Here’s how to make pan seared salmon! It’s an easy way to cook it up in a flash, and the pan fried salmon flavor is unbeatable.

Pan Seared Salmon

Here’s a method every cook should know: how to make basic Pan Seared Salmon! This is one of the best ways to cook salmon because it’s fast, it’s easy, and it results in incredible flavor. Pan fried salmon is even faster than baked, and even better, it makes a perfect crispy crust on top. For us, that’s a deal breaker! It also leaves the oven free for roasting up some veggies as a side.

How to make pan seared salmon: basic steps

Pan seared salmon, also known as pan fried salmon, cooks the fish in a pan on the stovetop until the exterior is browned and the interior is flaky and tender. You can sear or pan fry salmon in oil, butter, or a combination of the two. Skip to the recipe if you’re ready to get cooking. But here’s an overview, since knowing why you’re doing something in the kitchen is just as important as doing it. Here’s how to make pan fried salmon:

  • Brine the salmon. The first step is optional if you’re running low on time. But it makes the best crispy on the outside, moist on the inside piece of salmon without “white stuff,” aka albumin. Place the salmon in a salt water solution for 15 minutes, which also provides the important time for the salmon to come to room temperature to allow for even cooking.
  • Melt butter and olive oil in a large skillet. You can also use just olive oil, but we like the flavor of both in combination.
  • Sear the salmon skin side up for 2 to 3 minutes. Cook it over medium high heat until the fish is cooked about halfway.
  • Flip and cook 2 to 5 more minutes. The timing of when salmon is done depends on the thickness of the fillet, so use your best judgement. It should be just tender and pink at the center (about 130 degrees Fahrenheit).
How to sear salmon

Best tool for pan seared salmon

A helpful tool to use for pan seared salmon is a fish spatula! This handy tool makes pan fried fish a breeze. A fish spatula is a wide slotted metal spatula that’s easy to gently slide underneath fish when cooking it. Because it’s so wide, it’s actually useful for many more kitchen tasks, too! We love using it to flip and lift all sorts of foods, like eggplant pizzas or fries.

If you don’t have one, you can easily use any large, wide spatula. Metal is nice so that it can easily slide under the fish skin.

How to season salmon: a few variations

There are a few main ways we like to season pan seared salmon. We generally do the basic method, but the blackened salmon is another favorite. Here are all our favorite ways to season salmon:

  • Basic pan fried salmon: Season with salt and pepper, then finish with a spritz of fresh lemon juice.
  • Blackened seasoning: Make up a batch of Blackened Seasoning, a Cajun style blend with a mild level of heat. It’s full of savory flavor and a family favorite; go to Blackened Salmon.
  • Cajun seasoning: Same idea, but with Cajun seasoning: a spicy variation; go to Cajun Salmon.
  • Magic salmon seasoning: This Salmon Seasoning really is magical: the spices are just right for the juicy, flaky salmon.
Pan seared salmon

Sauces for pan fried salmon

You can also use a sauce to flavor pan fried salmon. It’s not necessary, but it can take this healthy fish to new heights. Here are a few ideas for sauces for salmon:

Why to brine salmon and the “white stuff”

The brining step for salmon takes 15 minutes: so if you’re running behind, you could skip it if desired. However, it does a few things that are helpful for this fish:

  • It helps the salmon come to room temperature. This helps the salmon cook through evenly. If it’s too cold, the inside might be uncooked when the outside is fully browned.
  • It seasons the salmon. Brining also helps to bring flavor to the entire piece of fish.
  • Best of all, it reduces the “white stuff.” Ever have white stuff rise to the surface of salmon when you cook it? It’s coagulated protein that seeps to the surface called albumin. The amount of albumin varies greatly depending on the fish, so it’s not something you can control. (Read more here.) But brining the salmon helps!
Pan seared salmon

Sides to serve with pan seared salmon

Pan seared salmon is quick to whip it up, so it’s a great fast and easy dinner idea! Here are a few ideas of side dishes that are quick to cook; make them while the salmon is brining:

This pan seared salmon recipe is…

Pescatarian, gluten free and dairy free (using only olive oil).

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Pan Seared Salmon

Easy Pan Seared Salmon

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x


Here’s how to make pan seared salmon! It’s an easy way to cook it up in a flash, and the pan fried flavor is unbeatable.


  • 1 pound salmon fillets, skin on (wild caught if possible)
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for brining
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter (or olive oil for dairy free)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus one drizzle
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice, plus a few lemon wedges
  • Optional seasonings: Blackened Seasoning or Magic Salmon Seasoning


  1. Brine the salmon* (optional): In a large shallow dish, whisk together 4 cups room temperature water and 3 tablespoons kosher salt until dissolved. Place the salmon in the water and wait for 15 minutes.
  2. Pat the salmon dry with a clean towel. Rub it generously with oil and sprinkle it with the kosher salt and generous grinds of fresh ground pepper. (Optional: Use ½ kosher salt and season with 2 tablespoons Blackened Seasoning or Magic Salmon Seasoning.)
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add the butter and olive oil. When butter is melted, add the salmon skin side up and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until cooked about ½ way to center of thick part of salmon.
  4. Flip the salmon (a fish spatula makes easy work of it). Tilt the pan down slightly and quickly spoon the pan juices over the top of the fish a few times. Drizzle with the lemon juice and spoon the pan juices a few times again. Cook for 2 to 5 minutes, depending on the thickness, until just tender and pink at the center (the internal temperature should be between 125 to 130 Fahrenheit in the center when removed). Remove from the heat. Spritz with juice from a few lemon wedges and serve.


*Brining is optional: it’s most important for lower quality salmon. Either way, you’ll need to bring your salmon to room temperature before cooking, so it’s just as easy to do the brining step (it helps with seasoning and moistness).

  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Seafood
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Keywords: Pan seared salmon, how to sear salmon, how to pan sear salmon

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you'll want to make again and again.

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