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pan-seared salmon on plates
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5 from 2 votes

How to Pan-Sear Salmon

This easy seafood tutorial will show you how to pan-sear salmon for juicy fish with crispy skin. Plus, check out our tips for seasoning, topping and sauces!
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time25 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: French
Diet: Gluten Free
Servings: 2 people
Calories: 289kcal


  • 8 ounces salmon (2 fillets)
  • pinch salt, pepper
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter or clarified butter Or use extra olive oil
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • Handful fresh herbs (parsley, chives, basil, cilantro etc)


  • Pat salmon dry.  Sprinkle fillets on both sides with salt and pepper.
    Allow fillets to rest at room temperature for about 15 minutes. (Cold salmon is more difficult to sear.)
    Pat the Fish Dry + Season
  • Add olive oil and butter to a heavy pan. Melt butter over medium heat.
    Place the fillets skin-side down in the pan and cook 2-4 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillets. (If your salmon fillets don't have skin, it doesn't matter which side you cook first.)
    As the salmon cooks, the flesh will begin to turn opaque from the bottom up. When the fish has cooked halfway through, it's ready to flip.
    Avoid touching the fish until the fish is ready to flip.
    Add Salmon to the Hot Pan
  • Use a thin metal spatula to test the fish.  If you can slide the spatula under the fish without the fish sticking to the pan, it's ready to flip. If the fillets won't release, give them another 30 seconds. They'll release when they've finished cooking.
    Cook fish another 2-4 minutes until done. Timing will depend on the thickness of the fillet. (Watch the sides of the fillets to see when the fish is done cooking. It's finished as soon as there are no more translucent patches and it's fully opaque.)
    Flip the Salmon
  • Transfer the fish to plates, leaving the excess butter in the pan. Cover fish to keep warm, or set fish in a 200ºF oven.
    Reduce heat to medium-low.  Add the lemon juice to the pan, stir with a wooden spoon, and allow the juice to reduce for about a minute. Add half the herbs and turn off the heat. 
    Serve fish hot with pan sauce and remaining herbs.
    pan-seared salmon on plates


Cooking Tips:
  • Make sure to pat the fish dry.  Wet fish won't develop a crispy skin.
  • Make sure to let the fish rest at room temperature for about 15 minutes.  Cold fish tends to stick to the pan.
  • Test the fish with a thin metal spatula before attempting to flip.  If the fish doesn't release, give it another 30 seconds and try again.
  • If your butter and oil begin to smoke, lower the heat slightly.
  • Have all your ingredients prepared before beginning so that you can watch the fish carefully while it cooks.  I prep everything while the fish rests at room temperature.
Salmon Skin Tips:
  • The skin is edible!
  • Salmon may be plated skin-side up or skin-side down.
  • To keep the skin crispy longer, especially if holding the fish in a warm oven before serving, store cooked fillets skin-side up to keep the skin from becoming soggy.
Recipe Variations: Try adapting this recipe by adding more seasoning!
  • Season the fish lightly with paprika, smoked paprika or garlic powder before cooking.
  • Add cherries and amaretto to the pan along with the lemon juice, and serve the salmon with a cherry sauce.
  • Top the fish with buttery, toasted almonds.


Calories: 289kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 23g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 77mg | Sodium: 101mg | Potassium: 632mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 232IU | Vitamin C: 29mg | Calcium: 29mg | Iron: 1mg