Restaurant-Style Pan Seared Salmon
Yield: 4 (may adjust to a single serving or many; simply use a second pan when scaling up)
Golden and crispy on top and tender in the center, quick and easy pan seared salmon is perfect for busy weeknights and special enough for company. Personal preference dictates the precise number of minutes on the second side, and you can see how cooked through the fish is by looking at the side of the fillet or taking the temperature with a quick read thermometer. When using wild salmon, aim for 120 °F. With farmed salmon, a slightly higher temperature of 125-130 °F is most often preferred. When in doubt, you may cut into the center of a fillet and take a peek. Unlike chicken or beef, the juices won’t run out.  


  • 1½ tablespoons (22ml) extra-virgin olive oil
  •  Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper*
  • 4 (5- to 6-ounce) salmon fillets, 1¼-inch thick**


  1. Pat the fillets dry with a paper towel. Dry salmon will encourage a better sear and reduce splatter (although there will be some—you may use a splatter guard if you have one). Season all over with salt and pepper.

    Heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick or well-seasoned cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until very hot but not smoking.

    Gently lay the salmon in the pan with the skin side facing up and cook, without moving, until the flesh side is golden brown, about 4 minutes. Carefully flip and continue cooking until the skin side is slightly browned, about 3-4 minutes more. (Tip: If using a thinner fillet or a lean wild variety like sockeye, the fish will be nearly cooked through after browning the first side. In this case, flip and cook just long enough to achieve your desired doneness. This may be a quick “kiss” before removing from the hot pan.)

    Promptly remove the salmon from the skillet to reduce carryover cooking and serve.


*For perfectly seasoned fillets, use ¾ teaspoon of kosher or sea salt per pound of fish and sprinkle on all sides. If you prefer heavier seasoning, use 1 teaspoon per pound. If using table salt, reduce these amounts by ¼ teaspoon, and remember you can always add a pinch more at the end to fine tune to taste…but it’s harder to scrape off! I use several grinds of the pepper mill per fillet, or about ¼ teaspoon per pound.

**Skin or no skin? This comes down to personal preference. With this restaurant method, the skin won’t become crispy. Here’s why (and keep reading for crispy skin options). To accomplish a golden-brown sear on top, most of the cooking is done with the skin side up. The fish would become dry if cooked long enough after flipping to crisp the skin. I tend to use skinless salmon when cooking farmed salmon and eat the skin when using wild fish. A fishmonger will typically remove the skin for you, and it will peel off easily once cooked. Here is a Crispy Skin Salmon for those who may enjoy.

For those who’d like crispy skin with this method, simply remove the skin from the fillets and fry the skin in the remaining oil, adding an extra drizzle as needed, until crispy, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve the crispy skin with the salmon.

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