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Here’s how to make pan seared salmon (aka pan fried salmon)! It’s a quick and easy method, and the flavor is unbeatable.

Pan seared salmon
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Here’s a recipe every cook should know: how to make pan seared salmon! This is one of the best ways to cook this fish because it’s fast, it’s easy, and has incredible flavor. Pan fried salmon is faster than baked, and even better, the hot pan makes a perfect crispy browned layer on top. For us, that’s a deal breaker! It also leaves the oven free for roasting up some veggies as a side dish.

How to make pan seared salmon

Pan seared salmon, also known as pan fried salmon, is a method where the fish is cooked in a skillet until the exterior is browned and the interior is flaky and tender. You can sear salmon in oil, butter, or a combination of the two. The trick is to brown the top of the fish, then flip it and cook for a few more minutes until the internal temperature is 125 to 130°F. Here’s an overview of the basic concept:

  • Brine the salmon. The first step is optional but it makes the best crispy-on-the-outside, seasoned on the inside piece of salmon. It also helps to avoid the white albumin that can appear when it’s cooked (it’s edible, it just doesn’t look appetizing!). Place the salmon in a salt water solution for 15 minutes, which also helps the salmon to come to room temperature and allow for even cooking.
  • Melt butter and olive oil in a large skillet. You can also use just olive oil, but we like the flavor of both in combination.
  • Sear the salmon skin side up for 2 to 3 minutes. Cook it over medium high heat until the fish becomes opaque about halfway through.
  • Flip and cook 2 to 5 more minutes. The timing of when salmon is done depends on the thickness of the fillet, so use your best judgement. It should be just tender and pink at the center (125 to 130°F).
Pan seared salmon

Best tool for pan seared salmon

A helpful tool for cooking salmon and other fish is a fish spatula! This tool is a wide slotted metal spatula that’s easy to gently slide underneath fish when cooking it. Because it’s so wide, it’s useful for many more kitchen tasks, too! We use it to flip and lift all sorts of foods, like eggplant pizzas or fries.

If you don’t have one, you can easily use any large, wide spatula. A thin metal surface is nice to easily slide under the fish skin.

Ways to season salmon

There are a few main ways we like to season pan seared salmon. We generally do the basic method, but the blackened salmon is another favorite. Here are all our favorite ways to season salmon:

Sauce for salmon

Sauces for pan fried salmon

You can also use a sauce to flavor pan fried salmon. It’s not necessary, but it can take this healthy fish to new heights. Here are a few ideas for sauces for salmon:

Pan fried salmon

Why to brine salmon and the “white stuff”

The brining step for salmon takes 15 minutes: so if you’re running behind, you can skip it. However, it does a few things that are helpful for this fish:

  • It helps the salmon come to room temperature. This helps the salmon cook through evenly. If the fish is too cold, the inside can be uncooked when the outside is fully browned.
  • It seasons the salmon. Brining also helps to bring flavor to the entire piece of fish.
  • It reduces the “white stuff.” Ever have white stuff rise to the surface of salmon when you cook it? It’s coagulated protein that seeps to the surface called albumin. The amount of albumin varies depending on the fish, so it’s not something you can fully control. However, brining the salmon helps!

Sides to serve with pan fried salmon

Pan seared salmon is a great fast and easy dinner idea! Here are a few ideas of easy side dishes for salmon. Start them while the salmon is brining!

This pan seared salmon recipe is…

Pescatarian, gluten free and dairy free (using only olive oil).

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Pan seared salmon

Easy Pan Seared Salmon


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5 from 2 reviews

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x

Description

Here’s how to make pan seared salmon! It’s easy to cook up pan fried salmon in a flash and the flavor is unbeatable.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 pound salmon fillets, skin on (wild caught if possible)
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for brining
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus one drizzle
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice, plus a few lemon wedges
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley, for garnish (if desired)
  • Optional seasonings: Blackened Seasoning or Magic Salmon Seasoning

Instructions

  1. Brine the salmon* (optional): In a large shallow dish, whisk together 4 cups room temperature water and 3 tablespoons kosher salt until dissolved. Place the salmon in the water and wait for 15 minutes.
  2. If not brining, allow the salmon to come to room temperature for 15 minutes. Pat the salmon dry with a clean towel. Rub it generously with oil and sprinkle it with the kosher salt and generous grinds of fresh ground pepper. (Optional: Use ½ kosher salt and season with 2 tablespoons Blackened Seasoning or Magic Salmon Seasoning.)
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add the butter and olive oil. When butter is melted, add the salmon skin side up and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until cooked about halfway to center of thick part of salmon.
  4. Reduce to medium heat and flip the salmon (a fish spatula makes easy work of it). Tilt the pan down slightly and quickly spoon the pan juices over the top of the fish a few times. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, then drizzle with the lemon juice and add the minced garlic. Continuously baste the salmon by spooning the garlic butter over the salmon and cook and additional 1 to 3 minutes, depending on the thickness, until just tender and pink at the center (the internal temperature should be between 125 to 130°F in the center when removed).
  5. Remove from the heat. Spritz with juice from a few additional lemon wedges and  chopped fresh parsley (if using) and serve.

Notes

*Brining is optional: it’s most important for lower quality salmon. Either way, you’ll need to bring your salmon to room temperature before cooking, so it’s just as easy to do the brining step (it helps with seasoning and moistness).

  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Seafood
  • Diet: Gluten Free

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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3 Comments

  1. Regina Corley says:

    Tried the salmon seasoning recipe with this, it was excellent!






  2. Shannon McCorison says:

    Really easy recipe for perfectly cooked, flavorful salmon, including tasty crispy skin!

  3. Natalia Moreno says:

    Great, delicious recipe with lots of information and pointers