A pan-seared fillet of wild salmon with extra cripsy skin highlights everything we adore about cooking with good-quality seafood. It’s just as perfect on the deck of a fishing vessel as it is for an intimate, special occasion dinner, and it’s a meal that every home cook should know how to make.
To ace the sear for salmon with crispy skin, you need three essential things:
A hot pan
High-heat cooking oil
A fillet that has been patted dry
A well-seasoned cast iron pan or carbon steel pan is ideal for searing, but you can use stainless steel if that’s what you have. Avoid using a non-stick pan, as its coating actually inhibits a good sear.
You'll need to cook with a fat that has a high smoke point. Something like peanut oil, canola oil, or even ghee will get the salmon skin crispy without burning. Do NOT use olive oil or butter.
The final component of this recipe is properly prepped salmon. It’s essential to pat the fillets dry with an absorbent tea towel or paper towel. Any excess moisture on the fillet is going to cause the surface of the fish to steam rather than sear, and that wiill cause it to stick to the pan. Additionally, you can allow the fish to sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes after removing it from the refrigerator to help it cook more evenly.
For extra credit, score the skin with a very sharp knife. Scoring makes searing foolproof, as it helps the fillet lay more evenly along the bottom of your pan as it cooks. To do this, make shallow cuts through the skin, about ¼ inch into the fillet. Make these cuts anywhere between ¼ inch to ½ inch apart — the more, the crispier!