Learning how to cook salmon is a game-changer. It’s also — contrary to popular belief — literally easier than frying up an egg.
For some reason, there’s something about cooking fish that can be intimidating enough to have home cooks second-guessing their skill level and defaulting to proteins that they’re more comfortable with. Coming home from the fishmonger with a whole fish can trigger an existential crisis in some consumers, while fillets of certain types of fish can be unforgiving to inexperienced cooks. The good news is that you won’t have to worry about any of this when cooking salmon.
There are tons of salmon recipes out there, but here’s a no-fuss primer for how to cook salmon perfectly every single time:
Wild salmon makes for a flavorful, beautiful fillet of fish. You don’t need to do much to put an Instagram-worthy meal on the table that looks as good as it tastes. When it comes to this catch, do as the fishermen do in Alaska aboard their vessels and keep your approach to cooking salmon dead simple.
- Bring the salmon to room temperature 15-20 minutes before cooking and dry them well with paper towels or a clean dish towel.
- Warm a large nonstick skillet with oil over medium-low heat.
- Season fish with salt and pepper.
- Raise heat to medium-high. Place the salmon, skin-side up in the pan. Don’t touch it. Cook until golden brown on 1 side, about 3 minutes.
- Turn fish over with a spatula, and cook until it feels firm to the touch, but still flaking, and the skin is crisp if desired, about 2-3 minutes more. (The skin can be served or removed with a knife or spoon).
- Transfer to a plate and serve.
Key Pro Tips
Start with room-temperature fillets: this helps fish to cook more evenly.
Dry fillets well: Before cooking, use a paper towel or a clean dish towel to pat each one dry. Any excess moisture will cause fillets to stick and won’t give you that crispy skin effect.
Make sure your pan is really hot: Keep the flame around medium to medium-high, but before anything touches the pan, let it get really hot. After, pour in a thin layer of oil and heat until it shimmers. Then add the fish.
Err on the side of underdone: Keep in mind that salmon, like other proteins, will continue to cook after taking it off the heat, so don’t worry if it looks a little underdone at first; it’ll likely be perfect by the time you’re ready to feast.
Of course, everyone’s stovetop is different, so if you do find that your salmon fillet isn’t at the doneness you prefer, simply cook it for another minute, skin side down, with the lid on the pan.
One try with this recipe and you’ll realize that you do know how to cook salmon like a pro, perfectly, every single time.