It might seem easy, but knowing how to pan-fry salmon is not really that intuitive. There are many mistakes you can make before learning how to fry it to perfection. We're here to help you get the best results without too much effort.
We, the people in the SoDelicious team, are always talking about food. Every evening we ask each other what we're going to cook when we get home in the evening. Well, I guess we can skip asking our colleague Andreea this question at least three days a week because we all know she’s going to cook salmon. She’s always preoccupied with eating healthy and she likes salmon thanks to its taste, but also because it’s quick-and-easy to make.
The best choices when it comes to frying salmon
So, when it comes to simple, quick-cooking dinners, salmon is always a good choice. The quicker cooking technique is pan-frying it on the stove. Since we’re talking about how to fry salmon, you should also know how to choose it for frying. When cooking salmon in the oven or on the grill, one large piece of fish works well. But when you want to fry it, opt for individual fillets. One six-to eight-ounce fillet per person is a good amount.
As for the cooking pan, we think a stainless steel or cast iron skillet is the best choice for frying salmon. If you cook more than 1-2 fillets, make sure your pan is large enough.
How to pan-fry salmon in 6 easy steps
1. Preparing the fillets
The first thing you should do is to remove the fish from the refrigerator about 15 to 20 minutes before you're ready to start cooking. You should bring the fillets closer to room temperature before frying them.
When you’re ready to cook them, pat-dry each fillet using paper towels. When the fillets are moist or wet, they're more likely to stick to the pan.
2. Preparing the cooking pan
If you're wondering how to fry salmon and if there’s a secret for that, then you should know you should pay attention not only to the fish but also to the pan and the heat. Keep the flame around medium to medium-high, and heat the pan. Make sure the pan is really hot before anything touches it (including the cooking oil!). Add some drops of water into the pan to test if it's hot enough (if the water sizzles and evaporates almost immediately, the pan is ready to go; if not, wait 1-2 more minutes and test again).
Only when the pan is hot add a drizzle of oil, tilt the skillet to coat its bottom with a thin layer of oil, and heat it until shimmers. After checking all these things off your list, you can add the fish...
3. Season the salmon
The salmon fillets should be seasoned just before adding them to the pan. Salt and pepper should be fine for a simple and subtle seasoning that lets the flavor of the fish shine.
If you want to change its strong taste a little, you can choose fresh ginger, curry powder, cumin, citrus zest, soy sauce, paprika and other spices and herbs.
4. Laying the fish in the pan
When cooking salmon in a skillet, every fillet should be fried on both sides. But it's really important to start by laying the fish in the pan skin-side down. Why’s that? The skin is tough and durable and can withstand more time on the hot surface of the pan without overcooking.
5. How long to wait before flipping it
After you've added the salmon fillets to the pan, don’t touch them, don’t poke them, and don’t move them! You'll be tempted to lift the fish or move it around the pan to see how it's coming along, but you should resist and wait!
After a few minutes skin-side down, you'll notice the color of the fillet slowly begin to change, starting from the bottom, where the skin touches the pan. The fish flesh will lighten from deep pink to a pale color. This will take about 8 to 9 minutes for thick fillets and 6 to 7 minutes for thinner fillets.
Once the color change has moved up about three-quarters of the way from the bottom, it's time to flip the fillets. After flipping the fillets, the salmon will cook in 2 minutes for thicker fillets and 1 to 2 minutes for thinner fillets.
6. Remove and let the fillets rest
When ready, remove the salmon from the pan and place it on a paper towel-lined plate. Let them rest for about 3 minutes before serving.
If you know how to fry salmon, you'll get some tender and flaky pieces of it, cooked perfectly to medium, with a super-crispy skin. And, after cooking it this way a few times, you’ll understand why our colleague chooses this delicious meal so often.
Here you can see all of our salmon recipes.