How to Cook Frozen Salmon Without Thawing It

Here's how to pan-fry, bake and grill salmon from frozen.


Photo by: LauriPatterson


By Heath Goldman for Food Network Kitchen

Heath Goldman is a culinary editor at Food Network

Some nights, we’re in the mood to let the night revolve around cooking. Others, we want a dinner that practically makes itself. For those set-and-forget nights, we bring you the speediest way to cook frozen salmon. Shout out to our friends at The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute who clued us into the very clever technique.

First, don't worry about thawing your salmon. Yep, there’s no need to move it to the fridge the night before, then realize it’s not completely thawed when you want to cook it, then panic and try to speed-thaw it so it’ll be ready in time. Simply leave it in the freezer until you’re ready to cook it.

What Kinds of Salmon Can I Cook from Frozen?

The techniques detailed in this story work well for all varieties of salmon fillets but not larger pieces of salmon, which take much longer to thaw. Often, you can buy vacuum-sealed frozen fillets from the supermarket. These are a great option for the cook-from-frozen technique because flash freezing minimizes large ice crystals (which destroy the structure of the cell walls and cause mushy thawed salmon).

How to Pan Fry Salmon from Frozen

Cook salmon in a skillet like you normally would — with a couple important tweaks.

  1. Rinse the salmon fillets under cool water. Do this to remove any ice that’s formed on the outside. Dry them off with paper towels.
  2. Don’t season the salmon before cooking it. Sounds like a cardinal sin, but think about it: the salt can't permeate a frozen block of fish. Wait until you’ve pan-fried it on one side and flipped it before seasoning the cooked fish.
  3. Start the salmon skin-side up in a skillet. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Place the salmon skin-side up in the skillet and cook until it’s browned on the flesh side (about 4 minutes)
  4. Flip the salmon and season it. Flip the salmon so it’s skin-side down, and season the flesh side generously with salt, pepper and any other spices you’d like. Cover the skillet with a lid to help trap heat and steam the salmon so it cooks through. While it’s steaming, you want the skin against the hot pan so it crisps up instead of getting soggy. Cook until the salmon is opaque throughout and flakes easily when you insert a paring knife between the layers, 7 to 9 minutes depending on the size.

How to Bake Salmon from Frozen

Baking frozen salmon is an easy hands-off technique that makes for tender, juicy results. Want to try out the technique? Check out our Lemon-Butter Baked Frozen Salmon.

  1. Preheat the oven. Position an oven rack in center of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and brush with oil.
  2. Rinse the salmon fillets under cool water. Do this to remove any ice that's formed on the outside. Dry them off with paper towels.
  3. Bake for 8 minutes, then season. Seasoning won’t stick to frozen-solid salmon, so you’ll need to bake it a bit first, then remove the salmon from the oven, season it and return it to the oven.
  4. The salmon’s done when it’s opaque throughout. Test for doneness by inserting a paring knife between the layers. It should cook for 5 to 8 more minutes depending on the size of your salmon.

How to Grill Salmon from Frozen

The secret to grilling salmon from frozen? Brushing the fillets in a marinade and then wrapping them up in grape leaves, which prevent them from sticking to the grates (and are totally edible).

  1. Preheat the grill for medium-high direct and indirect heat.
  2. Rinse the salmon fillets under cool water. Do this to remove any ice that’s formed on the outside. Pat them dry with paper towels.
  3. Brush the salmon with olive oil and season it. Brush the salmon with olive oil and season it with salt, pepper and any other seasonings of your choice (we love lemon zest!)
  4. Wrap each fillet in grape leaves. Lay one grape leaf veiny-side up on a clean work surface with the tip pointing away from you. Lay another leaf towards the top of the first so they overlap by about 1 inch. Repeat this with 2 more grape leaves if they are big or 3 more if they are small, creating a single line. Lay a salmon fillet on top of the grape leaf nearest you and then holding the leaf roll the salmon up in the overlapping grape leaves.
  5. Start the grape leaf-wrapped fillets on direct heat and finish on indirect heat. Grill the wrapped salmon over direct heat, turning halfway through, until the grape leaves are charred in spots, about 5 minutes. Move to the indirect side, cover the grill and cook until opaque throughout, about 12 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish.

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