Alex Belew Hands Us The Key To Cooking His Perfect Score Hell's Kitchen Salmon - Exclusive

It takes guts to try to surprise Gordon Ramsay with fish and rice, but lack of grit is clearly not a problem for "Hell's Kitchen" contestant Alex Belew. We proffer proof: the Tennessee-based chef has made it through most of Season 21 relatively unscathed, although that may be about to change. If the chef's Instagram's any indication, Ramsay's about to give the chef a lashing in the upcoming Season 21, Episode 9.  

Ramsay's disappointment possibly has to do with raw lamb; it definitely doesn't have to do with salmon. That, Belew knows how to prepare — unlike any one of his fellow Season 21 competitors. Let's rewind to Season 21's very first signature dish challenge, shall we?

"It was about presenting a dish that was composed but filling and had components that both contrasted with each other and complimented each other," Belew explained, discussing his decision to serve up fish and rice in an exclusive interview with Mashed. "I know I just served rice to Gordon Ramsay, but I served the best rice in the world in my opinion, which is Carolina Gold rice. The starch content is different. The flavor is aromatic and delicious. It's not a regular 99-cent bag from the grocery store. It's 12 bucks a pound. It's delicious goodness."

Ramsay — need we remind you — agreed. "[The Salmon is] cooked beautifully, it's pink, it's vibrant. Got that right balance of acidity," the Michelin-starred chef lauded Belew. "I love the balance of the starch. That's a very strong five, good job." 

The key to cooking salmon is what you do before it hits the pan

You may never cook salmon for Gordon Ramsay, but if you do, there's no need to go weak in the knees. As Alex Belew revealed to Mashed, the key to a beautiful piece of salmon is what you do before you turn up the heat.

"One thing that I swear by, almost every time I cook fish, is to dry cure the fish for 15 minutes beforehand," the "Hell's Kitchen" contestant explained. "It makes it much harder to overcook it. If you've ever overcooked salmon, you'll see some white liquid coming out — the albumin coming out of the sides. If you dry-cure the salmon, that will keep that from happening. The albumin and protein will stay intact."

Here's how to dry-cure salmon and earn a "Hell's Kitchen" 5. "I do a mixture of 60% salt and 40% sugar, completely coat the filet, sit it on a cooling rack about 15 minutes, rinse off [in] ice water, pat it dry," Belew elaborated. "That's almost like a hack to do that to a piece of fish."

The chef also suggests spicing up your fish with a layer of Szechuan peppercorn and coriander crust — and that's the side you want to cook first. "It was about cooking it on its crust, about 60%, 65%, flipping it over, adding butter and basting for a minute," he explained. "Then, let it rest, just like a steak. Hit it with some lemon juice and it's perfectly pink throughout."

New episodes of "Hell's Kitchen" air Thursday nights at 8:00 p.m. ET on FOX. To keep up with Alex Belew, visit his website and subscribe to his mailing list.