To roast a side of salmon that was silky throughout and evenly browned across its surface, we salted it for an hour, which helped the flesh retain moisture and protein (which would otherwise seep out unattractively during roasting). Placing it on a greased aluminum foil sling ensured that it was easy to transfer to a serving platter. For cooking, we set the salmon on a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet to encourage air circulation around the fillet. Evenly brushing the salmon's surface with honey encouraged rapid browning. We found that a three-step cooking process gave us the best results. First, we preheated the oven to 250 degrees to warm the entire oven, which ensured that cooking happened quickly and evenly. Second, we broiled the fillet until it just began to brown. Third, we again turned the oven heat to 250 degrees to allow the fillet to gently cook through.
[Ed. note: America's Test Kitchen host Bridget Lancaster explains raw honey vs regular honey, and the different flavors you can expect from a range of varieties in her interview with Managing Producer Sally Swift.]
This recipe requires salting the fish for at least 1 hour. Look for a fillet that is uniformly thick from end to end. The surface will continue to brown after the oven temperature is reduced in step 4; if the surface starts to darken too much before the fillet's center registers 125 degrees, shield the dark portion with aluminum foil. If using wild salmon, which contains less fat than farmed salmon, remove it from the oven when the center of the fillet registers 120 degrees.
1. Sprinkle flesh side of salmon evenly with 1 tablespoon salt and refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 1 hour or up to 4 hours.
2. Adjust oven rack 7 inches from broiler element and heat oven to 250 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and place wire rack in sheet. Fold 18 by 12-inch piece of foil lengthwise to create 18 by 6-inch sling. Place sling on wire rack and spray with vegetable oil spray.
3. Heat broiler. Pat salmon dry with paper towels and place, skin side down, on foil sling. Brush salmon evenly with honey and broil until surface is lightly but evenly browned, 8 to 12 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through broiling.
4. Return oven temperature to 250 degrees and continue to cook until center of fillet registers 125 degrees, 10 to 15 minutes longer, rotating sheet halfway through cooking. Using foil sling, transfer salmon to serving platter, then carefully remove foil. Serve, passing lemon wedges separately.
The Sweet Spot for Even Browning: To find the best way to brown the salmon as quickly as possible, America's Test Kitchen coated one portion of the fillet with granulated sugar and another portion with honey and left the remaining portion uncoated. After broiling the fillet, we compared the results. The sugar-coated portion (left) was spotty and almost as pale as the uncoated portion (center), but the honey-coated portion (right) was deeply and evenly browned. Why? The sugars in honey caramelize more rapidly than does white sugar/sucrose, which must first break down into fructose and glucose before it can caramelize.
On each episode of The Splendid Table we visit with the test cooks at America’s Test Kitchen to discuss a wide range of topics including recipes, ingredients, techniques and kitchen equipment.