Pan-Seared Salmon

Pan-Seared Salmon | Chrissie Cooks
This one’s an oldie but a goodie; I usually make it once a week.

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.

Pan-Seared Salmon | Chrissie Cooks

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.)

Pan-Seared Salmon | Chrissie Cooks

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:

Pan-Seared Salmon | Chrissie Cooks

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.

Pan-Seared Salmon | Chrissie Cooks

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.


8 thoughts on “Pan-Seared Salmon

    • I actually don’t know the details… I’m no scientist! My dad is a toxicologist though, and he’s always drilled it into me not to cook with olive oil. Something about acrylamide and carcinogens… I don’t know — I just follow instructions!


  1. Made this recipe tonight … It was scrumptious! Even my teenager who is very picky enjoyed the flavor of the seasoning and wonderful crust we got on the salmon. First time cooking salmon in a pan usually bake it. Great explainatory tips. Will definitely try again!! Favorite salmon recipe yet & very simple. Can’t wait for company to taste sometime! Thanks:)


  2. Ahem… raise your hand Saunders kids/husband if you would have EVER eaten this growing up…. I can attest, tho, that it is one of my favs when I come to McKinney and eat at Chez Jones!


    • Hey, I’m just sayin’… it’s your job as my mother to teach me how to not die or severely injure myself. Seems like the whole “oil + water = DANGER” thing would’ve been a pretty easy lesson to teach!


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