Pan Seared Salmon
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Learn how to make perfect Pan Seared Salmon. Cooking salmon in a skillet creates a flavorful crust on the fish while keeping the inside moist and succulent.
Pan searing salmon is a simple cooking technique that’s easier to master than you may think. Along with this Baked Salmon, it’s my favorite way to prepare salmon! I’m sharing all my tips for cooking salmon in a skillet, including what pan to use and how to know when to flip it.
This pan seared salmon is so simple, yet it may be the best salmon I’ve ever tasted. Made with just salmon, salt, pepper and a little oil, this pan seared salmon is a recipe you’ll turn to again and again.
Why You’ll Love this Pan Seared Salmon
- Irresistible Crispy Crust: Cooking salmon in a hot skillet creates a flavorful golden brown crust on the top of the fish.
- Quick and Easy: This recipe requires almost no prep, and the cook time is really fast (we’re talking 10 minutes or less).
- Rivals the Best Restaurant Salmon: Every time I make this meal, I feel like I’m eating at a fancy restaurant. It’s that good.
How to Pan Sear Salmon
- Let the salmon come to room temperature for 15-20 minutes. This helps it to cook more evenly.
- Season the fish. Use a paper towel to pat the salmon dry. Then season it generously with salt and pepper.
- Heat the oil in a large cast iron skillet or other nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Let the pan get nice and hot before adding the salmon.
- Add the salmon to the pan, skin side up. Cook the salmon on the first side for 4-6 minutes, undisturbed. You’ll know it’s ready to flip when it releases easily from the pan and has a nice golden brown crust. If the salmon is sticking to the pan (and you’ve use a well-oiled, well-seasoned pan), it probably needs another minute or two before it’s ready to flip.
- Flip and finish cooking. Use a thin spatula to flip the salmon fillets over so that they are skin side down. Cook for 2-4 more minutes, until the salmon is cooked to your liking. Serve with fresh lemon wedges.
How to Tell When Salmon is Done
The best way to tell if salmon is done is to use an instant read thermometer to measure the salmon temperature. According to the USDA, salmon is done when the internal temperature at the thickest part is 145° F. This is considered well-done. However, many people prefer their salmon cooked to 135° F (medium doneness) for a moister, less firm piece of salmon.
Using an instant read thermometer is the most reliable way, but if you don’t have one you can tell that your salmon is done when it flakes easily with a fork. Press a fork into the lines that run across the salmon. If the fish separates easily along the lines, it is cooked.
How to Cook Salmon in a Pan – Recipe Tips
- Keep the seasonings simple. A generous sprinkle of salt and pepper will give the fish the best flavor. I recommend using coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Keep the skin on for cooking. This helps to keep the fish from falling apart when you flip it. You can eat the crispy skin or remove it before serving – the fish will slide right out of the skin if you run a thin spatula under the flesh of the cooked salmon.
- Start it cooking skin side up. Cook the salmon with the flesh side down first to get a nice crispy crust. After flipping, the salmon will be right side up when you are ready to serve it, which gives a nice presentation.
- Don’t mess with the fish while searing. Let it cook undisturbed with the flesh side down to get a good sear. Trying to move or flip it too early can cause the salmon to break apart.
- A well-seasoned cast iron skillet is the best pan for making pan-seared salmon. You want to use a skillet that’s nonstick (like well-seasoned cast iron) to get a good crust and ensure that the salmon doesn’t stick to the pan. If you don’t have cast iron, any nonstick skillet should work.
- Use a fish spatula. This long, thin spatula makes flipping the salmon fillets over especially easy.
What to Serve with Salmon
I like to serve this pan seared salmon with lemon wedges. A squeeze of fresh lemon juice brightens up the flavors in a wonderful way. On the side, serve Garlic Mashed Potatoes or cook a pot of rice for an especially easy side dish. Finish the plates with an Arugula Salad, Roasted Green Beans, Sautéed Spinach or Roasted Brussels Sprouts.
More Salmon Recipes
If you love salmon for dinner, try one of these delicious salmon recipes next.
- Grilled Salmon. It’s seasoned with my favorite sweet and smoky Salmon Seasoning blend.
- Salmon Salad. This pan seared salmon would be perfect on top of this spinach salmon salad!
- Baked Salmon in Foil. This is a really easy way to cook salmon that’s moist and flavorful.
- Teriyaki Salmon. A favorite! Salmon fillets are coated in a sticky, sweet and tangy teriyaki glaze and then baked in the oven.
- Air Fryer Salmon. This is an especially fast and no-fuss way to cook salmon.
- Honey Garlic Salmon. This salmon recipe is an easy sheet pan meal that’s complete with potatoes and green beans.
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Pan Seared Salmon
- 4 salmon fillets, 6 ounces each, skin on
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 ½ tablespoons avocado oil, or olive oil
- fresh lemon wedges, for serving
- Let the salmon come to room temperature for 15-20 minutes.
- Pat the salmon fillets dry with paper towels. Season the fish generously with salt and pepper.
- Heat the oil in a large cast iron skillet or other nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
- Once the pan is very hot, add the salmon fillets, skin side up, to the pan. Cook on the first side for 4-6 minutes. The salmon is ready to flip when it has a nice golden brown crust and releases easily from the pan. Use a thin spatula to flip the fillets over so that they are skin side down.
- Cook on the second side for 2-4 minutes, until the salmon reaches your desired doneness. Serve with lemon wedges.
- If you have leftover cooked salmon, you can store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat it gently in the microwave or oven.