Your toaster oven is capable of more than simply making toast or melting cheese over a tray of nachos. Even the smallest is a functional mini-oven in its own right, perfectly capable of preparing a real meal or entree. For example, if you want to bake or broil a few salmon fillets, you can use your toaster oven instead of the oven in your home range. In the time it takes to heat a regular oven you could have dinner on the table, and do it without the wash of heat you'd get from the oven.
The 10-Minute Rule
Cooking salmon in the oven is a relatively simple process. Just measure the thickness of your steaks or fillet portions, and allow 10 minutes for every inch. The same general rule applies to toaster oven baking, but there's a catch. The thermostat in your toaster oven probably isn't very accurate, so it might take longer than you think. You can double-check the toaster oven's temperature with an oven thermometer if you have one; otherwise set it to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and be prepared to test the salmon for doneness a few times.
Basic Baked Salmon
Start by heating the toaster oven to 425 F. Line the toaster's sheet pan with foil or parchment to make cleanup easier -- foil should be oiled, but parchment doesn't need it -- and arrange your salmon portions evenly on the tray. At this stage you can brush on a glaze or sprinkle the salmon with spices and herbs, or simply season it lightly with salt and pepper.
For more ambitious meals, marinate the salmon ahead of time or crust it with chia seeds or crushed pecans.
To measure the fish, simply hold a ruler or measuring tape against the thickest part of the filet.
Follow the 10-minute rule, for cooking time. If your salmon seems to be browning and cooking more quickly than you'd like, test it for doneness a minute or two early. It's done when it flakes easily, but the thickest part of the portion is still slightly translucent in the middle.
Broiling the Salmon
You can broil salmon effectively in the toaster oven, as well. It takes about the same length of time, but creates a crusty surface with the added flavors of browning and charring. Sweet glazes and even barbecue sauce work well under the broiler, caramelizing nicely in its intense heat. Ten minutes per inch is still the rule for broiling -- it browns more intensely, but the middle of the fish cooks at the same rate -- but it's different from baking in a couple of ways.
- First, you'll need to use foil rather than parchment. Parchment will burn under the broiler's heat, which can be decidedly inconvenient.
- Second, your toaster oven's thermostat will likely turn the element off frequently as the temperature rises and falls in the tiny cooking space. To keep the broiler element working continuously, prop the door open a crack with a spoon or other utensil.
Steaming in Parchment
For a more delicate "take" on your salmon, you can prepare it en papillote in your toaster oven. This simply means wrapping it in a parchment paper pouch, usually with a few herbs and a spoonful of butter or wine. The salmon steams in its own juices, gently absorbing flavors from any herbs or aromatic vegetables you've included in the package.
Certain stores sell pre-formed parchment envelopes for the purpose, but usually you'd just use a flat sheet.
Place the salmon and flavorings on the paper, then fold the edges together and crease them to seal the edges and keep the juices in. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes at 425 F, until the parchment is browned and puffy, then carefully open a package and check the salmon for doneness.