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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.