Here’s how to cook salmon with pan roasting so it’s perfectly crisp on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside—every time!
If you love salmon, you’re not alone. It’s one of the most popular types of seafood in the U.S. And for good reason—salmon is both delicious and healthy. I love it.
But how do you make the most of it and make sure it comes out perfect every time? I’ve got a two part pan roasting method that you will love.
What Kind Of Salmon Should I Buy?
The first step is buying good salmon. At the store, you might find farmed salmon and wild salmon, fresh salmon and previously-frozen salmon. And you might find different types of salmon, too—Pacific, Atlantic, king, sockeye, etc. All will vary slightly in size, fat, flavor, and texture. But rather than trying to remember what types of salmon have what characteristics, I recommend just asking the staff behind the counter for what you like—if you like it milder-tasting, for example, or meatier. (And if you want more information, read All About Salmon here.)
Me, I always ask for seafood that’s sustainable, the Seafood Watch website or app is helpful to find that information as well. Plus I always ask for whichever salmon is the fattiest—because that will be the most flavorful, juicy, and least likely to stick to the pan. (It will also be the most caloric, but hey—it’s healthy fat!)
Once home, try to use your salmon within two days or freeze it. When you’re ready to cook, take it out of the fridge 30 minutes ahead of time to get it closer to room temperature. Not being ice cold when it goes into the pan will also help keep your salmon from sticking to the pan (all your proteins really).
How To Cook Salmon By Pan Roasting
Now we come to cooking. I like salmon that’s crispy on the outside and juicy and tender on the inside, and have found that the best way to get this is pan roasting with a stovetop sear first. The initial sear gets you the crust, and then the oven finishes it off more gently.
To get started, preheat your oven to 450°F and season your salmon with salt and pepper.
You start by cooking the salmon in a very hot skillet with a bit of oil (just 1 tablespoon) on the stovetop for 3-4 minutes. That quickly sears one side and gets that crispiness I was talking about. Start with the skin down if yours is skin-on and don’t move it around while the fish cooks.
Then you flip the salmon and move the pan to the preheated oven, where the second side sears from contact with the skillet while the oven’s more even heat cooks the inside to perfectly tender and juicy. This will take an additional 3-4 minutes. Since you’ll be moving from stovetop to oven, make sure your pan is safe for that – a good cast iron skillet comes in handy here.
This is also a good method for other things that you want crispy on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside. Steaks, chicken, and pork chops, for example.
This recipe works to cook salmon with or without skin, but if you’re looking for really crispy skin the broiler is your friend. Try this method for Crispy Skin Salmon under the broiler in your oven.
What Temperature Should Salmon Be When It’s Done?
To test your salmon for doneness, you can use an instant read thermometer. The USDA recommends 145°F, and that is the safe temperature. But if you prefer your salmon with a bit of translucence, you might want it at 120-125°F.
You can also just test for doneness by touch—a 3/4-inch-thick fillet should feel barely firm and definitely not rigid. Or test your salmon with a fork – if the thickest part flakes easily with a fork, you should be good.
Once your salmon is done, pull the skillet out of the oven (careful, it will be super hot!), put the salmon on a plate, and let it rest for about 5 minutes.
Instructions For Oven-Only Method
If you don’t want to start your salmon on the stove, here’s the adjustments for baking salmon in the oven.
If you have salmon with skin, put it on a baking sheet that has been brushed with oil, skin side up. Put it in a preheated oven at 450°F and bake until the pieces of salmon are barely opaque throughout, about 13-15 minutes, or until done.
For salmon without skin, I love using a slower, gentler cooking method with almost no risk of overcooking. This yields a tender, buttery texture. Preheat the oven to 275°F and brush both the baking sheet and salmon with oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake the salmon for 18-20 minutes, or until done.
What To Serve With Perfectly Cooked Salmon
I’ve kept this salmon recipe simple because I don’t think it needs much, but you could add some fresh herbs and a squeeze of lemon if you’d like.
Try serving alongside rice or roasted potatoes. Asparagus or green beans work wonderfully for a vegetable side dish.
Enjoy! – Christine :)Print
Here’s how to cook salmon so it’s perfectly crisp on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside—every time!
Listen to me explain briefly about how to make this salmon, with some great tips along the way, by clicking the play button below:
- 4 (5-6 oz.) salmon fillets, about ¾-inch thick, with or without skin, whichever you prefer
- ½ tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. pepper
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 450°F.
- Sprinkle both sides of the salmon with the salt and pepper.
- Preheat a large oven-safe skillet (large enough to hold the salmon without crowding) over medium-high heat.
- When the skillet is good and hot, add the oil.
- When the oil is good and hot, add the salmon (skin-side down, if yours has skin) and cook undisturbed until well browned, 3 or 4 minutes.
- Turn the salmon and place the skillet in the oven until the salmon is barely opaque throughout*, 3 or 4 minutes.
- Remove the skillet from the oven (be careful—it will be very hot). Transfer the salmon to plates and let rest for about 5 minutes before serving.
*According to the USDA, salmon is fully cooked when it reaches an internal temperature of 145F. You can use an instant-read thermometer for this, or cut into a fillet to make sure that it is no longer translucent inside and that it is flaky throughout.
This post originally appeared in February 2019 and was revised and republished in September 2022.