When cooking salmon, it is important to cook it to the proper internal temperature in order to avoid undercooking or overcooking. The ideal internal temperature for salmon varies slightly depending on whether you are cooking fresh or frozen salmon. Here is a quick overview of the recommended internal temperatures for salmon.
For fresh, raw salmon, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends cooking to an internal temperature of at least 145°F (63°C). At this temperature, any bacteria or parasites that may be present will be killed off. Many chefs recommend removing fresh salmon from the heat at around 135°F (57°C) and allowing carryover cooking to bring it up to 145°F.
Why 145°F for Fresh Salmon?
Salmon, like other fish, is very sensitive to overcooking. At temperatures much above 145°F, the salmon will start to become dry and flaky. By pulling salmon off the heat at around 135°F and letting carryover cooking bring it the rest of the way, you help ensure the salmon stays moist and tender.
Is 145°F Safe?
Cooking salmon to an internal temperature of 145°F is considered safe because it kills potentially harmful bacteria like Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, and Vibrio parahaemolyticus that may be present. Salmonella in particular is killed rapidly at internal temperatures between 135-145°F.
For frozen salmon that has been previously frozen to kill parasites, the FDA recommends cooking to an internal temperature of at least 125°F (52°C). At this temperature, any bacteria present will be destroyed. As with fresh salmon, it’s best to remove frozen salmon from the heat at around 115°F and allow carryover cooking to bring it up to 125°F in order to prevent overcooking.
Why 125°F for Frozen Salmon?
Frozen salmon has typically already been frozen at cold enough temperatures to kill off any parasites that may have been present. Since parasites are not a concern with properly frozen salmon, a lower temperature of 125°F is considered safe. This helps preserve the moisture content in the salmon.
Is 125°F Safe?
Cooking previously frozen salmon to an internal temperature of at least 125°F is considered safe by the FDA because any dangerous bacteria will be killed at that temperature. As long as the salmon was properly frozen before cooking, 125°F provides a good level of safety.
Tips for Measuring Internal Temperature
Here are some tips for accurately measuring the internal temperature of salmon:
- Use an instant-read food thermometer and insert the probe into the thickest part of the fish.
- Make sure the probe is not touching any bones, which can provide a false high reading.
- For whole salmon, test the temperature in the thickest section of the fillet near the backbone.
- For thick fillets or steaks, test the thickest part.
- For thin fillets, test through the side of the fillet to get an accurate reading.
Visual Cues for Doneness
In addition to using a thermometer, you can also check the salmon visually for doneness. Here’s what to look for:
- Opaque and flaky flesh – The flesh will turn from translucent to opaque and begin flaking when it is cooked through.
- White protein albumin will start to appear – This white substance will begin exuding from the salmon as it cooks.
- Flesh separates easily from the skin – Check that the flesh separates cleanly from the skin when you insert a fork.
Carryover cooking refers to the fact that food will continue cooking even after being removed from the heat source. The internal temperature of salmon will rise about 5-10°F after it’s taken off the heat. Here are some carryover cooking tips:
- Remove salmon from heat when it’s 5-10°F below your target temperature.
- Thicker pieces will have more carryover cooking than thinner pieces.
- Rest the salmon for 5-10 minutes after cooking to allow carryover to complete.
- Carryover cooking happens more quickly in fish than thicker meats.
Common Cooking Methods
Here are some guidelines for achieving the proper internal temperature when using common salmon cooking methods:
|Cooking Method||Fresh Salmon Temp||Frozen Salmon Temp|
|Pan frying or sautéing||135°F before removing from pan||115°F before removing from pan|
|Baking||145°F when tested at thickest part||125°F when tested at thickest part|
|Grilling||135°F before removing from grill||115°F before removing from grill|
|Broiling||135°F before removing from broiler||115°F before removing from broiler|
|Poaching||145°F when tested at thickest part||125°F when tested at thickest part|
|Sous vide||135-140°F when tested after removing||125-130°F when tested after removing|
Salmon can be cooked to various levels of doneness based on the final internal temperature when removed from the heat source. Here are some guidelines for levels of doneness:
|Doneness||Description||Fresh Temp||Frozen Temp|
|Rare||Center is bright pink, semi-translucent||110°F||110°F|
|Medium Rare||Center is pink, starting to become opaque||125°F||120°F|
|Medium||Center is light pink, opaque and moderately firm||135°F||125°F|
|Medium Well||Only a hint of pink in center, mostly opaque||140°F||130°F|
|Well Done||No pink left, opaque throughout||145°F+||140°F+|
Salmon can be a little tricky to get just right, but cooking it to the proper internal temperature will help ensure you safely achieve the right level of doneness you desire. For most people, cooking fresh salmon to 135-140°F for medium doneness provides the best balance of safety and texture. Pay close attention to carryover cooking and use a high-quality instant read thermometer for the best results. With a little practice, you will become adept at cooking salmon perfectly every time.