Pan searing salmon is one of the BEST and easiest ways to cook salmon. This no-oil method makes it a healthy, no-mess method that anyone, and I mean anyone, can master! Served the pan seared salmon over a salad, pasta, with sautéed veggies and more!

Close up photo of crispy pan seared salmon with a fork flaking off a large chunk of tender, moist salmon

Buying the right kind of salmon

Before you do anything, you’ve got to find the right kind of salmon! Skin-on filets are essential for this recipe, so be sure to seek out fresh filets with the skin still intact. And if you aren’t quite sure what to look for when purchasing fresh salmon, check out this guide on what to look for when buying salmon.

Watch How to Pan Sear Salmon:

Three-ingredient pan seared salmon

You just need THREE ingredients to make the best, most moist pan seared salmon. And two of them are pantry staples. Ready to hear what they are?

  • Kosher salt 
  • Pepper
  • Skin-on salmon

Photo of crispy pan seared salmon with skin set on a white plate with a blue napkin off to the side.

Why you don’t need oil

Skin on salmon, a nonstick skillet, and a bed of salt and pepper create the perfect method for pan searing salmon without oil. 

It’s no secret that salmon is an oily fish, and the skin itself is especially oily. When seared, the oil from the skin is released and rendered onto the pan, which lubricates the pan enough to discourage sticking. 

A nonstick skillet, for obvious reasons, helps to create a cooking surface that is nonstick without the need for additional oil or fat. A well seasoned cast-iron skillet with work OK for this method, but a good quality nonstick skillet is best

And lastly, using a mixture of kosher salt and ground black pepper as a “bed” for the salmon acts as a barrier between the salmon and the hot skillet, and does a wonderful job of creating a gorgeous crust on the salmon.

45-degree angle photo of crispy seared salmon on a white plate with a fork taking a piece off of it

How to make pan seared salmon with skin

The steps are simple and easy to follow for searing skin-on salmon. The most important aspect of cooking perfect pan seared salmon is timing. But don’t worry, I’ll take you through the step-by-step process below (or watch the web story) to make it foolproof for you. Let’s dive in!

Step 1:

Pat salmon dry with paper towels. Combine 1 teaspoon kosher salt with 1 teaspoon ground black pepper. 

overhead image of a filet of salmon on a dark plate with a skillet up to the top and someone whisking salt and pepper together in a small bowl.

Step 2:

Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of the salt/pepper mixture into a cold nonstick skillet. 

overhead image of a filet of salmon on a dark plate with a skillet up to the top and someone sprinkling salt and pepper into the skillet.

Step 3:

Place salmon, skin-side down, over salt and pepper in cold nonstick skillet. 

Photo of someone placing a filet of salmon into a nonstick skillet sprinkled with salt and pepper.

Step 4:

Place skillet over medium-high heat. 

Step 5:

Sprinkle the remaining teaspoon of salt/pepper mixture over the flesh-side of the salmon. 

Photo of someone sprinkling a filet of salmon with salt and pepper.

Step 6:

Cook salmon until fat begins to render and skin starts to brown, 6–7 minutes. 

Step 7:

Flip salmon and continue to cook until flesh side starts to brown and a thermometer inserted in the center registers 145-degrees fahrenheit. 

Step 8: 

Serve salmon immediately or let cool slightly, remove skin and use as directed in recipe.

How to use this salmon:

Close up photo of crispy pan seared salmon with skin set on a white plate with a fork taking a large chunk out of it

Make sure to tag me @ZESTFULKITCHEN ON INSTAGRAM or comment below if you make this recipe!

To pin this recipe and save it for later, you can click the button on any of the photos, or the red button on the side bar or below the recipe. Happy cooking!

Perfect Pan Seared Salmon

Print Recipe
4.85 from 13 votes
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 15 mins
Yield 2 servings
Category Fish and seafood
Cuisine American
Author Lauren

Description

3 ingredients, 1 pan, and 15 minutes is all you need to make the best pan seared salmon! Crispy on the outside and deliciously moist on the inside, this salmon recipe is best out there!

Ingredients

  • 1 pound skin-on salmon fillet cut into 2 (8-ounce) fillets
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground pepper

Instructions

  • Combine 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Sprinkle half of salt and pepper mixture in bottom of a large nonstick skillet. Arrange salmon, skin side down, in skillet; heat to medium high and sprinkle with remaining salt and pepper over top.
  • Cook salmon, without moving, until fat begins to render and skin starts to brown, 6–7 minutes. Flip, cook until flesh side starts to brown, 6–8 minutes more. Transfer to a plate and let cool. 
  • Serve as desired.

Notes

For the best results, use thick salmon fillets, preferably center-cut.
Use kosher salt—not table salt. Table salt will make the salmon too salty. 

Nutrition

Serving: 8ouncesCalories: 263kcalProtein: 39gFat: 12gSaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 88mgSodium: 669mg
Keywords one pan salmon, Pan seared salmon, pan seared salmon with skin, skillet salmon
Did you make this recipe?Leave a comment below and tag @ZestfulKitchen on Instagram and hashtag it #zestfulkitchen!
Close up photo of crispy pan seared salmon with a tender, moist interior

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About The Author

Lauren Grant is a professional culinary food scientist, food writer, recipe developer, and food photographer. Lauren is a previous magazine editor and test kitchen developer and has had work published in major national publications including Diabetic Living Magazine, Midwest Living Magazine, Cuisine at Home Magazine, EatingWell.com, AmericasTestKitchen.com, and more.

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Comments

  1. This was absolutely the best salmon I’ve ever made. I usually either Grill my salmon or pouch or bake in the oven wrapped in foil. This was so easy and didn’t have to use any oil. Just like the description said the skin will produce enough natural oil to coat the pan and they were right. I served the salmon over a bed of quinoa and sprinkled the plate with sautéed mushrooms and diced asparagus. Everyone loved it! Can’t wait to make it again.

    1. Eating the skin is totally preference, and it definitely safe to eat. Because it’s so crispy, it will be enjoyable to eat! But you can certainly peel it off and discard it.

  2. 5 stars
    the best salmon I have ever made! foolproof! The step by step photos were very helpful too. we served ours with steamed broccoli and some roasted potatoes, so good.

  3. 5 stars
    This is by far the best salmon recipe I’ve ever tried. Tastes like what I get at my favorite restaurant. Thank you!

    1. Hi Jacqueline!

      I am SO happy to hear you loved this recipe. It’s one of my favorites as well—so simple but so good!

  4. 5 stars
    I was so afraid to cook salmon (I’m a nervous cook) and thought I would love to just try it once . I scrolled through a few recipes and came across yours and right to the T! This recipe made my first time cooking salmon so easy peasy. Thank you for posting! I absolutely loved it!

    1. Hi Marie! You just made my day! I LOVE hearing that. Salmon can definitely be intimidating and I’m over the moon to hear this was easy and came out well. I love cooking with salmon, so if you ever have any questions let me know! I’m always sharing new salmon recipes here. 🙂

  5. 5 stars
    I’ve been trying to cut back on calories before my wedding, so was looking for a no oil sautéed salmon recipe. This has turned out *perfectly* both times I’ve made it — I am renowned for being bad at cooking, so if O can do it, you know this recipe is a keeper. You’d never miss the extra oil! After it’s done, I use the same pan to sauté some kale, garlic, and cherry tomatoes in just water and the leftover S&P and it is truly delicious.

    1. Hi Ash! I am so happy to hear you enjoyed the salmon. Great tip for sautéing some veggies to go with it. Congrats on getting married soon!

  6. 5 stars
    I stumbled across your site today while perusing salmon recipes. Decided to give this a whirl even though I was a tiny bit skeptical regarding the cooking method. Followed all directions exactly. This truly is the best salmon ever. My husband is on the picky side and absolutely loved this recipe. This will no doubt be my only way to prepare pan seared salmon going forward. I served the salmon with a garlic butter sauce and it was truly superb..
    Hats off to you!

    1. Hi Jan! I hear ya—this cooking method is so different than most salmon recipes that it seems a bit odd. I’m so glad your husband enjoyed it! I need to try this with a garlic butter sauce now!

  7. 5 stars
    We love salmon. This was the first time simply searing and we were amazed at the clean fresh taste of cooking it in its own oil. Wish I could give more than five stars!

    1. Hi Cindy! I’m so happy to hear you enjoyed the salmon recipe! One of my favorites as well. So easy and turns out perfectly every time!

  8. 5 stars
    Wow!! I’ve been cooking salmon for years usually with avocado oil in a cast iron skillet. Tried this recipe and will never cook salmon any other way. The method created a wonderful caramelized crust instead of the slightly oily crust that I got with my old method.

  9. 5 stars
    Just Finished making this and it was so good… my pan was to high lol but it made the Salmon have a grill taste!!!! I will never cook my Salmon any other way from now on, such a fool proof recipe, I can’t wait to try other recipes from your site!!!! I’m so excited!

  10. Saw this on-line ands tried it for something different. Was good. I may have left it in the pan a little longer than wanted while trying to get the thermometer in for a temp check.
    Will use less salt next time. The meat near the skin side was moist.

  11. 3 stars
    I always either pan sear or grill skin-on salmon. One key instruction that the writer doesn’t include is that the salmon must be left alone to get that beautiful seared crust on the skin. Don’t lift and look or push it around. Then Step 8 in the narrative says to REMOVE THE SKIN prior to serving! That’s not only the most flavorful part of the salmon, giving beautiful textural contrast to the delicate meat, but it’s also where much of the healthy Omega-3 fat is. What a waste!

    1. Hi Nanette, a good note for other readers to let the salmon cook, without moving. I’ve updated the recipe to note that. If you want the salmon skin, you can certainly keep it on!

  12. 5 stars
    Like everyone else who has posted, I will never make salmon any other way. It is so simple and the product is moist and delish! The one downside is the mustard-cloud type experience while cooking. Has anyone else been attacked by pepper smoke while searing? The first time I made it I added a dash of cayenne and we needed up eating it with all the windows open, next time, black pepper only – still an eye-burning disaster. I have had to cut the pepper way back and add more after cooking. Perhaps my stove hood is not up to snuff or maybe the pan is too hot? In any case, it is worth the burn!

    1. Hi Emily, thanks for this note—very helpful for other readers. I do agree, it does get quite smoky. I would recommend turning down the heat slightly. We don’t have a hood so I always have to open a window too. Sorry to hear it was really smoky! I think lowering the heat a bit will help.

  13. 5 stars
    This is the perfect way to cook salmon. Ever since trying this recipe I’ve been making it this way. I used to primarily bake it (without skin) but the crispy skin makes the difference!

    1. Hi Julie! I’m so happy to hear you use this recipe for cooking salmon now! Isn’t it amazing how easy and delicious it is?! Thanks for trying it and leaving a comment.

  14. 5 stars
    Delicious and fast, as promised! Put it over a bed of spinach with some leftover homemade mango salsa and it didn’t need anything else. Earmarking this as a Whole30/Paleo staple!

    My only caution is that if you have a poorly ventilated kitchen, like I do, open a window first— there may be some smoke.