Sous Vide Salmon with Salmon Skin “Bacon”

“Sous Vide” might immediately make you think this recipe involves a fancy, overly precious cooking method that only the food snobs among us will be interested in. But what if we tell you that the two main cooking tools it requires are a picnic cooler and a Ziploc bag, and that heating water is the only cooking skill required?

We’ve been reading about sous vide for some time now, but it took a recipe sent in by Szara Loring for the Primal Blueprint Reader-Created Cookbook Contest to encourage us to try it at home. Szara’s recipe for Sous Vide Salmon made us realize you don’t necessarily need expensive, professional sous vide equipment to try the cooking technique out. Turns out, all you need is the aforementioned cooler, a large Ziploc bag and a thermometer.

“Sous vide” basically translates as “under vacuum” and refers to cooking food in an airtight bag submerged in a temperature-controlled water bath. Unlike stovetops, ovens, or grills, which invariably become hotter or cooler as food cooks, a temperature-controlled water bath insures that the food is cooked at the exact same temperature the entire time. Think of sous vide as a kinder, gentler cooking method. One that cooks protein, but doesn’t ever cause the protein to seize up and become tough. Proteins (or even vegetables) cooked sous vide come out perfectly cooked every time, which is one reason this method has become increasingly popular in recent years with chefs at some of the best restaurants in the United States.

Professional sous vide equipment, which is used in restaurants and has only recently become available to home cooks, has an immersion circulator that ensures the water temperature will remain precise. Using a picnic cooler to hold the temperature of the water steady is admittedly a little less precise. Nevertheless our salmon came out perfectly cooked using Szara’s method. Professional equipment also employs a vacuum sealer to ensure all the air is removed from the cooking bag before immersing it in water. This is especially important if you are a chef who plans to cook the meat, then hold it for several days before re-heating and serving it. Lack of a completely airtight seal increases the risk of bacteria forming over time, so when you cook sous vide in a cooler you’ve rigged up at home, just cook it and eat it without waiting. Which is exactly what you’ll want to do anyway when you pull your perfectly-cooked fillet of salmon out of the cooler and have fresh salad greens and a summery blackberry vinaigrette ready and waiting.

Topping off Szara’s tender and flavorful sous vide salmon fillet is a crispy treat we like to call salmon skin bacon. It’s addictive, easy to make and as it turns out, the perfect topping for salad.

Without any further ado, we bring you sous vide cooking at home. Sure, your family might look at you funny when you pull dinner out of a cooler, but that’s all part of the fun.


  • A wild salmon fillet (about 3/4 -inch thick) with skin on
  • A few tablespoons of fat (beef or pork drippings or olive oil)
  • Salad Greens
  • Blackberry Vinaigrette (see recipe below)


  • Thermal picnic cooler (3-5 gallons)
  • Ziploc bag large enough for salmon
  • Thermometer


First, remove the skin from the salmon. This is easiest to do if you add a few tablespoons of fat to a skillet and sear the salmon, skin side down, for 3 minutes. Remove the salmon from the pan and use a knife to separate the skin from the meat. Set the skin aside.

Next, heat several gallons of water and monitor it with a thermometer until the water reaches 130 degrees Fahrenheit. When it reaches 130 degrees, pour the water into the cooler.

Put the salmon in a large Ziploc bag. Partially close the seal, leaving approximately 1 inch open for air to escape. To create the most airtight seal possible, slowly lower the unsealed bag into the water. Once the bag is almost entirely submerged, then finish sealing the bag. There should be no air left in the bag.

Release the bag into the water, trying to position it (if possible) so that the bag has water all around it and is not just lying on the bottom of the cooler.

Close the lid on the cooler and let the fish cook undisturbed for 45 minutes. You cannot overcook the fish so it can go longer if you need it to.

To make the salmon skin bacon, heat more oil in a pan and sear both sides of skin until crispy. Salt to taste and break into small pieces.

Take salmon from the water bath, remove from the bag and place on a bed of greens tossed with blackberry vinaigrette. Top with salmon skin bacon bits.

Blackberry Vinaigrette


  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallots
  • 1 tablespoon honey, or less to taste
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup blackberries, roughly chopped


Combine vinegar, shallots, honey, mustard, tarragon, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl. Slowly add the olive oil while whisking continuously. Stir in the blackberries and adjust seasoning to taste.

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28 thoughts on “Sous Vide Salmon with Salmon Skin “Bacon””

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  1. ummm, looks like a winner here!

    Great job with this recipe. I’m a huge fan of salmon, especially sushi style too!

    All the best

    Richard Huntley
    The Martial Fitness Man

  2. This is a must-try for me. I’ve read about beer-cooler sous vide for a while now. I will be putting it to the test.

  3. Anyone have any tips for cooking a piece of beef or chicken this way? How long should it sit in the water bath??

  4. “Sous vide” and “Grok” or “primal” just don’t seem to fit on the same page.

    I’ll pass thanks.

  5. A ‘Food Saver’ works very well for Sous vide, too.

    I have used this method, and find that rather than use a big pot of water and heating it then pouring at 130 degrees, I just fill the cooler with the hottest water my sink produces, then boil a couple of quarts of water and add to the cooler to bring it up to temp. Easy to check that it stays in temp and add nits as needed also.
    This method is great for a dinner party, as, if you hold at 130 degrees, you can keep it for several hours. easy to transport as well, and comes out of the bath perfectly. I add some fresh herbs to infuse, right in the bag, notably dill and parsley with salmon.
    Have also added butter to the protein, effectively butter poaching it. Shrimp and seafood is lovely done this way, as the flavor saturates the meat.
    As to chicken, the same method, but you want to use 155 degree water and make sure the chicken reaches that temp, unless you met your chicken when it was walking and know for certain that it didn’t take antibiotics. Our chickens are probably all salmonella positive, but since they have not had antibiotics, they also have the antibodies, and are not contributing to the antibiotic resistant gene pool of bacteria.
    Beef can be done this way, but isn’t really satisfactory, as the gradation from the seared uter layer to (for me at least) the cool inside is most of the pleasure and flavor. Without the caramelization from searing, the beef is flabby and tasteless.
    However, if you prefer medium to medium well meat, cook beef in the sous vide at 140 degrees, take out and sear on a hot flame briefly, and you will find that it is perfectly medium to medium well throughout.

  6. Do I see a Soda Stream bottle in the top pic? Love making sparkling water with my machine!

  7. Are you sure cooking in a zip-lock bag is safe? I know Food-Saver bags are but would not think zip-locks are made for heat.

  8. A big thumbs down from me. Xeno-estrogens are ubiquitious. No need to invite in some more from heating plastic.

    1. This is my concern, and a big one. If we care about our health (and that of the earth) to use wild salmon, why compromise it all by using plastic? I try my best to stay away from xenoestrogens.

  9. Over-cooked salmon (i.e. just about any commercially prepared salmon) is one of my pet peeves. It’s SOOOO much better when cooked just past the translucent stage. This sounds like the perfect way to cook fish, but I was wondering about the temp…. Is 130 the temperature used in a commercial sous vide cooker? It seems like the water is going to cool off a bit just from contact with the cooler and the fish (should start out at room temp, no?) If a commecial cooker heats it back up, should we start out at say, 135 to compensate?

    Also, re heating plastic. I’d have to check the research to be sure, but 130 might not be hot enough to affect the plastic.

    Trying this for dinner tonight.

  10. the only reason i haven’t tried this method is that i haven’t researched what type of plastic is best… in, what will not leach chemicals into my food at the indicated temp.

    sorry, i just can’t make myself do this until i figure it out.

  11. Mmmmhh, I love the combination of blackberries and meat or fish! Never tried them with salmon though, but I’ll surely do! And tarragon rocks everything anyway. 🙂

  12. I’ve never been a big fan of seafood, but some of the recipes on this site have given me ideas to bring fish to life! I no longer mind the stuff. And that’s a big step because I know how important it is to have in the diet.

  13. Err..heating several gallons of water to cook 2 bits o fish..isn’t that exactly whats wrong about our lifestyle en masse ?!

  14. I guess if heating plastic worries you, you could get the size “large” steam plastic bags that are meant to be used in the microwave.

    I have cooked a lot of stuff (mostly fish and chicken) in the steam bags and they get plenty hot, so I doubt the amount of heat used in this method would be a problem for them.

  15. Back in the day, I watched Vincent Price cook trout for Johnny Carson, double wrapped in foil, by running it through a dishwasher for a full cycle. Same concept, and it works great. Never tried it with salmon fillet, but as an Alaskan, I’m going to- and soon.

  16. Tried this lastnight for supper. Did up some tilapia. It worked very well. The fish was cooked perfectly. Had it on a Big ASS salad :).

  17. I guess I’m a food snob because I actually bought a Sous Vide supreme. I wish I had bought this earlier when I was living out of a hotel for a year. It’s pricey, but in my opinion well worth it. I’m not big on fish, but I might try this out.

  18. You would not believe how much salmon skin I’ve thrown away over the years. Seriously! We eat salmon at least twice a week, year round. I’ve got to try making the skin into bacon. Not sure I can get hubby on board, but I’m all about it.

    1. Many years ago I ate at a sushi bar in LA that charbroiled leftover salmon skin. Let me tell you, Mark’s pan fried version pales in comparison.

      The only problem is, I seldom had a charcoal fire going at the same time I was eating fish. So a lot of my salmon skin went to waste too.

    2. If you like salmon skin and easy cooking try this:

      Saute the salmon (skin on) in a pan (I use a wok) at medium heat for a few minutes on each side with olive oil, salt and pepper (that’s it). If the piece is thick, turn off the heat and cover for a few minutes. The residual heat will reach the center of the fish.

      I have tried different versions of cooking salmon (include in the microwave which is another good way to quickly cook fish) and the extra taste of the saute and skin is food heaven.