Recipe: Pan-seared Salmon

This is such an absurdly simple and delicious recipe from Cook’s Illustrated.

Our pan-seared salmon is first brined to season it and to keep it moist as it cooks. It is then placed in a cold, dry nonstick skillet skin side down over medium-high heat. The skin protects the fish from drying out while cooking and is easily peeled off and discarded once the fish is cooked. The skin also releases fat into the pan, which is then used to sear the second side until it is golden brown and crisp.


  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 2 (6- to 8-ounce) skin-on salmon fillets
  • Lemon wedges


To ensure uniform cooking, buy a 3/4- to 1-pound center-cut salmon fillet and cut it into two pieces. Using skin-on salmon is important here, as we rely on the fat underneath the skin as the cooking medium (as opposed to adding extra oil). If using wild salmon, cook it until it registers 120 degrees. If you don’t want to serve the fish with the skin on, we recommend peeling it off after the fish is cooked. Serve with lemon wedges.

  1. Dissolve ¼ cup salt in 1 quart water in large container. Submerge salmon in brine and let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. Remove salmon from brine and pat dry.
  2. Sprinkle bottom of 10-inch nonstick skillet evenly with ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Place fillets, skin side down, in skillet and sprinkle tops of fillets with 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Heat skillet over medium-high heat and cook fillets without moving them until fat begins to render, skin begins to brown, and bottom ¼ inch of fillets turns opaque, 6 to 8 minutes.
  3. Using tongs, flip fillets and continue to cook without moving them until centers of fillets are still translucent when checked with tip of paring knife and register 125 degrees, 6 to 8 minutes longer. Transfer fillets skin side down to serving platter and let rest for 5 minutes before serving with lemon wedges.

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