Some of you may know that I second-degree burned my right hand/arm a few years ago—that was all thanks to *this* pan-seared salmon. Regardless, it’s still my favorite way to make salmon, especially now that I’ve (mostly) overcome the PTSD from my incident.
I originally got this recipe from “The Weeknight Cook” cookbook, but I’ve adapted it over the years to be my own special recipe; my one and only of the sort. Now that I’ve somewhat perfected the process, I feel obligated to share, so no other poor soul mangles her arm 6 months before her wedding by learning the hard way. Please excuse the awkward step-by-step… There’s a reason I didn’t go into teaching.
Here’s what you’re gonna need:
- 2 salmon filets
- 1-2 TB canola oil
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- pinch parsley
The first trick I’ve learned with pan-searing in oil is to let the pan get hot before adding the oil. This helps prevent sticking. I have amazing All-Clad pans that conduct ridiculous heat, so I usually let it heat on medium for about a minute to a minute and a half.
Once the pan feels hot (hover your hand a couple inches over it—don’t touch it, silly), add the oil. An important note here: use canola oil, not olive oil. My father would disown me if I didn’t emphasize that. Leave a comment if you really want me to explain why.
While the oil is heating for a minute or two, you can prep your salmon. Another key tip here that is apparently common knowledge but no one ever taught me (lookin’ at you, mom and dad): if you rinse your salmon off, make sure it’s super duper mega dry. Apparently, oil and water don’t mix. This is what caused my burning oil explosion 2.5 years ago. I can’t stress it enough.
Once you’ve thoroughly dried your salmon, season it with garlic powder, salt and pepper on both sides. I don’t actually measure, so the amounts above are an estimate. Just rub it in all over the filets.
Once the oil is hot (just baaaarely smoking, nothing crazy), add the pinch of parsley. This just flavors the oil a little. It also prepares you for the sizzling terror that’s about to follow with the salmon (OK, maybe I’m not totally over the PTSD yet…). It should sizzle a little bit when you toss the parsley in. That’s usually a good indicator that the oil is at the right temp.
Now you’re ready to add the salmon to the pan. Tongs are clutch here. (Mistake #2 in the Great Burn Incident of 2010: tossing the salmon in haphazardly with my bare hands. Fool move.)
This is the scary part, but try to remain calm. The oil will sizzle and probably bubble when you add the salmon. It might even pop a little. Place the filet in the pan gently, and step away for a second. Repeat for the second filet. You can’t really see the volcanic oil horror show going in my pan here, but trust me, it’s there:
If that terrifies you as much as it does me, grab a splatter screen and cover that puppy up. This is probably not necessary for most sane people, but given my clear mental issues, it’s very necessary for me. I also find that it helps steam the fish a little bit and help it cook all the way through faster.
Give it about 4-5 minutes, then flip it—carefully! It’ll probably be delicate. I’ve broken many a salmon filet in half in the flipping process (I let Dan eat those ones). Give it another 4 minutes or so, and you should be left with this perfectly cooked, lightly crisped salmon. I usually serve it with saffron rice (or “yellow rice,” as we call it here in McKinney, Texas) and broccoli or green peas.
It’s one of our family faves, and usually makes the weekly menu! Hope you like it too, and I hope you’ve all learned a thing or two from my mistakes.