Quick and Easy Jerk Salmon

Quick and EasySalmon

Salmon under the broiler makes for a quick and easy weeknight meal. Just mix the jerk seasoning together and slather it on the salmon for a spicy kick. A few minutes later, you’ll have a satisfying, healthy dinner bursting with flavor.

Photography Credit: Alison Bickel

When the weather outside is foul—cold or wet or both—I like to fire up my broiler and make fish for dinner. This broiled jerk salmon packs an invigorating wallop of bold flavors to liven up your dinner routine on nights when grilling is not in the cards.

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WHAT IS JERK SEASONING?

Real jerk seasoning is a spicy Jamaican marinade, most often used on grilled chicken. Its flavor is at once earthy (from allspice and soy sauce) and spicy-bright (from fresh citrus and habanero or Scotch bonnet peppers).

The jerk rub I’m using here is thicker than a marinade. Let’s call it a jerk-inspired rub, because we won’t be marinating the salmon. Also, while the Caribbean teems with edible fish, salmon is not one of them. But the rich flesh of full-flavored salmon stands up nicely to the jerk rub here.

A blackened fillet of weeknight jerk salmon is on the lower right of a black plate. Lime wedges, red rice and a mixed green salad with citrus mixed in is to the left of the salmon. The plate rests on a blue linen.

HOW TO ADJUST THE HEAT

Jerk rub can taste flat without some heat, so peppers are important here.

  • If you like it hot: Use habaneros. They are available in most grocery stores, and their hints of floral and citrus work well to balance out the other ingredients.
  • If you prefer the mild side: Use minced jalapeno instead. Taste a nip of the jalapeno first, before adding the whole thing! I find they vary quite a bit in intensity. If your jalapeno is milder than you’d like, add the seeds and ribs, which carry more of the heat.

THE BEST SALMON FOR THIS RECIPE

Normally I’m very picky about salmon. I like wild-caught Pacific salmon because the texture is firmer and meatier than farmed Atlantic salmon. However, I’ve made this recipe with many kinds of salmon, and I’m always happy with it. One salmon I’d avoid for it is pink salmon (versus red salmon), because it has a delicate texture that does not hold up well after cooking.

The main thing is to get five- to six-ounce salmon filets, if possible, for easy portioning. They can be skinned or still have the skin on.

Side view of a fillet of broiled jerk salmon. The salmon has juices pooled at the bottom of it. A mixed green salad with citrus, two lime wedges and rice are visible on the plate behind the salmon. The plate is on a blue linen. Behind the plate is a glass of white wine, cutlery, a bowl of produce and the foil-lined baking sheet.

HOW TO BROIL SALMON

Broiling is absolutely the most fuss-free way to cook salmon, but there’s a catch: You need to have a decent broiler. Broilers vary from oven to oven.

Broiling is different from baking because you place the food very close to the heating element, which is set as hot as it’ll go. Most ovens have a broil setting, which will belt your food with about 550°F heat. Some get even hotter.

Put your filets on a foil-lined baking sheet, then grease the foil (don’t use parchment paper, which will burn). Position the oven rack about three inches from the heating element. The broiler takes less time to preheat than the oven does for baking; five minutes of preheating should do it.

HOW TO KNOW WHEN THE SALMON IS COOKED?

Check your salmon every minute after the first three minutes of broiling. Some broilers are turbo-broilers, while others seem to take forever.

When the salmon is fully cooked, here’s how to tell:

  • The rub will have some nice crusty spots, but not be burned.
  • Then, look at any exposed salmon flesh. It should separate into clearly visible segments.
  • If you lightly press it, the fish will flake apart.

Salmon filets differ in thickness. The skinnier ones closer to the tail will broil faster. The variables of differing heat, the distance of the food from the broiler’s heating element, and the thickness of the filets all mean you’ll need to use your judgment to figure out when the salmon is done broiling.

I like my salmon medium-rare, which flakes apart when you touch it but isn’t totally firm, either. If you don’t like your salmon on the rare side, keep broiling it in one-minute increments until you feel sure it’s done. When in doubt, cut a filet open in its thickest part and take a peek. The flesh should be opaque, and not translucent.

After cooking, if your salmon still has the skin on it, you can run a metal spatula between the skin and the flesh. Simply lift off the cooked flesh of the filet, and the skin will stay behind on the foil.

Side view of jerk salmon on a foil-lined baking tray. Seasoning coats the top of the salmon.

WHAT TO SERVE WITH JERK SALMON

For a simple meal, I like this with a side of quinoa, mashed potatoes, or steamed rice. If you want to be more elaborate, try coconut beans and rice. Thinly sliced kale or collard greens quickly sautéed with minced garlic rounds it all out nicely.

CAN YOU MAKE THIS AHEAD OF TIME?

You can make the rub a day ahead and store it covered in the bowl you mixed it in, but don’t put it on the fish until shortly before cooking. The acid in the citrus will firm up the protein in the fish and make for rubbery cooked salmon.

Alternately, you can put the jerk rub on the salmon filets and freeze them. Put the jerk-rubbed filets on a tray so they’re not touching and freeze them an hour or two (this freezes the rub onto the fish so it does not smear when you bag it), then pop them in a zip-top bag and keep in the freezer for up to one month. Thaw the salmon on the counter for three to four hours, or in the fridge overnight.

NEED MORE SALMON IN YOUR LIFE?

Quick and Easy Jerk Salmon Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds salmon fillets, about 4 (5- or 6-oz) portions

For the jerk rub:

  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 habanero or jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon lightly packed orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon lightly packed lime zest
  • 3/4 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Method

1 Make the rub: Mix all of the rub ingredients together in a medium bowl.

A glass prep bowl with chunky jerk seasoning. A small whisk is in the bowl along with the rub.

2 Prepare and season the salmon: Position an oven rack so it’s as close to the broiler as possible (3 inches away from the heating element is good). Line a baking sheet with foil.

Smear the rub evenly on the tops and sides of the salmon fillets. Put on the baking sheet so the filets are not touching.

Two salmon fillets are on a foil-lined baking tray and coated with jerk seasoning. Some of the seasoning drips over the sides and on to the baking tray.

3 Broil the salmon: Slide the sheet under the broiler. Monitor the salmon closely as it cooks. After the first 3 minutes of broiling, peek in the oven to check every minute, and lightly press to the salmon with your fingertip to gauge its doneness. Broil until the salmon flakes apart when you touch it gently, 4 to 8 minutes.

Cooking time depends on the thickness of your salmon. Thinner cuts will cook more quickly than thicker cuts.

Three fillets of spicy jerk salmon on a foil lined baking tray. A bowl of produce is on the marble counter behind the baking tray.

LEFTOVERS!

Leftover salmon will keep in the refrigerator for 4 days. It does not freeze well, but you can make salmon cakes and freeze those. I like to flake it into fried rice, pasta, or scrambled eggs.

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Sara Bir

Sara Bir a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and the author of two cookbooks: The Fruit Forager’s Companion and Tasting Ohio. Past gigs include leading chocolate factory tours, slinging street cart sausages, and writing pop music criticism. Sara skates with her local roller derby team as Carrion the Librarian.

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10 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Lucinda

    Want to make this but have to use Tamari instead of soy- would you use the same amount as the soy? Don’t want to ruin my salmon filet. Thank you.

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  2. Isabel

    Looks delicious! Please share your salad too!

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  3. Joseph

    If your not removing the thin belly for a quick Frey in butter. than fold over inward so it does not over cook ,,,I would remove it and enjoy that piece quick cure or sauce den on an English muffin wit some cream cheese and wilted spinach or wilted romain. enjoy. if available Norways Steelhead a better buy more essential fat fresh not frozen

    xxxxxyyyyy

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  4. Mary from NJ

    Hi Sara, Can you tell me what’s in the salad in the picture, it looks so good! Am planning to make this Friday night to celebrate getting through this anxiety provoking week…

    Show Replies (1)
  5. Donna

    FYI, the “coconut beans and rice link” takes you to “perfect mashed potatoes”

    Show Replies (1)
Side view of a fillet of broiled jerk salmon. The salmon has juices pooled at the bottom of it. A mixed green salad with citrus, two lime wedges and rice are visible on the plate behind the salmon. The plate is on a blue linen.Quick and Easy Jerk Salmon