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How to pan fry salmon

Updated April 17, 2017

Salmon is a great meaty fish that, when cooked properly, is absolutely phenomenal on the palate. Many cooks who are not familiar with cooking seafood will look at salmon as a daunting culinary task, but it is really easy to cook and is probably one of the easiest seafood dishes to prepare.

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Picking out your salmon fillet

  1. Take a trip to your local supermarket and head toward the fresh seafood area, because salmon is a very flavourful fish and should always be fresh and never frozen.

  2. Look for the salmon that is cut to about 1 to 1 1/4-inch (3-4 cm) thick. Your salmon should be a very bright pink; this is a sign of freshness.

  3. Find the salmon that looks the best and smell it. It should smell like the water and not "fishy"--another sign of freshness.

Preparing your salmon

  1. Season both sides of your salmon fillet with salt and pepper. Let it rest 5 minutes.

  2. Drizzle olive oil over the top and bottom of the salmon fillet, rubbing it into the meat. Let rest 5 minutes.

  3. Preheat your frying pan over high heat until droplets of water "dance" on the metal, then turn the heat down to medium.

  4. Place 1 tsp butter into the frying pan and allow to melt.

  5. Add the salmon to the hot butter in centre of the pan.

  6. Let sizzle for 2 minutes, then use your tongs to loosen the fillet from the pan to avoid the flesh from sticking (unless using a non-stick pan).

  7. Cook the salmon for 5 minutes on each side, then check for doneness by inserting a tooth pick or paring knife into the centre of the fillet and pulling it out. If it comes out clean, the salmon is ready.

  8. Using your tongs, remove the fillet to the serving plate and serve.

  9. Tip

    You can check for doneness by also touching the fillet. If it is firm to the touch but retains an amount of spring, it is done. The colour will also turn from bright pink to light pink. You can finish your salmon in a hot oven after searing each side of the fillet by cooking it at 190 degrees C (375 F) for 8 to 10 minutes. Salmon is great on its own but can be served with a lemon wedge and also tastes great with a dill sauce. Let your salmon rest for 2 minutes before cutting into it so that the juices redistribute throughout the fillet, making it maintain its moistness and preventing a sloppy plate.


    When working with butter, oil and a hot pan, always be careful of splatter and gently set the salmon into the pan with a pair of tongs.

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Things You'll Need

  • Fresh salmon,1-inch to 1 1/4-inch (3-4 cm) thick
  • Frying pan
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp unsalted butter
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Tongs

About the Author

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