, pregnant women, and those with compromised immune systems, cooking salmon to 160-165°F may provide extra safety assurance.

Safety ultimately comes down to properly handling the raw salmon. Cook salmon thoroughly to at least 145°F internal temperature. But letting temperature climb higher than needed risks overcooking the fish.

Tips for cooking moist, flavorful salmon

Now that you know the ideal internal temperatures, here are some tips for cooking tender, flaky, salmon that’s juicy inside:

  • Thaw frozen salmon overnight in the fridge before cooking.
  • Pat salmon dry before seasoning to help browning during cooking.
  • Preheat the oven or pan before adding fish to promote browning.
  • Cook salmon skin-side down first to render fat and get crispy skin.
  • Use a meat thermometer to monitor temperature.
  • Let salmon rest 3-5 minutes before serving.
  • Garnish cooked salmon with fresh herbs, lemon, or compound butter.

Taking some care with preparation and technique will help prevent overcooking. This allows you to serve salmon that’s safe by temperature guidelines yet also moist, flavorful, and tender.

The takeaway on salmon temperatures

The FDA and other agencies confirm cooking salmon to an internal temperature of 145°F kills any potential pathogens present. Higher temperatures up to 165°F can provide extra reassurance but may result in drier texture.

For most home cooks, salmon cooked between 145-150°F and allowed to rest 3 minutes will be both safe and moist. Handle raw salmon properly, use a thermometer, and follow cooking best practices for optimal results.