Pan-seared salmon is the ideal healthy weeknight meal. It takes hardly any time (10 minutes max), and in just five simple steps, you end up with a perfectly seasoned, buttery fillet with deliciously crispy skin.
The only slight downsides: For one thing, it can get a little messy if the oil splatters. But if you use a splatter screen, you can spare your stove, your hands, and the rest of you (ever notice how chefs wear long sleeves and pants?).
Also, your whole apartment may start to smell like fish (which could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on the person.) So open a window and start that fan above the stove pronto. Unless, of course, fish is a better smell than your place usually has.
What you’ll need: a medium-size skillet, olive oil, butter, a salmon fillet (about 6 ounces should work for one person), salt, and pepper. Lemon slices or chopped fresh herbs are a nice touch, but there’s no need.
Tip: To get a good sear, blot the salmon fillet with a paper towel to dry it before seasoning it, and make sure the pan is very hot. Next, don’t mess with the fish until it’s ready to flip.
The fish will let you know that it’s ready when the edges are brown and it lifts easily from the pan.
1. Heat oil and butter in skillet
Add about 1 teaspoon olive oil to a heavy skillet, then swirl the pan so there’s a thin coating of oil over the entire surface. Turn the heat to medium-high. Heat for 3 minutes or just until the oil starts to shimmer and pale wisps of smoke rise. Add about 1 tablespoon butter and let it melt.
Season fillet with salt and pepper (and any other spices you love. Find some tasty seasoning combos here. When in doubt, a little garlic powder works on pretty much anything.)
3. Let cook, then flip
Place fillet in skillet, skin side down. (If you’re using a skinless fillet, it doesn’t matter.) Cook fillet for 3 to 5 minutes. (Timing depends on how thick the fillet is.)
When about half of fillet turns a light pink (almost white) color, use a spatula or tongs to flip it. If it sticks to the pan, stop and let it cook for 1 more minute.
4. Continue to cook
Cook for 3 to 5 more minutes on the second side. Again, timing depends on how thick the fillet is and how well-done you like your fish.
You’ll know it’s ready when the flesh flakes with a fork but is still translucent in the center. Better yet, use an instant-read thermometer to check the temperature in the center of the fillet. When it hits 125 degrees, transfer the fillet to a plate and let it sit for 5 minutes before serving.
Besides topping it with lemon, we love to plate salmon with a healthy grain like quinoa or brown rice, plus steamed broccoli, sautéed spinach, or another veggie side.
This is where you’ll probably say “voilà!” (cliché, but so fun to say), followed by some variation on “If I’d known how easy this was, I’d make salmon every week.” Next, try the also-easy oven version.