Slow Oven-Steamed Salmon

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen

By Paula Wolfert

Published 2003

  • About

As all good cooks know, the bottom line of fish cookery is do not overcook. The problem is that by the time a fish looks cooked, it may already be too late.

Salmon should be allowed to rest after cooking, the same way meat is allowed to stand to allow the juices to seep back in, but, of course, not for too long. If you’re not careful, residual heat can give you a mushy side of salmon.

I learned the following salmon recipe from Michelin three-star chef Michel Bras. It’s a wonderful, slow, low-temperature method of steam-roasting salmon that always produces an incredibly silky texture. The steam simulates the fantastic Alto Sham ovens that chefs are using these days to cook fish at low temperatures and arrive at superb textures.

From spring to fall is wild salmon season. I think the best choices are the wild king salmon, also called chinook. Its flavor is deep, and its texture firm and moist. I don’t suggest using farmed salmon in these recipes. A French food critic wrote of the texture of farmed salmon flesh as “like a coverlet filled with duck’s down.” He concluded that “salmon are like men: too soft a life is not good for them.”

Serve your salmon at room temperature with a tasty piquant green sauce—either Sauce Martiques, made with capers, anchovies, herbs, and olive oil, or Jean-Louis Palladin’s Watercress Sauce.



  1. Prepare the watercress sauce or the sauce Martiques as directed below and let stand at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours to allow the flavors to develop.
  2. Preheat the oven to 275°F. Position one rack in the lower third of the oven and a second rack in the upper third. Carefully place a skillet of boiling water on the lower oven shelf. Place the salmon on an oiled baking sheet and generously sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until the salmon is firm to the touch, about 20 minutes. Let the salmon rest for 5 minutes before slicing. (The color of the salmon will not turn dull; the texture will be very moist and easily flake.)
  3. Place a portion of salmon on a plate, and sprinkle with a mixture of coarse sea salt, pepper, and a few fresh chives.
  4. To serve, top with a dollop of watercress sauce or thin the sauce Martiques with a few teaspoons of water, if necessary, and drizzle it around the salmon. Serve at once.

With thanks to Russ Parsons for helping me rethink this recipe.

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