Learn how to cook whole salmon in the oven, the easy way! This healthy recipe for whole salmon stuffed with lemon & herbs turns fresh wild caught salmon into an affordable option for YOUR family dinner.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF SALMON
The health benefits of salmon are undeniable.
Salmon is high in Omega 3 fatty acids, protein, essential amino acids, Vitamin A, Vitamin B, Vitamin B6, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, and also contains calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, and phosphorus.
That’s like a whole treasure trove of goodness!
I won’t go into all the details on why each of those items are so good for you, but salmon is touted by many as one of the healthiest foods in the world.
If you’re worried about mercury, the great news is that wild caught Alaskan salmon is actually some of the healthiest seafood you can get. They have very low levels of mercury, and are recommend as a Best Choice by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch.
WILD SALMON THAT’S ACTUALLY AFFORDABLE
One of the biggest problems with salmon, especially good quality, fresh, wild caught salmon, is that it’s stinkin’ expensive! The best price I have found for prepared fillets of wild caught Alaskan salmon has been over $8 a pound.
But purchasing a whole salmon is a WHOLE different story! Sorry, couldn’t resist.
The cost of course depends on the season and location, but knowing how to cook whole salmon can save you SO MUCH MONEY!
A few weeks ago, Costco had beautiful whole salmons for just $3.99 a pound. Yep, fresh, wild caught, Alaskan salmon for just $3.99 a pound. That’s ridiculous!
It was one of those moments where you start looking for the hidden cameras because you’re sure this deal is too good to be true, and everyone else seems to be walking by, absolutely oblivious. Apparently they don’t usually carry the whole salmon because people don’t buy it, because they don’t know how to cook whole salmon! So I bought three, one to cook fresh that night, and two to freeze for later.
Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty details of cooking whole salmon, so that you too can jump up and down next to the seafood case when you see an amazing deal.
HOW TO COOK A WHOLE SALMON
- Use paper towels to pat the fish dry, inside and out, then place it on a foil lined baking sheet and drizzle inside and out with olive oil.
- Sprinkle salt and pepper all over the fish, inside and out.
- Stuff the inside of the fish with lemon slices, fresh dill, fresh parsley, and garlic, then tie the fish closed with 3-4 pieces of cooking twine.
- Roast in the middle of the oven at 425 degrees F for 20-30 minutes, or until it has an internal temperature of 130 degrees in the thickest part of the fish. You will need to go longer if your fish is on the bigger side.
- Turn the oven to broil and move the fish up to the top third of the oven.
- Broil for 3-5 minutes until the skin is golden brown and crispy, but not burnt.
TIPS FOR COOKING A WHOLE SALMON
The first step in cooking a whole salmon is to make sure the salmon is scaled and cleaned (meaning no guts). The ones at Costco even had their heads removed, which was nice because I wasn’t paying for the weight of the salmon heads.
If your salmon still has the head, just make sure that the head and/or tail of the fish are not going to be up against the sides of the oven. If they are, you can wrap them in a few layers of foil to keep them from burning, as well as giving your oven a permanent stinky fish smell. Trust me, stinky fish cookies are no good! If you want to cut the head off before roasting the salmon, just stick it in a freezer bag and use it to make seafood stock later.
Seasoning the salmon is so important, we’re talking salt and pepper EVERYWHERE. I like to drizzle the fish inside and out with olive oil, then sprinkle it all over (again inside and out) with salt and pepper.
Next you stuff it with what fancy chefs call aromatics. Basically it’s herbs and citrus that enhance the flavor of the fish. I like using fresh parsley, dill, lemon, and garlic.
Once the the salmon is stuffed full with your fresh ingredients, you need to tie it up so they don’t fall out. I LOVE this chef’s twine. It is seriously the best I’ve used and has held up to hours of roasting a huge turkey. Plus it’s so cheap!
I like to roast the salmon, and then broil it for a few minutes to crisp up the top skin.
If you’re super nervous about overcooking your salmon, you can cover the cookie sheet in foil to keep the moisture in, then remove it to broil the skin. But it really isn’t necessary because the skin helps keep the moisture in your salmon.
HOW TO SERVE WHOLE SALMON
Once the salmon is cooked, untie it and remove the aromatics, then I peel the top skin off and we snack on it while serving up dinner.
The top layer of fish should easily lift off of the rib cage.
Pull out the bones (save those bones in the freezer for homemade seafood stock!) and then you can get at the bottom layer of fish. Just know that there will probably be a lot more pin bones in the bottom half than you had in the top.
You can serve the fish as is, or with a sauce or fresh salsa.
This time around I poured the pan juices into my food processor with the lemon slices and a few of the dill sprigs that were inside the salmon. I added a little white wine and mayonnaise and it turned into a really lovely sauce that we drizzled over the salmon on a bed of baby spinach.
Have you cooked whole salmon before? What’s your favorite way to serve it?
SUPPLIES FOR COOKING WHOLE SALMON
Here’s the twine and baking sheet we use for this recipe. By clicking these links to get to Amazon you’re helping support this site without any additional cost for you. Thanks for your support!
COOK WHOLE TILAPIA
It’s also easy to bake tilapia whole as well, and they are also extremely affordable. Here’s our whole baked tilapia recipe.
MORE SALMON RECIPES
If you’re loving salmon right now, here’s some of our favorite recipes for salmon fillets!
- 1 4-8 lb wild salmon scaled and cleaned
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
- 1 lemon thinly sliced
- 6-8 sprigs fresh dill
- 4-6 sprigs fresh parsley
- 4-6 cloves garlic peeled
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Use paper towels to pat the fish dry, inside and out, then place it on a foil lined baking sheet and drizzle inside and out with olive oil.
Sprinkle salt and pepper all over the fish, you guessed it, inside and out.
Stuff the inside of the fish with lemon slices, dill, parsley, and garlic, then tie the fish closed with 3-4 pieces of cooking twine.
Roast in the middle of the oven for 20-30 minutes, until it has an internal temperature of 130 degrees in the thickest part of the fish. You will need to go longer if your fish is on the big side.
Turn the oven to broil and move the fish up to the top third of the oven.
Broil for 3-5 minutes until the skin is golden brown and crispy, but not burnt.
Peel the crispy skin off the fish and munch on it while prepping the rest of dinner, or serve it next to the salmon.
- Lift the meat from the top side of the salmon and transfer to plates or a serving platter.
- Remove the skeleton then transfer the bottom half of the meat to plates or a serving platter.
Aprpoximate cost/serving: At $4/lb for 10 servings, this cost me just under $3 a serving for my 6 lb fish. That's amazing for wild caught salmon!
Gluten Free: Totally gluten free.
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Nutritional and cost information is for estimating purposes only, and subject to variations due to region, seasonality, and product availability.