Fish is a hard sell for many newish home cooks – it seems scary and smelly. But I’m here to share a recent and life changing discovery: restaurant-style salmon with that coveted crispy skin can be mastered by anyone for an easy and impressive dinner in under 10 minutes.
I’ll preface this by saying that this is one of my few recipes that is more technique than recipe, but it’s so simple for such a great payoff that I’m letting that slide.
A few tricks that make all of the difference:
- Ingredients: Cook individual salmon portions, rather than one large slab. Ask for center-cut, and look for pieces of fish that are roughly the same size and thickness.
- Prep: The drier the salmon before it goes into the pan, the better. I blot my fish with paper towels, then I like to rub a little bit of olive oil directly onto the fish before adding salt, pepper and a seasoning mixture. Here, I used some Cajun spices, but all you really need is S&P.
- Cooking technique: The real key to this technique is that the salmon is cooked, for the most part, on only one side – the skin side. This protects the fish from overcooking, crisps up the skin, and renders the fat layer in between the skin and the fish. Preheat the pan to medium-high, then lower the heat to medium-low once you are ready to cook. The skin side cooks for about 6-7 minutes (uninterrupted!). The exact time is dependent on the thickness of the fish, but you can also eyeball it – the salmon should look cooked through about 75% of the way up. Then flip the salmon and cook the flesh side for one minute at most, for medium-rare to medium salmon.
- Cooking tools: A good cast iron pan is key for hot, even heat distribution. If you don’t yet own one, Lodge is a cheap classic. However, I recently got this beautiful La Creuset cast iron skillet, and to the back of the cabinet my Lodge went. Additionally, the unexpected workhorse of this recipe is the fish spatula, for pressing down the skin once the salmon hits the pan to ensure even cooking and crisping. I also love this little tool for flipping eggs, burgers, and other flippable foods.
Serve skin side up, and put any saucy things underneath the salmon so that the skin stays nice and crispy. I love to serve this with horseradish gremolata and roasted veggies for a healthy, light meal that is shockingly easy.
Crispy Skin Salmon
Make perfect, restaurant-quality crispy skinned salmon at home in under 10 minutes. This foolproof technique is essential for any home cook and can work on almost any kind of fish, but just be aware that cooking times may need to be adjusted.
- 2 skin-on salmon filets About 6 oz each; ask for center-cut
- 2 tbsp olive oil, plus more for rubbing on the salmon
- sea salt
- freshly ground pepper
- spices to taste I used Cajun seasoning
Pat the salmon filets dry with a paper towel. Rub a bit of olive oil directly onto both sides of the salmon, and season both sides with salt, pepper and spices to taste.
Preheat olive oil in a cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil is shimmering, reduce heat to medium-low and carefully place the salmon filets, skin side down, in the pan to avoid hot oil splatter.
Using a fish spatula, immediately press down on the filets so that the entire piece is flat in the pan. This ensures even crisping of the skin.
Cook without disturbing for 6-7 minutes, or until the salmon appears to cooked about 75% of the way through. Carefully flip the salmon and cook the other side, between 15 seconds and 1 minute, depending on preferred level of doneness.
Remove from heat, and let sit skin side up on a paper towel-lined plate to blot the oil. Serve skin side up, with all sauces underneath so that the skin remains crispy.
This recipe works well for medium to medium-rare salmon, without a meat thermometer. The most accurate way of cooking fish is to insert a meat thermometer in the very center of the filet. Flip and briefly cook the other side once the internal temperature registers your desired level of doneness: 110 F - very rare, 120 F - medium-rare, 130 F - medium.