This easy baked salmon recipe takes about 30 minutes to make, requires one pan, and tastes amazing. If you’re going to save one salmon recipe for life, make it this one. Tender, flaky, soft salmon baked in butter with garlic and capers. It’s one of the best things we’ve made recently.
How to Make the Best Oven Baked Salmon
We’ve been making a variation of this salmon recipe for ages — in fact, the method comes from my Mom. Salmon is quick to cook, delicious, and healthy. I know I’m biased on this one, but I honestly think my Mom’s method is the best way to cook salmon.
We’ve used my mother’s method for cooking salmon before. See our Baked Salmon with Lemon and Dill — Instead of butter in the pan, the salmon bakes on top of some stock (or wine, if you like). It’s excellent.
My Mom’s Method for Cooking Salmon
Salmon is easy to bake, promise. Perfectly cooked salmon should be tender, moist, and soft in the middle while being well seasoned on the outside. This recipe achieves all of that and bonus, it’s easy.
To make the salmon, we use one pan. (Hello easy cleanup!) A large, oven-safe skillet is best — a cast iron skillet is perfect for this. If you don’t have an oven-safe skillet, don’t worry. You can use a baking dish. We’ve shared notes for using a baking dish in the notes below. A sheet pan works, too, but use a rimmed baking sheet. You don’t want to lose any of the butter sauce.
Here are the easy steps we follow for cooking salmon:
- Add seasoned salmon fillets to an oven-safe dish — in our case, we are using a skillet.
- Add a bit of liquid, which can be in the form of stock, wine or in this case, melted butter.
- Cover the salmon with foil or parchment paper.
- Bake in a 325 degree F oven for 15 minutes.
- Uncover the salmon, check for doneness and continue to bake uncovered until done.
Covering the salmon with foil for most of the bake time keeps the salmon moist inside. The fillets don’t dry out and instead, turn soft and tender.
How Long To Bake Salmon
I know you don’t want to read this, but the time it takes to cook salmon depends on a few things. First, what type of salmon do you have? Atlantic or King salmon are often thicker and fattier than Pacific Sockeye or Coho. The thickness will change the cook time quite a bit.
In our recipe, we use a 325-degree Fahrenheit oven. That’s a little lower than a lot of salmon recipes, but we truly prefer the results when cooked at a lower temperature. The salmon doesn’t dry out and stays soft in the middle.
A 1-inch thick, middle cut fillet of salmon takes about 20 minutes. For thinner or end pieces, check the salmon a bit earlier. For thicker fillets, you may need an additional 5 to 10 minutes of bake time.
How to Tell When The Salmon is Cooked
Your best bet for checking if salmon is cooked is a thermometer — we cook salmon to 125 degrees F, which means it will be soft, tender, and slightly pink in the center. The texture at this temperature is much better than when cooked to a higher temperature.
For a visual cue, look for the flesh to be somewhat opaque. Also, when inserting a knife into the salmon, it should slide through easily.
Note that the USDA recommends cooking salmon to 145 degrees F. Interestingly enough, Cooks Illustrated suggests that the ideal internal temperature of salmon (especially wild varieties) is 120 degrees F. Everyone has an opinion on this one, but for now, we are sticking to 125 degrees F.
More Easy Salmon Recipes
- For a different spin, try our Easy Sour Cream Baked Salmon. We slather a mixture of mustard, sour cream, and parmesan on top of salmon fillets and bake until done.
- For another one-pan meal, try our Brown Sugar Baked Salmon Recipe with green beans.
- Our Grilled Salmon is easy and is served on a bed of couscous and topped with grilled nectarines and crumbled goat cheese. Great for summer!
- Another favorite way to cook salmon is by grilling on a cedar plank. Try our Sweet Citrus Rubbed Cedar Plank Salmon.
- Adam loves these Pan-Seared Salmon Burgers. Thanks to a little agave, they brown nicely in the pan and taste amazing.
Garlic Caper Butter Baked Salmon
For the best oven baked salmon with a soft and tender texture, cover the salmon with aluminum foil or parchment paper and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Then uncover and continue to bake until done. Depending on the type and thickness of the salmon you cook, cook time may vary. Check the notes below for our tips.
Watch Us Make the Recipe
You Will Need
4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets, preferably wild-caught
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 tablespoons drained capers
Chopped or torn fresh herbs like parsley, chives or dill
Half of a lemon, quartered
1Heat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
2Season both sides of the salmon with salt and pepper (we use about 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt for 1 1/2 pounds of salmon).
3Melt the butter in a wide oven-safe skillet over medium heat. When the butter is bubbling, stir in the garlic and capers. Cook, stirring, until warm, about 1 minute. Take the skillet off of the heat. Add the salmon fillets, skin-side down, to the skillet. Tilt the pan so that butter pools on one side, and then spoon garlic caper butter over each fillet.
4Cover the skillet with a sheet of aluminum foil or cover with parchment paper by loosely tucking it around the salmon. Bake the salmon, covered, for 15 minutes. Uncover, and then spoon more of the butter over the salmon. Continue to roast, uncovered, until your desired doneness, 5 to 10 minutes more, depending on how thick the salmon is.
5We cook salmon until an instant-read thermometer reads 125 degrees Fahrenheit when inserted into the thickest part. Alternatively, you can finish cooking the salmon under the broiler for some extra color on top. Watch closely so the fish does not overcook.
6Squeeze fresh lemon juice over the baked salmon, sprinkle with lots of fresh herbs, and serve with another spoonful of the garlic caper butter on top.
Adam and Joanne's Tips
- How to make oven-baked salmon in a baking dish: Add the butter, garlic, and capers to a baking dish. Slide into the oven and cook until the butter is melted and bubbling, about 2 minutes. Take the dish out of the oven then add the salmon fillets and spoon the butter mixture on top. Bake, covered, as directed in the method above.
- How to tell when salmon is cooked: Your best bet for checking if salmon is cooked, is a thermometer — we cook salmon to 125 degrees F, which means it will be soft, tender and slightly pink in the center. For a visual cue, look for the flesh to be somewhat opaque. Also, when inserting a knife into the salmon, it should slide through easily.
- Cook time: Depending on the type and thickness of the salmon you are baking, cook time will vary. The cook times suggested above are for middle cut fillets, about 1-inch thick. For thinner fillets or end pieces, check the salmon a bit earlier. For thicker fillets, you may need an additional 5 to 10 minutes of bake time.
- Nutrition facts: The nutrition facts provided below are estimates. We have used the USDA database to calculate approximate values.