Lock in moisture while getting the skin perfectly crisp–pan seared salmon comes together in a matter of minutes. If you’re new to salmon and want to love it, look no further than this pan fried salmon recipe. Here’s everything you need to know.
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What is the best way to cook salmon?
Baked salmon, broiled salmon, poached salmon, and air fryer are all delicious, but pan seared salmon has a special place in my heart. The skin gets extra crispy, the inside stays perfectly tender (pan-searing helps to lock in the moisture!), and it comes together in a matter of minutes.
It’s also easy to whip up a sauce on the side while your filets are in the pan.
Pan Seared Salmon Ingredients
Not much is needed to get crispy skin and loads of flavor. Here’s what to grab, and some substitutes:
- Fat: Oil with a mild flavor and high smoke point, such as canola or avocado oil. Unfortunately, the butter will burn at the high temperature of our pan. If you’re craving butter, add a tablespoon or so toward to end.
- Seasoning: Salt and pepper are all you need!
What Type of Salmon Should I Buy?
There are so many ways to purchase salmon. We always buy skin on, wild caught salmon, and switch between king, sockeye, and coho filets. Here’s how to decide what’s best for you:
- Center cut: This will ensure they have an even thickness and promotes uniform cooking.
- Skin on: even if you don’t want to eat the skin, the fat from the skin is full of flavor, which we’ll use to help sear the flesh side of the salmon. It also keeps the fish in one piece as it cooks, and it makes it harder to overcook salmon.
- Taste (fishy/not fishy): Coho has a light salmon flavor, while sockeye is strong and best for people who love the taste of fish. King salmon is right in the middle.
How To Make Seared Salmon
Pan fried salmon is all about the technique. Follow these tips and steps closely for perfect salmon every time:
Allow salmon to come to room temp, then pat dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.
Heat oil in a pan until hot. Then add the salmon skin side down. Press on the top of each filet for 10 seconds to ensure the entire piece comes in contact with the pan.
Flip and cook on the other side until the salmon is cooked to your liking.
The Right Equipment is Key
- A heavy bottom pan that you can get smoking hot, but is thick enough to conduct heat evenly across the pan. My go-to is a cast iron skillet or this stainless steel one. Nonstick will work, but it’s not my favorite to sear protein.
- A fish spatula is your best friend. As you know, fish flakes very easily, so it’s important to get a large spatula that can flip the fish in one piece, otherwise it’ll flake apart into pieces.
This simple salmon recipe can be served in a handful of different ways to give this dish an entirely different feel. Here are some examples:
- What sides go with salmon? Sauteed or roasted vegetables make for a delicious salmon side–I love these sauteed green beans or roasted broccoli. Rice is our favorite grain alongside salmon.
- Best sauces for salmon? You don’t need a sauce, but if you’re craving one, consider a dollop of pesto on top for pesto salmon, teriyaki sauce ala Asian salmon, tartar sauce, the simple balsamic reduction I used in this salmon bruschetta, or for light and fresh opt for chimichurri salmon.
If you happen to have leftover pan seared salmon, here’s how to make the most of them.
- Store leftover salmon in an airtight container in the fridge, it’ll last up to 3 days.
- Reheat in the microwave with a damp paper towel on top, or in a hot pan with additional oil to re-crisp the skin.
- Can you freeze pan seared salmon? You can, but I don’t recommend it–the texture and flavor will change once frozen, and reheating will dry it out.
Although leftover salmon is delicious with a simple reheat (or even cold!) you can flake it and add it to all sorts of recipes. Some of my favorite leftover salmon uses are:
- Salmon salad, with chopped lettuce, veggies, and a lemon dressing–Check out my smoked salmon salad dressing as well, for a caper and dill addition.
- Salmon patties and burgers (see my keto salmon patties): Just flake leftovers and mix them in.
- Eggs: Mix flaked salmon into omelets, egg muffins, scrambles or make a salmon frittata.
Tips for Making Pan Seared
Searing any protein takes a bit of practice, and the technique is important to follow closely. But once you’ve got it down, a lifetime of juicy salmon awaits. Here are some tips for success:
- Allow the salmon to come to room temp before searing it, this ensures juicier, more evenly cooked filets. It allows the center of your fish to come to temp faster, as it starts at a warmer temperature.
- Fully dry your salmon, especially if your salmon was previously frozen. I like to do this with paper towels–simply dab the surface to remove as much liquid as possible. This will help the seasoning to stick and your sear to be golden.
- Get your pan super hot; this is the best way to achieve a quality sear and prevents the filet from sticking. Test your pan by adding a drop of water, it should jump and jiggle around the pan.
- Fish is on? Now reduce the heat. Cooking salmon at high temperatures the entire time will make it easy to sear, and hard to get the center to temp. Reducing the heat ensures your filets get seared, then can slowly come to temp.
- Cook skin side down first. This will get the skin super crispy while rendering fat to sear the flesh side in.
- Press the top of your salmon filet down with a spatula as soon as it hits the pan. As you’ll find, the salmon skin will curl and shrink once it comes into contact with a hot pan. Simply pressing the filet down for 10 seconds prevents this, ensuring an even sear.
More Salmon Ideas to Try
- Crab Stuffed Salmon
- Pistachio Crusted Salmon
- Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs
- Sesame Crusted Salmon
- Smoked Salmon Roll Ups
Pan Seared SalmonPrint Recipe Pin Recipe
- 4 6-8 ounce salmon fillets, skin on. center cut for even thickness
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil vegetable oil, or an oil with a high smoke point
- Lemon juice
- Fresh parsley chopped
- Allow salmon to come to room temp for at least 10 minutes. Dab completely dry with paper towels, then sprinkle the skin side (only) with half of the salt and pepper.
- Add oil to a heavy bottom pan (I love a cast iron for this), and head over medium high heat until the oil is shimmering, and the pan is hot.
- Add the filets, skin side down, and press down on the top with the back of a spatula, to ensure the entire piece of fish comes in contact with the pan. Cook, undisturbed until the salmon flips easily, and the skin is golden brown, should be 3-4 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to medium, and flip (a fish spatula is strongly recommended to keep the fish in one piece). Sprinkle with remaining salt and pepper, and continue to cook until the salmon has reached an internal temp of 120 F, should be 4-5 minutes.
- Transfer to a plate, and garnish with lemon juice and fresh parsley if desired. Enjoy!