How to Thaw (Defrost) Salmon Safely & Quickly

How to Thaw Salmon Properly: A Quick Step Guide

Ready to have a nice salmon dinner and have some pieces sitting around in the freezer? Before you get them ready to be cooked, they are are going to have to be thawed out.

So, what is the best and quickest way to defrost salmon?

This article will look at 3 best options to thaw salmon, as well as highlighting the proper way to do it safely.

How to Safely Defrost Salmon

While you have different options when it comes to thawing out your salmon, you need to be aware of the ‘Danger Zone’, especially if you plan on using the microwave or letting it sit in cold water for a couple of minutes to thaw out.

So what is the ‘Danger Zone’? The Danger Zone, According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), is the range of temperatures 40 ° and 140 °F, where bacteria multiplies and grows quickly.

With an increase of harmful bacteria in your food, there is a possibility of bacterial food poisoning occurring.

Overnight in the Fridge: The Safest Way to Thaw Salmon

Defrost Salmon Overnight in the Refrigerator

Thawing salmon overnight in the refrigerator is not the quickest option, but it is by far the best.

If you plan on cooking salmon for dinner the next day, you can easily take them from the freezer and leave it in the refrigerator to thaw out overnight. In under 24 hours, they should be fully defrosted and ready to be used.

You should place the salmon on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator for Food safety reasons. You do not want the juices to leak from a higher shelf and contaminate food in lower shelves below.

Microwave: The Quickest Way to Thaw Salmon

If you are in a rush and need to defrost salmon quickly, while not 100% recommended, the microwave is by far, the quickest option.

The reason why we don’t fully recommend the microwave, is that a microwave heats up food and if you leave  it in too long, you could end up partially cooking the salmon.

While most microwaves have a defrost setting, there is a possibility it could lead to uneven thawing, which is a major food safety concern

Another concern in using the microwave to thaw is that a microwave works by heating up food and there is the chance that an increase in the temperature of the food could occur, pushing the salmon to the danger zone

This leaves open the possibility of the growth and multiplication of harmful bacteria.

Regardless, the microwave is a valid option to thaw salmon quickly and we highlight the steps to do it below:


  1. Place the frozen salmon in a microwave-safe plate/container. (Optionally, you could place the pieces on paper towels, so that it can absorb some of the excess moisture as the salmon defrosts).

  2. Use the microwaves defrost setting or use 30% power and zap it. Ideally, it will take 7-8 minutes per pound to thaw out the salmon, depending on the size/thickness of the fish and the power of the microwave.

  3. Check 2-3 minute intervals to see if they have been thawed out or if they need to be in the microwave a bit longer.

  4. Keep doing this until they are fully defrosted. (Check to ensure that you are not cooking the salmon, only defrosting them)

  5. Once thawed out, immediately use.

Cold Water: Another Quick Way to Thaw Salmon (If You Have Time)

Salmon on a Baking Tray

While not as quick as the microwave, using cold water is another option to consider if you want salmon defrosted quickly, but have some time to play with.

You can either submerge or run the salmon pieces under cold water.

Steps (Running Under in Cold Water)

  1. If the salmon is already in bags/packaging, you can take the frozen pieces and place them in a container and place under a faucet of running water.

  2. Let the water continuously run over the frozen pieces, constantly turning them.

  3. After couple of minutes, the salmon pieces should thaw out and be ready to be used.

Steps (Submerging in Cold Water)

  1. Fill a container with cold water.

  2. If the salmon is already in bags/packaging, you can take the frozen pieces and submerge them in the container with cold water.

  3. Let the frozen pieces of salmon a couple of minutes, checking to see if they are defrosted.

  4. If you find that they are still frozen, you can let the fish sit for a couple of minutes, till they are fully defrosted.

  5. Depending on how many size and thickness of the salmon, the thawing process could take up to 30 minutes or longer.

Wrapping it up

There are many options available to you if you are looking to defrost salmon properly and quickly.

Before letting them thaw out, please be aware of the danger zone and a possibility of food borne illnesses, if done incorrectly.

Ideally letting the salmon pieces sit in the refrigerator is the best way for them to thaw out, but the microwave/running under cold water are also viable options.

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