Perfectly pan-fried salmon is a textural masterpiece: a tender and flaky fillet crowned with shatteringly crispy, golden skin. It’s a preparation that’s just as perfect on the deck of a fishing vessel as it is for an intimate, special occasion dinner, and it’s part of a meal that every home cook should know how to make.
Try mastering how to pan-fry wild salmon before making our recipe for Pan-Fried Salmon with Slaw and Pickled Mustard Seeds and Pan-Fried Salmon with Creamy Cauliflower Mash.
Simple Tips for Perfectly Pan-Fried Wild Salmon
Pat the wild salmon fillet dry to remove excess moisture.
Sufficiently heat your pan and oil (sizzling hot!) before adding the fillet.
Ensure good skin to pan contact by pressing down firmly onto fillet with a fish spatula.
How to Pan-Fry Wild Salmon
Gather your materials: Your fillet(s), tea towel or paper towels, fish spatula, high-heat cooking oil, salt and pepper, skillet
Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, pat fillet dry with a tea towel or paper towel, then season with salt and pepper.
Add just enough oil to cover bottom of skillet, then allow to heat up. Once oil begins to shimmer (hot enough to sizzle) carefully place fillet skin side down into skillet. Using a fish spatula, press down firmly to ensure good skin to pan contact, holding for 30 seconds.
Reduce heat to medium. Sear undisturbed until fillet releases easily with the help of the fish spatula. Flip carefully, then allow to cook until internal temperature of fillet reaches 120F at its thickest part for medium-rare doneness. See below for cook times:
FOR COHO OR SOCKEYE: Sear 3 to 4 minutes skin side down, then flip and cook 1 to 3 more minutes depending on thickness of fillet.
FOR KING: Sear 3 to 4 minutes skin side down, then flip and cook 3 to 6 more minutes depending on thickness of fillet.
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*Consuming raw or undercooked meats, poultry, seafood, shellfish, or eggs may increase your risk of food-borne illness, especially if you have a certain medical condition. The FDA recommends an internal temperature of 145°F for cooked fish.