If the heart-healthy omega-3s weren’t reason enough to add some pescatarian meals to your dinner rotation, National Seafood Month, which is coming up in October, makes now a perfect time to do so. And while a hearty fish like salmon can be cooked deliciously in almost any style — grilled, baked, pan-fried — lately we’ve become quite fond of air-fried salmon (especially when using our new favorite variety, Albertsons’ Open Nature® Alaskan Sockeye Salmon). Air fryers are justifiably beloved for making quick work of frozen fries or popcorn chicken, but they’re also optimal for cooking salmon filets quickly, healthily, and with very little mess.
If mastering the air fryer seems a bit intimidating, never fear: We’re here with expert advice to show you how easy it is to prep the fish, cook it perfectly, and clean it all up in minutes. Read on for seven tips for cooking the best salmon in an air fryer — it might just become your favorite way to prepare it.
Start with a premium salmon
Not all fisheries are created equal; while some harm the environment, others push for sustainable practices that support fish populations. For salmon, we recommend looking for a sockeye sourced from Bristol Bay, Alaska (one of the world’s premier salmon fisheries). Due to limited interference from humans outside of commercial fisherman, Bristol Bay supports the last all-wild salmon run, which ensures a healthy salmon population for years to come. Albertsons’ preservative-free and wild-caught Open Nature Alaskan Sockeye Salmon is sourced from Bristol Bay and has firm, rich-tasting red-orange flesh.
Pick up the right tools
Once you’ve sourced your favorite air fryer, there are also a few accessories worth scooping up: An oil-misting bottle for a light coating of extra-virgin olive oil; a silicone brush to evenly coat your fish with seasonings and sauces; tongs for quick flipping; and a round-headed scrub brush to make fast work of cleanup.
Go light on the oil
One of the main reasons to use an air fryer is to cut down on unnecessary oil. “You can use much less oil than a pan frying and still get amazing crispy results without drying out the salmon,” says Karen Diep, a product expert at Breville. Just spray a little oil on each filet to help the seasoning stick better. While we like a spritz or two for added flavor, you can also go without it completely.
Toss in some flavor
Diep likes to keep lemons, capers, miso paste, and soy sauce on hand to liven up her salmon. “For something super-quick and fresh, lemons on top of seasoned salmon filets are the best,” she says. “If you want something especially savory to pair with vegetables, you can season the salmon with soy sauce mixed with a bit of sugar. It’s simple but so good!” You can stock up on all of these pantry staples at Albertsons so dinner is always within arm’s reach.
Pay attention to internal temperature
For the most tender and delicious salmon, keep an eye on the clock. “The high temperature and convection of air fryers can dry out meats and fish very quickly,” says Diep. Use this go-to recipe from our Good Housekeeping team to prevent any overcooked fish: Season four five-ounce salmon filets with 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper, then air-fry at 400°F until the skin is crispy and salmon is opaque throughout (about 8 to 10 minutes). When it comes out, “make sure the center of the cut hits a minimum of 145°F with an instant-read thermometer,” says Diep. (We like this one from Chef iQ.) “And don’t forget to let the fish rest for five to ten minutes after cooking to ensure it locks in the juices.”
Say no to stacking
For the best results, keep your fish, like Open Nature salmon filets, in an even layer inside the air fryer. This allows for better airflow around each portion and ensures everything will cook evenly. Ample space will result in juicy, tender fish with a delicately crisp outer crust.
Keep it clean
Finally, we recommend emptying the grease out of your air fryer in between batches; this helps to avoid oil spillage and makes overall cleanup that much faster. Follow your own oven’s recommendations for post-dinner cleaning, and be sure to keep any electric parts out of water.