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Marinating a salmon filet.

How Long To Marinate Salmon – 6 Hours, 8 Hours, Or Overnight

For smaller cuts like fillets, a marinate the salmon 30 minutes to 1 hour, while larger filets may require up to 2 hours. Avoid marinating salmon beyond 24 hours, as this may lead to protein degradation and a mushy texture. For acid-based marinades, limit the marination time to a maximum of 6 hours.

Salmon, like other fish varieties, is no exception. It can easily be overcooked in a matter of minutes. Marinating your salmon before cooking not only prevents it from drying out but also adds moisture and enhances its flavor.

The best length of time to marinate salmon depends on the size of your fish, the ingredients in the marinade, and the desired flavor affinity.

In this article, we delve into the world of marinades! We’ll explore various marinade flavors to choose from and examine how they influence the cooking process. By understanding the nuances of marination, you can unlock the full potential of your salmon dish, ensuring tender and flavorful results every time.

Marinating food is not an exact science, as each type of meat or plant varies. However, there are guidelines that can help ensure success.

The main factor affecting salmon marination time is the size of the fish. Larger pieces require more time to marinate thoroughly, while smaller portions need less time.

  • Fish fillets generally marinate for between 30 and 60 minutes. Salmon, a firmer fish, often takes closer to an hour, unlike flakier fish like Tilapia.
  • Fish steaks, usually larger and thicker, typically require a longer marination time of around two hours.
  • Large fillets or whole fish can marinate even longer, but it’s essential to monitor them, as variations in size and shape affect marination time.
  • Check your salmon after 30 minutes and then at 30-minute intervals. Other factors to consider when determining marination duration include the marinade ingredients.
Marinated salmon on a board. Credit: Unsplash
Marinated salmon on a board. Credit: Unsplash

Marinating aims to tenderize meat, and ingredients like acids, salts, dairy products, and certain fruit enzymes can speed up the process. If your marinade lacks these components, you may need to marinate longer, possibly up to 50% more (e.g., 45 minutes instead of 30).

An abundance of these ingredients in your marinade can cause an undesired outcome by drawing out moisture and making the salmon tough and dry.

When deciding how long to marinate your salmon, consider the desired flavor intensity. Some marinades and ingredients take longer to penetrate the meat, so you might need to extend the marination time and take notes for future reference.

If you’re uncertain about the timing, follow the marinade recipe’s instructions, and you should achieve satisfactory results!

How Long Can You Marinate Salmon For?

Over-marinating salmon is possible. As I mentioned previously, marinating salmon in an acid or salt-based marinade for too long can result in a tough and dry piece of fish.

Beyond the 24-hour mark or even earlier, the salt and acidic ingredients may start to remove the moisture they initially added. If the marination process continues, the acid may break down the fish’s proteins, causing it to become soft and mushy.

How Long Should Salmon Be Seasoned Before Cooking?

As discussed earlier, you can marinate your salmon for 30 minutes to 6 hours, depending on the size of the fish, desired flavor intensity, and marinade ingredients.

After marinating, cook the salmon within an hour of rinsing or wiping it clean. Delaying cooking may lead to over-marinated fish with an undesirable texture.

If you’re seasoning your salmon with salt or a dry rub, you can choose to let the seasoning sit with the fish for a short time or cook it immediately. Keep in mind that dry seasonings can draw out moisture, so avoid leaving them on the fish for too long. Always store marinated fish in the refrigerator until ready to cook.

How Long Can Salmon Marinate In the Fridge?

It is crucial to store marinating salmon in the refrigerator no matter what! Some people believe that marinades work faster at room temperature, but unlike other meats, fish requires different storage conditions.

Refrigerate marinated fish for up to 24 hours. However, remember that you shouldn’t marinate fish for any longer than 24 hours, especially if it’s a smaller piece with an acidic and salty marinade.

Can you put marinated salmon in the freezer? Yes, you can. Place the marinated salmon in an airtight container or bag, seal it, and freeze it immediately. To ensure its best quality, use it within 3-8 months, per USDA.

Cooking Marinated Salmon

Over the years, salmon has gained popularity and is now one of the most cherished fish species worldwide.

Almost every culture (particularly those near coastal regions) features some salmon-based dishes.

Salmon is not only renowned for its delicious taste but also for its numerous health benefits. It is incredibly rich in omega-3 fatty acids (commonly referred to as healthy fats) and protein.

There are two primary types of salmon: wild and farmed. Numerous varieties exist within both categories. Some species are found globally, and each region utilizes the species most readily available to them.

Popular species used for culinary purposes include Norwegian salmon, Sockeye (red) salmon, and Atlantic salmon, among other lesser-known varieties.

Salmon is often mistaken for trout when comparing their flesh, as both typically exhibit bright, coral-pink hues. However, they are quite distinct.

Before choosing a recipe, select your salmon piece. One tip when selecting salmon is to consider the color. The darker or deeper the hue (red or pink), the more flavorful and firm the flesh will be. However, red varieties are rarer than white or pink ones.

Choose a fish piece free of blemishes, discoloration, and most importantly, odor.

Beautiful - asparagus, red onion, pomegranate and salmon. Credit: Unsplash
Beautiful – asparagus, red onion, pomegranate, and salmon. Credit: Unsplash

How To Cook Marinated Salmon

After marinating, your salmon is ready for cooking. Salmon can be prepared using various techniques, such as pan-frying, baking, poaching, grilling, or air-frying.

Before cooking marinated salmon, decide whether to remove the marinade. You can follow your recipe’s instructions or adhere to a general rule of thumb.

For grilling or searing salmon on a griddle or in a pan, it’s best to remove excess marinade but not wash or scrub it off. For baking, you can either keep the marinade in the baking dish or remove it before cooking.

If you’re unsure and your recipe doesn’t specify, remove any loose marinade.

Here are popular methods for cooking marinated salmon:

How to Pan-Fry Marinated Salmon:

  1. Remove the fish from the marinade, leaving some excess liquid. Place it on a plate until ready to cook.
  2. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add salmon pieces (skin-side down, if applicable) and cook for about 3 minutes.
  3. Using a fish spatula, flip the fish and cook for another 5 minutes on the other side.
  4. Remove the salmon from the skillet and let it rest for a few minutes before serving.

Read also: The Correct Temperature To Cook Salmon

How to Bake Marinated Salmon:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a non-stick baking mat.
  2. Place the salmon and marinade in the baking dish. You can also choose to remove some of the marinades.
  3. Bake the salmon in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes, depending on size. Fully cooked fish should reach an internal temperature of 110-125°F. The marinade will thicken and become sticky as it cooks.
  4. Remove the baked salmon and serve with some of the sticky marinade sauce.

These methods ensure tender, succulent, and delicious salmon every time.

Does Salmon Need To Be Marinated?

Marinating food is a more traditional cooking technique than you might think and is employed to enhance flavor.

Marinating a piece of meat or vegetable helps soften and tenderize the product. This method is particularly beneficial for meats, as they tend to become dry and tough during cooking.

Marinating also adds moisture to the fish, helping to prevent it from drying out. The result is a tender, succulent, and delicious serving of fish.

Making An Marinade

Salmon is an incredibly versatile fish species, and we believe it pairs well with a wider range of flavor combinations than most other species.

Salmon prepared for a marinade. Credit: Unsplash
Salmon prepared for a marinade. Credit: Unsplash

Choosing a marinade should be relatively simple, as long as it is well-balanced in taste. There are several directions you can take when it comes to marinades:

  • You can opt for sweet, salty, tangy, smooth, smoky, green (fresh), or pungent. Each has a unique effect on the salmon and will influence its flavor.
  • Choose ingredients such as miso, soy sauce, capers, olives, and Worcestershire sauce for a salty marinade.
  • If you prefer a sweeter flavor, incorporate natural sweeteners like honey, sugar, molasses, or agave nectar.
  • You can also choose sweet, fresh ingredients like fruits (cherries, blueberries, raspberries), citrus (clementines and oranges), nectarines, and peaches. Some wines can also sweeten your marinade.
  • Creating a tangy flavor profile is easy, as achieving a sour taste doesn’t take many ingredients. Simple ingredients include lemon, lime, and vinegar.
  • Other interesting sour ingredients are grapefruits, cumquats, and gooseberries. Many acidic white wines can also add flavor to marinades.
  • Many enjoy smoky flavors, achievable with smoked items like smokey paprika or smoked meats. Toasted spices and chipotle chilis can also offer a unique taste.
  • For a smooth marinade, use yogurt, crème fraîche, butter, cream cheese, or sour cream (which can also provide acidity).
  • A pungent marinade might not sound appealing, but they’re more common than you think. This term refers to marinades made with strongly flavored ingredients, such as garlic, horseradish, onions, and seed oils.
  • Finally, fresh or green marinades incorporate a variety of herbs and other fresh green vegetables and fruits.

Herbs that pair well with salmon include, dill, fennel, tarragon, basil, parsley, bay leaves, sage, rosemary, thyme, and coriander.

Other garden ingredients that can contribute to a fantastic fresh marinade include cucumbers, asparagus, and sugar snap peas.

The Best Way To Marinate Salmon

Now that we’ve explored the various flavors you can choose for marinating your salmon, here’s how to prepare your salmon for marinating:

  1. Prepare your marinade according to the recipe’s instructions.
  2. Pat the salmon piece dry with a paper towel or a clean kitchen towel.
  3. Place the marinade in a zip-lock bag or container. Add the salmon piece, then seal the container or bag to prevent the liquid from spilling. Ensure the entire piece is fully covered in marinade.
  4. Marinate the salmon for between 30 minutes and six hours in the refrigerator. Since you’re working with fish, you cannot leave it at room temperature.
  5. After marinating the salmon, you can clean it or cook it in its marinade. This decision depends on the ingredients used in the marinade and your personal preference.


Do You Have To Marinate Salmon In The Fridge?

Yes, it is recommended to marinate salmon in the fridge. This helps maintain a safe temperature, preventing bacterial growth and ensuring optimal food safety while the fish absorbs the flavors from the marinade.

How Long Can Salmon Marinate In Soy Sauce?

Salmon can marinate in soy sauce for a duration of 30 minutes to 2 hours. Prolonged marination in soy sauce may result in overly salty or mushy-textured fish due to the high salt content and enzymatic action.

Can You Marinate Salmon For 8 Hours?

Marinating salmon for 8 hours is possible, but it depends on the type of marinade used. For acidic marinades, a shorter time of 30 minutes to 2 hours is advisable. For non-acidic marinades, you can marinate salmon for up to 8 hours without compromising texture or flavor.

Should I Marinate Salmon Overnight?

Marinating salmon overnight is generally not recommended, especially if the marinade is acidic. This may cause the fish to become mushy or overly tender due to prolonged exposure to acids. For best results, stick to a marination time of 30 minutes to 2 hours.

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Mary Irvine - July 2, 2024

This article was tremendously informative and, and also taught me a lot about the best ways of cooking salmon.

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