There is nothing more delicious than wild salmon cooked perfectly rare to at most medium-rare and no other means that I have found to do it predictably that equals sous vide.
For me, the perfect temperature for salmon is 116F/47C to 118F/47.5C, which produces shiny, succulent flesh that separates in luscious shingles with an incomparable texture. Granted, for safety, to eat salmon or any ocean fish rare or medium rare, the best bet is to purchase fish you would be willing to eat raw–in other words, fresh sushi-grade fish.
Others may prefer their salmon cooked to a hotter temperature and, of course, there may be those who cannot or should not (for health or other reasons) eat fish cooked below 140F/60C, since the fish will not be pasteurized after so short a cooking time at that low temperature. The beauty of sous vide cooking, however, is that you can precisely dial in the temperature that’s perfect for you and do it that way every single time.
This recipe is one of our summer favorites, paired this time with a tangy, garlicky, slightly hot, and extremely easy aioli, made using prepared mayonnaise. Of course, you are free (as we often do) to make your aioli with mayonnaise made from scratch as well.
Salmon prepared this way is delicious right out of the cooking pouch, hot or cold, but I love to give the surface a quick sear on a hot grill or with a kitchen torch to get that golden color and savory caramelized flavor.
Wild Salmon Sous Vide with Lemon Wasabi Aioli
- 4 (6 to 8 ounce/180 to 240 g) salmon fillets, skinned, and pin bones removed
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml) kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) whole black peppercorns
- 2 cups (500 ml) water
For the Aioli
- ¼ cup (60 ml) mayonnaise
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed
- 1 tablespoon (15 g) fresh chives, finely chopped
- ½ lemon – zest only
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) wasabi paste
- Fill the water oven with hot tap water and preheat to: 116F/47C for rare; 126F/52C for medium rare; or 140F/60C for medium.
- In a large zip closure bag prepare brine by completely dissolving the salt in the liquid. Slip the salmon into the brine, making sure it is covered by the liquid; toss in the peppercorns; seal the bag and refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together all ingredients for the aioli, blending well; cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
- After 20 minutes, remove the fish from the brine, and discard the liquid. Rinse fish well under cool, fresh water; pat dry with paper towels.
- Vacuum/seal each portion of fish in its own food-grade cooking pouch and cook at your preferred degree of doneness for 15 to 20 minutes. (It can go 30 to 40 minutes without becoming overly tender.)
- Remove from the cooking pouch, and, if desired, sear one side of the fish in a lightly oiled hot skillet, on the grill, or with a kitchen torch.
- Top with a dollop of aioli, add a sprinkling of fresh chives, and serve.
The salmon is delicious hot or cold.
To serve cold:
- Remove the salmon from the water oven and quick chill it in its cooking pouch, submerged in an ice water bath, for at least 20 minutes.
- Serve topped with the aioli on a bed of fresh greens or with fresh asparagus.