How to Defrost Salmon in Microwave

Salmon is best stored cold to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. You should never buy raw salmon displayed on countertops at your favorite fish joint.

You can use a microwave to defrost frozen salmon if you are pressed for time. The microwave safeguards the taste, quality and flavor of defrosted salmon.

Here is the best guide on how to defrost salmon in microwave.

How to Defrost Salmon in Microwave

Defrosting salmon in the microwave entails the following simple steps:

  • Transfer the salmon filets from the Ziploc bags into a microwave-safe plate. 3 bold wavy lines on the bottom indicate that the plate is microwave-safe.
  • Wrap the fillets with a paper towel to prevent splattering. The paper towel also keeps the fish moist since the microwave heat could dry up the fish.
  • Press the defrost button on the appliance. Alternatively, set the power level at 30% and the microwave timer at 5 minutes.
  • You will need to stop the microwave halfway to flip your salmon to allow uniform thawing failure, to which the upper side starts to cook.
  • Let the salmon filets rest in the microwave for a couple of minutes to allow the few traces of ice left to melt at room temperature. Use a kitchen thermometer to monitor so that your seafood doesn’t reach the dangerous temperature zone of 40-140 degrees.
  • Cook your salmon immediately after defrosting to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria that cause food-borne illnesses.

Related: How to defrost lobster tails in the microwave

How long does it take to defrost salmon in the microwave?

The time required to defrost salmon in the microwave adequately varies depending on the following factors:

  • The wattage of the microwave oven.
  • The number of salmon you intend to defrost.
  • The thickness of your salmon
  • Salmon’s weight

The recommended defrosting time for salmon is between 3 to 5 minutes, with regular flipping intervals every 30 seconds to ensure even thawing.

You can adjust the time depending on the above factors so that you will not have to look for another method, like pounding, to finish the thawing process.

Is it safe to defrost salmon in the microwave?

Yes, it is safe to defrost salmon in the microwave, provided you use a microwave-safe plate and stick to the recommended time.

Never assume that a plate is microwave-safe unless it has a microwave-safety symbol. Avoid using plastic plates because they melt and leach harmful cancer-causing toxins into your salmon.

Metal plates cause a charged electric current in the microwave, which can spark a fire.

If your microwave oven is the old model without a defrost button, set the timer manually at 5 minutes. Don’t exceed the time; otherwise, you’ll dry up the juices or burn your salmon altogether.

Cover your salmon fillets with a paper towel to keep them moist.

If you still see ice traces on your fillets after defrosting, let the fillets stay in the oven for a few minutes and melt at room temperature.

Flip your fillets after every 30 seconds to ensure even thawing.

Tips for Defrosting Salmon in Microwave

The following tips will give you a great experience as you defrost salmon in the microwave:

  • Transfer your salmon to a microwave-safe plate to prevent contamination that will further cause illness. If salmon was frozen in a microwavable Ziploc bag, make sure you create a vent on the bag.
  • Ensure you place the thinnest salmon in the middle to avoid overcooking it.
  • Wrap your salmon using microwave-safe parchment paper or kitchen towel to prevent splattering, which will soil your microwave. Wrapping salmon also keeps it moist.
  • If you intend to defrost salmon in its freezing bag, you need to create a vent to let out steam; otherwise, the Ziploc bag will be burnt.
  • Pause the microwave to flip the pieces of salmon to ensure even thawing; otherwise, you will have some spots start cooking.
  • If you still see some ice crystals on your salmon after defrosting, leave it in the microwave for a few more minutes to complete the thawing at room temperature.
  • Once you are defrosting the salmon, use warm water, vinegar, and lemon to clean the oven to remove the fish smell.
  • Leave the microwave door open for a few minutes to allow enough circulation of fresh air.
  • Clean your hands before and after defrosting salmon fillets to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Don’t mix different types of salmon especially the raw and the cooked ones.
  • Cook the seafood immediately after defrosting. Avoid displaying it on countertops; otherwise, salmon goes bad at room temperature.
  • You know that salmon is adequately defrosted if it’s bendable and flexible.

Advantages of Defrosting Salmon in Microwave

The following reasons make chefs defrost salmon in the microwave over other methods:

  • It is fast to defrost salmon in the microwave since it takes 3-5 minutes as opposed to defrosting it in the refrigerator, which requires 10-12 hours.
  • There is no contact with hot water, which exposes the protein delicacy to unsafe temperatures.
  • The microwave maintains the texture, taste, flavor and quality of salmon.
  • Defrosted salmon remains cold and does not enter the dangerous zone of 40-140 degrees.

Alternatives for Defrosting Salmon in Microwave

The method you choose should give soft, bendable and flexible defrosted salmon. Such methods include:

Defrosting salmon in ice water

Here is how you use cold water to defrost frozen salmon:

  • Put cold water in a reasonable bowl; enough water to submerge the Ziploc bag.
  • Add several ice cubes to the bowl of water.
  • Put your frozen salmon in the bowl. Make sure the salmon fillets are frozen in an airtight bag.
  • Keep changing the water as it approaches room temperature, or add more ice cubes to keep it cold.
  • Cold water preserves the texture of the fillets as opposed to warm water that defrosts the outer parts leaving the middle parts hard.
  • Wait until all the ice is melted, and cook your salmon immediately to avoid microbial growth.

Defrosting salmon overnight in the refrigerator

Thawing salmon in the fridge is the easiest and safest method. However, it takes long hours and is not ideal for short-time recipes.

This method allows fillets to thaw at safe temperatures without reaching room temperature or the feared 40-140 degrees temperature zone.

You can also defrost the frozen fillets in the same bag, minimizing the chances of food contamination.

Minimal interaction with multiple preparation equipment also minimizes exposure to contaminants.

Salmon defrosted in the fridge can be refrozen within 48 hours without necessarily cooking it. Ensure you drain juices from the salmon in the Ziploc bag to prevent splattering and flames when cooking in oil.


Do you need to thaw the salmon before cooking?

The method of cooking dictates whether or not to thaw salmon before cooking.

Some recipes require you to poach or bake salmon; hence, you don’t need to thaw the salmon fillets; the low temperatures will ensure it is uniformly thawed before it start cooking.

If your recipe instructs you to shallow or deep fry your salmon, you need to thaw it adequately until all the ice is melted to avoid splattering and causing flames.

Thawed salmon cooks evenly and eliminates the chances of unevenly done spots.

Defrosted salmon fillets are tender, tasty, and flavorful; therefore, they need to be thawed first. Irrespective of the cooking method.

Defrosting salmon speeds up the cooking time and hence saves energy.

How to defrost salmon quickly without a microwave

Using a microwave is the fastest method to defrost salmon, and using cold water is the second fastest method.

Depending on the size, it takes up to 30 minutes to defrost salmon in cold water. Thin, lighter salmon thaw faster as opposed to thick, heavier salmon.

You must keep changing the water to maintain low temperatures or add ice cubes to the water bowl.

Salmon defrosted in cold water should be cooked immediately to prevent bacterial growth.

Remove your defrosted salmon from the cold water as soon as all ice melts. The piece of salmon should bend easily to confirm its adequately thawed.

Can I refreeze the salmon after defrosting it?

You can refreeze thawed salmon on the following conditions:

If you thawed it overnight in the fridge, you could refreeze it within 48 hours without necessarily cooking it.

If you thawed salmon in the microwave or using cold water, you must cook the salmon filet before putting it back in the freezer. You should monitor the salmon’s temperature to keep it within a safe range.

Salmon that was exposed on countertops exceeding the standard room temperature are not safe to be refrozen since they already have microbial contamination.

Final Thoughts

It is easy and quick to thaw salmon in the microwave. Transfer the salmon fillets to a microwave-safe bowl, cover the fillets with a paper towel, and defrost for 3 to 5 minutes.

Ensure you do not exceed the recommended; otherwise, you will end up with overcooked seafood.

Microwave-defrosted salmon is tender, bendable, and flexible. Defrosting salmon in the microwave doesn’t deteriorate its quality; instead, it preserves its texture, taste, and flavor.

Besides, microwave-defrosted salmon doesn’t enter the dangerous temperature zone.

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