Cook restaurant-style pan seared salmon in the comfort of your kitchen with only 5 ingredients and in less than 10 minutes! The salmon fillets turn out juicy and flaky, with moist flesh under flawlessly crispy skin.
Flaky and juicy salmon fillets are my top choice when I need to put together a quick dinner for myself or the entire family.
When we want to let the natural flavors of the fish shine and pair it with hearty sides, nothing beats pan-cooking the fish to perfection.
Table of Contents
Why this recipe works
If you enjoy the authentic buttery flavor of salmon without too many flavors overshadowing it, this pan seared salmon recipe will win your heart. The salmon fillets are seasoned with only salt and pepper and are seared to crispy golden perfection in butter and olive oil.
- It needs minimal ingredients. If you have brought home some juicy cuts of fresh salmon and are looking for a simple but delicious way to cook them, this is the recipe to go for (along with baked salmon!).
- It cooks quickly and easily. Like we do with blackened or cast iron salmon, hot and fast is my favorite way to cook salmon. It takes a couple of minutes to cook salmon fillets in a heated pan and you never end up with overcooked salmon so long as you flip the fish at the right time (try it with honey garlic salmon, too).
- It’s super versatile. This salmon pairs well with something simple like a green salad or baked potato, or something more elaborate like cabbage steaks and a potato au gratin.
Salmon is a fish that doesn’t need much to taste exceptionally good. Using a proper cooking technique is all you need to make it shine. Here is what you’ll need.
- Salmon. Use skin-on salmon fillets, as the skin crisps up nicely once it touches the hot pan. It creates an additional layer of flavor and texture.
- Butter. It gives the seared fish a rich flavor and creates the most amazing golden crust.
- Olive oil. Adding a small amount of oil to the pan will help prevent the butter from burning. If you don’t like cooking with butter, feel free to use olive oil only.
- Salt and pepper. Nothing else is needed to enhance this fish’s rich buttery flavor. You can add other spices of your choice.
How to pan sear salmon
- Prepare the salmon fillets– Remove the salmon from the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature for 15-20 minutes. Pat dry the fillets using paper towels. Season both sides of the fish with salt and pepper.
- Add the fillets to a heated pan– Place a heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the butter and olive oil. Add the fillets to the pan with the skin side down when the butter has melted.
- Cook and serve– Cook the fillets for 4-5 minutes until the skin is golden and crispy. Flip the fillets and cook them for another 2 minutes. Don’t overcook the salmon to keep it nice and moist inside.
- If you are frying a few fillets at a time, ensure they have the same thickness to end up with evenly cooked fish. Otherwise, you must flip the fillets and remove them from the pan at different times.
- Don’t touch the salmon while it cooks. Touch it only once when flipping the fillets. This will ensure a good and even sear on the fish and a nice crust on both sides.
- When using frozen salmon, defrost the fillets in the fridge first. If you don’t have much time to do this, hold the fillets under running cold water to remove the ice layer on the fish. Then pat dry it using paper towels and cook.
If you want to experiment, feel free to add more ingredients to this salmon dish. Here are a few ideas.
- Cook with garlic. Adding chopped or crushed garlic to the pan is the easiest way to enhance the flavor of this simple dish. As a bonus, you will have a delicious garlic butter sauce that you can pour over the fish right before serving it.
- Add Mediterranean flavors. Add sun-dried tomatoes, capers, or Kalamata olives to the pan to give the salmon a Mediterranean twist.
- Use fresh herbs. Put a sprig of fresh rosemary or thyme into the pan when you melt the butter. Wilting a handful of spinach in the hot pan once you remove the fillets is a great way to make a quick side dish for the fish. Fresh parsley and dill are other herb options that work amazingly for salmon.
- Add an Asian sauce. For some Asian salmon flavors, drizzle some katsu, eel, or bulgogi sauce.
What to serve with pan seared salmon
This dish’s simplicity makes it so easy to pair it with a range of side dishes. From vegetables to salads and pasta to rice, here are our favorite dishes to serve with pan-seared salmon.
To store. Store leftover cooked salmon in an airtight container in the fridge. Eat it within 3 days.
To reheat. You can bring the salmon to room temperature and use it cold for salads and sandwiches. If you want to warm it up, use the microwave or put the fish in the oven preheated to 275F degrees for 15 minutes or until heated through.
To freeze. Put cooked salmon fillets into a freezer bag, push out the excess air, and freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost the fillets in the fridge before reheating them.
Recommended tools to make this recipe
- Cast iron skillet. My tried and tested skillet pan.
- Instant read thermometer. To check the doneness of the salmon (125F!).
- Non-stick pan. This ceremic pan is a fabulous alternative if you don’t own a cast iron.
Frequently asked questions
Pan-searing and baking both work well for salmon. Baking salmon is a great cooking method for salmon if the fillets are frozen and you don’t have time to defrost them. Cooking salmon in the pan, on the other hand, is much quicker and helps crisp up the salmon skin.
If you are using skin-on salmon fillets, put them in the pan with the skin side down first. The skin will become nice and crispy, making it easy to flip the fillet with a spatula without damaging its integrity.
You can use a meat thermometer to determine if the salmon fillets are done cooking. The internal temperature of perfectly cooked salmon should be around 125 degrees F.
If you don’t have an instant-read thermometer, press on the fillet with your finger or a fork. If the fillet flakes easily, it’s time to remove it from the pan.
Pan Seared Salmon
- Pat the salmon fillets dry with paper towels and season them generously with salt and pepper on both sides.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the butter and olive oil.
- Once the butter has melted and the skillet is hot, carefully place the salmon fillets skin-side down in the skillet.
- Cook the salmon for 4-5 minutes on the skin side, without moving them, until the skin is crispy and golden brown.
- Using a spatula, carefully flip the salmon fillets over and continue cooking for another 2-3 minutes until the salmon is cooked through, but still moist and tender in the center.
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