Your slow cooker is a versatile thing. So versatile, in fact, that you can even use it for poaching salmon.
It may seem odd to use a slow cooker (something usually used to cook food for hours at a time) for salmon (something that cooks very quickly). But here, we're using the slow cooker less for its "slow cooking" function and more for its ability to provide steady, even heat—which is the perfect medium for cooking delicate fish like salmon.
How to Poach Salmon in a Slow Cooker
I got this idea after reading and making a recipe from Hugh Acheson’s The Chef and the Slow Cooker, a cookbook that offers some ingenious ways of thinking about—and using—your slow cooker beyond the familiar and popular applications.
In Hugh's recipe and my own version below, you start by creating a flavorful broth that develops its flavor in the slow cooker over about an hour or so. The broth I'm making here contains leeks, peppercorns, white wine, garlic and lemon juice—but you can adapt this as you see fit.
Then you add the salmon and let it gently poach for just eight minutes until cooked through.
A Foolproof Method for Cooking Fish
This method is foolproof and especially welcome when it comes to fish, which can be tricky to cook and is often expensive. You don't want to mess it up!
The slow cooker removes the guesswork of cooking fish on the stovetop or the oven. It provides you with the culinary equivalent of surround sound—even, gentle, and consistent heat all around the fish throughout the cooking process.
The salmon stays moist and tender and because there’s no direct, searing heat from the oven or a pan, which means that you’re less likely to overcook it.
Working with the Salmon
Buy individual fillets for this recipe, or cut a larger fillet into smaller pieces (about 3 inches wide). Using fillets of the same size ensures even cooking and makes it easy to tell when they're done. You can also poach a large fillet in its entirety, if you desire.
To transfer the salmon into and out of the slow cooker, you can use tongs or even your hands, but you might find it helpful to create a parchment paper sling if you're cooking a whole fillet, or the pieces are too unwieldy to put into the cooker with tongs.
To do this, place the salmon on a piece of parchment paper large enough to fit into the slow cooker, then grasp by the parchment by either side to lift and lower the salmon into the poaching liquid.
You can use the sling again to remove the salmon after poaching. Since salmon is tender and has a tendency to break apart after cooking, this helps keep the pieces intact.
Poached Salmon, On Your Schedule
This slow cooker poached salmon is fairly adaptable, depending on the size of your slow cooker. This recipe makes enough for a larger gathering or a holiday meal, but you can also just poach a few fillets for a family dinner (the cooking time is the same).
Chop up the ingredients for the poaching broth in the morning and pop them all in the cooker as soon you get home from work. As it simmers and develops its flavor, you can get to work setting the table, changing your clothes, or whatever else you like to do before dinner. Then, just poach the salmon and serve.
What to Serve with Your Poached Salmon
I served this with a simple poached asparagus, which you can do separately in a pot of gently simmering water, or right in the slow cooker once you've removed the salmon, using the leftover broth.
If you like the flavor of the liquid after poaching (sometimes it can get a little bitter), you can use it as fish stock for another recipe—it's great in soups, risottos, those kinds of things.
More Side Dishes for Salmon
- Roasted Broccoli with Parmesan
- Green Bean Salad with Basil, Balsamic, and Parmesan
- Crispy Parmesan Potato Stacks
- Lemony Broccoli Rabe with White Beans
- Rice Pilaf with Mushrooms and Pine Nuts
Slow Cooker Poached Salmon
- 3 cups water
- 1 cup white wine
- 1/2 cup celery (1 rib)
- 1 cup sliced leeks (1 small)
- 2 teaspoons peppercorns
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 large sprigs fresh dill, plus 2 tablespoons chopped (for garnish)
- 1/4 cup lemon juice (from 2 lemons)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 to 2 1/2 pounds skin-on fresh salmon, cut into fillets or left whole
Make the broth
Combine water, white wine, celery, leeks, peppercorns, garlic, sprigs of dill, lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Cook on high for 1 hour.
Poach the salmon:
Season the salmon with salt and pepper, and use your fingers to pat it in. Reduce the heat on the slow cooker to low. Add the salmon carefully, skin side down, using a parchment sling, tongs, or clean hands. Cover the and cook for 4 minutes.
Remove the cover, turn the salmon carefully using tongs, cover, and cook for an additional 4 to 6 minutes, until opaque and cooked through. Thin fillets will finish more quickly; thicker fillets will take slightly longer.
Remove the salmon
Carefully remove the salmon from the slow cooker and transfer to a platter.
Strain the poaching broth:
Strain off the solids using a fine mesh sieve. If desired, drizzle some of the poaching liquid over the top of the salmon, or reserve it for another use.
Sprinkle the salmon with chopped dill and serve immediately. Serve with some combination of asparagus, potatoes, or rice.