How to make salmon in an air fryer in 10 minutes

Salmon
An air fryer locks in salmon’s moisture. Justin Ong/Getty Images
  • Making salmon in the air fryer takes just 10 minutes and keeps the fillets moist and vibrant in color.
  • Salmon has natural flavor and fat, so you don’t have to use a ton of seasoning.
  • Air frying salmon at the highest temperature possible yields the fastest and most tender result.
  • Visit Insider’s Home & Kitchen Reference library for more stories.

Air fryers have quickly become a must-have small appliance – and for good reason. Chef Meredith Laurence of Blue Jean Chef, says air fryers are a great way to cook almost anything – especially salmon. Since air fryers work by using convection heat at a high speed, it doesn’t dry the salmon out, she says.

“It cooks it so much faster than other methods and your salmon stays nice and moist, so it’s pretty foolproof,” Laurence says. “You don’t have to flip the salmon, which you do in most other cooking techniques because it does cook so quickly.”

Depending on the thickness of your fillet, air fryer salmon only takes about 10 minutes to cook, landing itself a spot on the easy weeknight dinners list.

How to prep salmon for the air fryer

Two pieces of salmon on a wooden table.
Look for salmon that is shiny and vibrant in color and about 1-inch (3cm) thick. Marian Weyo/Shutterstock

Thickness matters: According to Laurence, the thickness of your fillets changes your cook time. “My rule of thumb is for every inch that the salmon is thick, you cook it for 10 minutes at 400 degrees.”

Laurence has a foolproof tip for choosing fresh salmon at your grocery store. “Ideally when you’re buying salmon in the store you want to make sure you see a salmon fillet that is shiny but not slimy,” she says. “You don’t want it to look dried out because that means that there’s not as much moisture in the flesh.” She says to use fresh salmon a day or two after purchasing for ultimate freshness.

Squares, not strips: If you buy about a pound to a pound and a half of salmon, Laurence recommends cutting it yourself at home. “It’s easier to cut it down the center and cut it into squares than it is to cut it into long strips,” she says. “Especially if you have a basket-style air fryer and you’re reaching down into a basket to lift things up, it’s easier to manage.” Plus, cooking in wider, square portions will yield more evenly cooked results than smaller, thin slices.

Keep the skin on: While it’s not mandatory, Laurence says keeping the skin on while in the air fryer helps hold the fish together. Simply peel it off after cooking if you prefer a skinless filet.

Choose your flavor profile: When it comes to salmon, Laurence says to “buy the best quality fish you can, and then do as little to it as possible.” Here are Laurence’s go-to seasonings and marinades:

  • Salt, pepper, lemon juice, and herbs. If you have a fresh, wild-caught salmon, Laurence says, sometimes a sprinkle of salt and pepper before cooking is all you need. “When it comes out you can add fresh herbs and some lemon juice,” she says.
  • Maple mustard. Whisk together Dijon mustard and a small amount of maple syrup to taste. Before cooking, brush a generous layer of the sweet glaze on your fillet, then season with salt and pepper.
  • Mayonnaise and fresh herbs. Surprisingly, mayo can work wonders on salmon. “When you put it into the oven, it gives it a nice glaze – there’s a fat content that protects the surface of the salmon, so that keeps it nice and moist,” Laurence says. Whether it’s basil or dill, mix in your herb of choice before slathering the mixture on.
  • Soy sauce and fish sauce. Laurence generally doesn’t marinate fish – except when she uses this combo. “Leave the soy and fish sauce on for a little while, but only long enough to do the rest of the prep for your dinner,” she says.

Tips for the best air fryer salmon

  • Can you get a pan sear effect in the air fryer? The short answer is no. “You’re not going to get that crispy skin in the air fryer because it’s not in contact with a hot metal surface,” Laurence says. However, you’ll still get browning on top and crispy edges.
  • Don’t try to cook too many fillets at once Make sure you don’t crowd the air fryer or else you’ll prolong the cooking time. Leave some room around every fillet, so the air can get around every piece, Laurence says.
  • How to store leftover salmon: The best way to store air fryer salmon is in an airtight container. Laurence says it will keep in the refrigerator for two days.
  • Can you cook frozen salmon in the air fryer? Laurence says you can get away with cooking salmon frozen because it’s so thin – you just need to add more cook time. She recommends air frying an inch-thick fillet from frozen for about 15 minutes at 400 degrees. If you like your salmon rare to medium-rare, using a chilled steak is optimal. If you prefer not to cook from frozen, simply leave your frozen salmon on the counter for 20 to 30 minutes to let it come to room temperature.
  • Don’t use aluminum foil. Parchment paper is the best option in the air fryer. “Parchment paper allows heat transfer without getting hotter,” Laurence says. “Aluminum foil would actually conduct the heat minimally.” As a result, she says acids and foods will react with the foil and absorb some of the aluminum in the air fryer.

Insider’s takeaway

If you’re looking for a quick weeknight meal, air fryer salmon takes only 10 minutes to cook, depending on thickness. The power appliance’s high-speed convection mechanism keeps the salmon moist and colorful. To ensure the fastest and most flavorful result, cook at a very high temperature (400 to 425 degrees) for a shorter duration.

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