Broiler alert: salmon


I hate to admit it, but all this cooking I’ve done in the name of The F Word means that I’ve advanced. I don’t know that I can call myself a novice anymore. This doesn’t mean I’m going to start making soufflés (but ooh, soufflés) or lecturing you about the best kinds of olive oil. However, I noticed yesterday when I was looking for recipes that I was rejecting some that seemed too easy. I’m not sure what all of this means. But I might start expecting more applause. And bigger failures.

Due to my aforementioned quest to eat more fish, I decided on salmon for my fatty acid of choice. I’ve never been much of a seafood person (and by that I mean I only ate coconut shrimp and orange roughy), but I know how healthy fish can be and I’m determined to find recipes that minimize that fishy smell and aren’t coconut-crusted.

I settled on this honey-soy salmon. All I needed was a slab of fish, some sesame seeds, and rice vinegar—I had everything else. Instead of instant rice, which would normally be my go-to accompaniment, I decided on couscous (which I’d also never made). The recipe itself is simple—marinate the fish in a mixture of honey, soy sauce, vinegar, and fresh ginger, then cook it under the broiler for 6-8 minutes. Let me reiterate. THE BROILER. I did a double-take at the recipe, and it occurred to me that I didn’t even know where the broiler was in my oven. I thought it was on top, but when I opened my oven and peered in, there was no heating element above. In my gas stove, all the heat came from the bottom.

Sheepish, I googled some dumbass thing like “Um where is the broiler” and found out that in gas stoves, the broiler apparently is that little drawer that we use to store our cookie sheets. I felt bad that we’d been abusing it so, and silently apologized while I emptied it.

The first step was to skin the salmon. The Eating Well website is fantastic—it gives tips for all the things I normally have questions about, and skinning the salmon was one of them. It seemed fairly simple, so I picked out a knife and started slicing.

The problem was, the directions just said to “hold on firmly.” To what? The skin? The salmon? Both were slimy and slippery and there was no way I’d be able to hang on. I pressed my hand on top of the fish, tried to ignore how gooey it was, and started slicing. Right away, I could tell the knife was nowhere near sharp enough for the task. As it turns out, fish don’t really want to be separated from their skins any more than humans do.

I switched knives and got more aggressive. In order to hold the fish still, I dug my nails into the skin as I pulled away with the other hand. By the time I was done, my fingernails were full of salmon bits, there were fish scales sticking to my arms, and I’d dirtied three different knives. The fish scales were particularly unsettling, like I’d been scraping my fingers over them and ripping them off a live fish or something. I hadn’t really thought of that when it came to skinning the fish.

skinning the salmon

The aftermath. It’s probably blurry because my hands were shaking.

I washed my hands of the whole disgusting business and went to marinating. After making the marinade, I was supposed to put it in a plastic bag with the salmon. As it turns out, we were out of gallon plastic bags, so I just shoved all the salmon into a sandwich bag and hoped it would be fine. Its skin had been quite resilient, anyway.

While it marinated, I got the cous-cous ready. As it turns out, it’s incredibly simple and rather like eating Dippin’ Dots ice cream, but in rice format. I left that to its own devices while I toasted the sesame seeds.


All sorts of weird shit happening.

Then, it was time for the salmon to go into the broiler. I lined the broiler pan with foil as an extra precaution, to keep from spilling anything and/or catching anything on fire. Then I waited. The salmon needed to cook for such a short time that I kept having to get down on the floor to look in the broiler and check on it to make sure it wasn’t burning. I gave up and stayed down.


Me. On the floor.

After giving it about 7 minutes, I looked in on the salmon for the last time. The top was brown and crispy, and the smell wasn’t fishy, but something heavenly.


Something heavenly

I pulled the salmon out, dished it onto a plate with the cous-cous, and sprinkled on some sesame seeds and some extra marinade. The cous-cous was easy and tasty, and went well with a little of the extra marinade on top. I might not make it too often, so that I can keep my non-pretentious cred. Who doesn’t hear someone say “cous-cous” and want to punch that person in the face? I know I do. So, just don’t tell anyone.

And let me tell you, this girl can work a broiler. The honey in the marinade made the top of the salmon a little crispy, and I’ll go ahead and take credit for the tiny sandwich bag as a stroke of genius because the marinade had gotten all the way through and made the salmon tender and sweet, and not the slightest bit fishy.

Add this to your record books, kids—another time I haven’t set anything on fire.

11 Responses to “Broiler alert: salmon”
  1. deepa says:

    After trying to skin salmon once and getting similar results, I have since asked the fish guy to do it for me. You loose some of the meet, but they have knives that do the trick. I have also skipped this step with fine results, you just eat off the skin – it comes off easily when cooked. Another awesome (and similar recipe) is this one:

    We have used fillets and put it in the oven instead of the broiler too, and it worked fine. great post!

    • Jill Kolongowski says:

      I should just leave the skin on. But it was pretty enjoyable to just be able to eat it straight out of the oven. Thanks for the recipe!

  2. Gavin Craig says:

    I can second cooking with the skin on. You get a bit of extra flavor, and the fish separates from the skin easily.

    My grandfather always used to say that fish shouldn’t smell fishy. If your fish smells fishy, you’re buying a bad fish. He was, of course, correct.

    • Jill Kolongowski says:

      I’d heard the same, although I think I’m extra-sensitive to it. I think about that claim the same way I think about people who say “But you can’t barely taste the onions.” You can.

  3. Lindsey says:

    This sounds delicious… even though I prefer smoked or sushi grade (yes, raw, because I’m a bear) salmon.
    This also reminds me of an Alton Brown recipe I tried long ago:
    It worked very well and was very tasty, but we made too much and I’m weird about left overs sometimes, so it never really worked it’s way into my repertoire of recipes. Maybe you’d like to give it a shot?

    • Jill Kolongowski says:

      I too love sushi of the salmon variety, especially if it’s spicy. Maybe I’ll try to make sushi (although due to the rush of panic I just got while I wrote that, I’m probably better off leaving that to the professionals).

      The best thing about this recipe was the sauce–I made zucchini too and just dumped the extra sauce all over everything. I’m thinking of using it as a salad dressing.

      Thanks for the new recipe! I should try other kinds of fish than salmon. If I’m brave enough.

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