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How to poach salmon

22 August 2016

How to poach salmon

Poaching is a gentle, healthy way to cook salmon and you can add lots of different flavours to the liquid. It is best to poach the salmon starting with the liquid cold, as this will result in more evenly cooked fish. Controlling the temperature of the water and keeping it well under boiling point ensures that the fish isn’t exposed to high temperatures that could cause it to overcook, which creates unattractive droplets of white protein on the outside of the salmon.

A court bouillon is the most classical choice of stock for poaching fish, traditionally made up of water, white wine, carrot, celery, onion and black pepper. It is simmered for just under an hour before being cooled to use for poaching. An alternative court bouillon uses milk instead of water and wine, or for an Asian twist you could even try using coconut milk and flavouring it with lemongrass, chilli and kaffir lime. Other herbs and spices can be added to your court bouillon, too; fennel, star anise, coriander seeds and dill seeds are all great ingredients to try.

Another method of poaching, known as confit, uses olive oil. Cooking a piece of salmon at a low temperature in oil (between 48–50°C is ideal) results in a rich, silky texture and a perfectly tender piece of fish, and the oil can be flavoured with herbs and spices. When poaching salmon in olive oil it is important to season the fish directly as the salt will not dissolve in the oil.




  • 1l water
  • 200ml of white wine
  • 1 celery stick, chopped
  • 1 carrot, roughly chopped
  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 2 salmon fillets, each weighing 200g
  • salt
Place all of the ingredients for the court bouillon in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer
Cook over a low heat for 45 minutes, then strain and chill
Fill a saucepan big enough to fit the salmon with the court bouillon and season to taste (any leftover stock can be frozen)
Place the salmon portions in the stock and cook over a low heat
For a 2.5cm thick piece of fish, poach for 7–8 minutes. The fish is cooked when a metal skewer goes easily through the thickest part of the flesh
Carefully remove the salmon from the stock and serve

Serving suggestions

Francesco Mazzei’s Poached salmon with cherry tomato salad makes for a wonderful summer supper, with seasonal tomatoes complementing the salmon perfectly topped with the crispy salmon skin.

Tom Aikens' poached salmon salad is another summery dish, paired with watercress and poached in Pernod for a wonderfully aromatic finish. For a more experimental take, try Elly McCausland's matcha-poached salmon recipe, which uses the vibrant Japanese green tea to add a wonderful flavour to the fish.

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