How to Cook Salmon Cheeks

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Salmon cheeks are expensive; instead, buy salmon heads, removing the cheeks manually.
Salmon cheeks are expensive; instead, buy salmon heads, removing the cheeks manually. (Image: Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Many chefs will agree that the tastiest, most tender part of any fish is the cheek. These delicious little morsels are easy to prepare and can be eaten by themselves or as part of a recipe. Salmon cheeks may be difficult to find and can be fairly expensive, so consider buying a salmon head or heads, which are typically far more fiscally friendly. Plus, you can easily remove the cheeks before using the rest of the head for roasting or making stock.

Things You'll Need

  • Salmon heads
  • Cutting board
  • Sharp knife
  • Lemon wedges (optional)
  • Fresh herbs (optional)

Removing the Cheeks From the Head

Place the salmon head on a cutting board and gently feel along the fish's cheek to find the bowl-shaped cheek.

Cut the cheek off by making a C-shaped flap beginning near the eye and ending at the mouth. After making the flap, lift it with one hand as you carefully cut under the cheek muscle as deeply as possible.

Lift the flap that you just made and finish cutting the cheek from the salmon's head before repeating on the other side. Once you've remove both cheeks, cut the skin off of each cheek.

Sauteing Salmon Cheeks

Keep the preparation methods simple to allow the flavor and texture of the salmon cheek to shine. Dredge each cheek lightly in flour and heat a pan over medium or medium-high heat.

Melt butter or heat cooking oil in the pan before adding the salmon cheeks to the pan. Cook the cheeks until the flesh is opaque, flipping them halfway through.

Remove the cheeks from the pan and serve them with lemon wedges and herbs such as fresh, chopped parsley if desired.

Boiling Salmon Cheeks

Grab a medium or large pot, fill it with water and put it on the stove. Turn the burner on to high or medium-high and bring the water to a rolling boil.

Salt the water with a a tablespoon of salt, if desired, before adding the salmon heads to the water. Bring it back to a boil and reduce the heat to medium or medium-high.

Boil the salmon heads for roughly 10 minutes, or until the flesh is very tender. Remove the heads from the pot and let them rest until they are cool enough to handle.

Lay each head on its side and lift the cheek gill with a fork. The salmon cheek, which should be opaque in color, should be very tender and easy to scoop right out of the fish head. Top with butter and fresh herbs or seasonings to taste.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use the microwave if you don't feel like taking the time for boiling the heads. Microwave each salmon head for about 4 to 8 minutes on high. Take the head out of the microwave, lift the cheek gill and remove the salmon cheek from the head.
  • Add your tender salmon cheeks to another recipe. For example, you can cook up a decadent omelet by adding the cheeks, along with whatever other ingredients you like, such as bacon, vegetables and seasonings.

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