Here’s the secret to perfectly cooked salmon

For best results, brine your salmon before cooking. / Dreamstime/TNS
For best results, brine your salmon before cooking. / Dreamstime/TNS

Salmon is versatile, easy to find and quick to cook, so it's no mystery why it makes its way onto so many dinner tables.

While cooking it can be tricky — especially if you want your salmon to be nicely browned on the outside and moist, silky and tender on the inside — there are a couple of important steps to take that can make getting a delicious result almost foolproof.

Start by brining the salmon before cooking it, which solves more than one problem. First, it improves the texture. Giving it a soak in saltwater helps ensure that the salmon has a nice flake but is also ultra-moist. Second, it infuses more flavor into the flesh. Third, it makes the salmon look better by reducing the amount of albumin (aka "the white stuff") from seeping out of the flesh during the cooking process.

Of course, there are many ways to cook salmon, but I like the roasting method used in this recipe for Pecan-Crusted Honey Mustard Salmon, because it achieves the previously mentioned "browned on the outside, moist on the inside" results.

It starts out in a smoking-hot oven, which kickstarts the browning process, then the heat is immediately turned down to a low temperature to complete the cooking process and preserve the salmon's moisture.

In this recipe, I'm coating the salmon fillets with a mixture of honey and mustard, along with a crunchy pecan topping, both of which dial up the flavor/texture factors. But you could leave off the pecans or use pesto instead of the honey mustard.

The options are endless, so it's easy to make this dish your own.

Pecan-Crusted Honey Mustard Salmon

Serves 4.

Crunchy, sweet, salty and savory, this salmon recipe has it all. Oh, and it's ultra-easy, which is why it's sure to become your new go-to weeknight dinner.

5 tablespoons kosher salt

4 (6- to 8-ounce) skin-on salmon fillets

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons honey

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Lemon wedges, for serving

In a medium bowl, combine 5 tablespoons of salt with 4 cups of water. Stir until salt is dissolved. Place salmon in a bowl or casserole dish, and pour the water over the top. The water should cover the salmon. (If necessary, make another batch of saltwater, so you have enough water to submerge the salmon.) Cover the dish, and refrigerate it for 15 to 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 500 degrees.

Thoroughly pat salmon dry with paper towels. Rub fillets evenly with oil, and place skin side down on a rimmed baking sheet. In a small bowl, stir together the mustard and honey. Brush over the top and sides of the salmon fillets. Sprinkle the pecans over the top.

Reduce oven temperature to 275 degrees. Roast until the centers of the thickest part of the fillets are still translucent when cut into with a paring knife or an instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part of fillets registers 125 degrees, 9 to 13 minutes. Transfer fillets to individual plates or platter. Serve with lemon wedges.

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