How to Thaw (Defrost) Frozen 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, if you are here, you are probably wondering what is the best and quickest way to defrost salmon?

This article will look at 3 best options you can use to thaw salmon quickly and safely.

Let’s jump right into it.

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.

Related: How to Thaw Frozen Shrimp

How to Thaw Frozen Salmon: We Look at The 3 Best Options

Defrost Salmon Overnight in the Refrigerator

The process of thawing salmon is not overly complicated.

Depending on the method you use, it can be ready to cook in a couple of minutes or a couple hours.

We will take a deeper look at the 3 best thawing options available:

  • Overnight in the refrigerator
  • The microwave
  • A cold water bath

Overnight in the Fridge: The Safest Way to Thaw Salmon

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

  1. Remove the frozen salmon from the freezer and put it in a container.

  2. Place the container in the in the refrigerator to thaw out overnight.

    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.

  3. By the next day, the salmon should be fully defrosted and ready to be used.

Pros: Safest way to defrost salmon.

Cons: Takes time. If you are in a rush and need your salmon thawed quickly, this is not the option to go with.

Microwave: The Quickest Way to Thaw Salmon

If you are in a rush the microwave is the quickest way to defrost frozen salmon. While it is not 100% recommended, it is by far the best 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 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

During thawing, the microwave raises the temperature of food and if it enters the danger zone, 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, bacteria begins to grow and multiply.


  1. Place the frozen salmon in a microwave-safe container. (You could also cover the container with a paper towel, as this absorbs excess moisture as the salmon defrosts.)
  2. Open the microwave and place the container with the salmon inside. Use the defrost setting of the microwave or use 30% power and zap the salmon for 1 minute.

    Ideally, it will take 7-8 minutes per pound to thaw out the salmon, depending on the size of the fish and the power of the microwave.
  1. Check to see if the salmon is defrosted. If not, repeat the process above in 2-3  minute intervals until they are fully defrosted. (Also check to ensure that you are not cooking the fish, only defrosting them)
  2. Once thawed out, use immediately.

Cold Water: Another Quick Way to Thaw Frozen 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 you are non in a rush.

With the cold water method, you can do it in two ways:

  • Running Under in Cold Water
  • Submerging in Cold Water

Steps (Running Under 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 place them in a container and place under a faucet of running water.
  3. Let the water continuously run over the frozen pieces, constantly turning them in the process.
  4. 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 incorrect thawing, which could place the salmon in the danger zone and opens it up for the possibility of food borne bacteria.

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.

Leave a Comment