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Simple Pan Seared Salmon is our go-to way to cook salmon when we are not in grilling mode. A quick ginger soy sauce marinade provides plenty of flavor, especially when following this recipe to ensure moist, tasty salmon. Read on for more details on how we prepare our salmon as well as our wine pairing for salmon, or click here to jump down to the recipe. Originally published in 2014, updated December 2019 with some new photos, tips and wine pairings.
Does this recipe sound for simple pan seared salmon sound familiar? Regular readers of Cooking Chat might recall I recently posted Pan Seared Mahi-Mahi with Orange Soy Marinade, which was really my [successful!] attempt to convert my go-to approach for salmon over to mahi-mahi, which I don’t cook nearly as often.
Looking for more salmon recipes? Check out our Best Healthy Salmon Recipes post.
Can salmon be cooked in a skillet?
This is one of those recipes that is such a basic part of our menu here that I hadn’t thought to post it until someone tweeted awhile back looking for a simple pan seared salmon recipe.
More recently, I noticed someone found this recipe be Googling the question, “Can salmon be cooked in a skillet?”. We have made salmon in a skillet countless times. Note however that I use a non-stick skillet for searing salmon and other fish; as opposed to the cast iron skillet that is a workhorse for so many other recipes here.
Ordering salmon a couple times at top-notch restaurants taught me that salmon (and other fish) is at its best when it is cooked just right, and that great care must be taken to avoid overcooking and drying it out. I’d gotten that down pretty well for myself on the grill, but it was a recipe in Barbara Lynch’s Stir: Mixing It Up In The Italian Tradition that taught me the pan-searing method here. I took her method and applied the ginger soy marinade given here.
How to Pan Sear Salmon with Marinade
Below are some tips on how making Pan Seared Salmon with Ginger Soy Marinade. Click here to jump down to the recipe card to get the complete step by step instructions.
- This does call for a marinade, but a very brief one. Unlike a marinade for something like steak tips, where the goal is to tenderize the meat over an extended period, you don’t want to marinate fish like salmon for long, or it will get too salty. A short soak in in the ginger soy marinade gives it a nice flavor and leads to nice moist fish.
- After getting the marinade ingredients together in a small bowl, pour most of the marinade into a large bowl, reserving a bit for later.
- Rinse and pat the salmon dry, then place the salmon in the marinade. Start by placing the salmon briefly flesh side down to absorb a bit of marinade, then turn it to marinate skin side down. In the photo shown above, I was making to fillets. The fillet on the left show the way you leave the salmon to marinate; the fillet on the right shows the first step.
- When you are ready to cook the salmon, get the pan good and hot, and cook the salmon skin side down for 4 minutes. Do not move it during that time! Set that timer for 4 minutes, and the salmon skin should look nice and crispy when you flip it.
- The fish cooks skin side down for 2 minutes, then gets finished by briefly cooking in a little extra marinade on the top (the marinade mixture set aside that wasn’t used with the fish). That’s how it gets this browning effect on the outside, as the marinade gets a bit caramelized during the cooking. This is a nice, moist fish underneath that browned exterior!
About 10 minutes after the salmon hits the pan, you are ready to serve a tasty meal! The skin will often come off during the cooking, but if it doesn’t, it is easily removed with a knife prior to serving.
Serve the salmon, offering the reserved marinade at the table. Be sure that is the marinade you set aside before combining with the uncooked salmon.
In my opinion, ours didn’t actually need more flavor, after finishing the searing with a bit of extra marinade in the final minutes of cooking. Our eight year old did request a bit of extra soy sauce . He loves this recipe, one reason we have it so much. When you get an eight year old gobbling up something this healthy and easy to make, you’re going to be cooking it a lot!
Troubleshooting This Recipe
Sure, we’ve love to say everything here on Cooking Chat comes out perfectly all the time. But I’m a home cook, making food in the real world. So sometimes, stuff happens.
As I mentioned, I first learned this method for pan searing salmon from a Barbara Lynch recipe. Chef Barbara emphasizes the importance of getting the skillet very hot before adding the salmon, skin side down.
When the salmon gets cooked for 4 minutes as indicated in the instructions, you can typically flip the salmon with the skin in tact. But we have had issues where the salmon skin starts smoking enough to set off our sensitive smoke alarms. Speaking of sensitive, our pair of 5 pound toy poodles start going crazy when the smoke alarms are blaring, and it is not a good situation!
Thus, these days I have to be a bit cautious on how high and for how long I sear the salmon before flipping the fish. The result is that sometimes the skin sticks to the pan.
I typically have a 2nd pan ready in case the skin does stick. Then you can just flip the salmon to the new pan to finish cooking, and leave the skin to clean up later.
What to Serve with this Recipe
The most recent time I made this recipe, I served it with quinoa, onions and peppers. That is a nice combo, and doubles down on the healthiness with the healthy grain!
I’ve also served this salmon with a simple green salad, as you can see in some of the photos. Asian flavored noodles also make a good side dish.
Pan Seared Salmon Wine Pairing
We have tested this salmon recipe with red wine and white wine pairings. So depending on your mood and preference, you have choices!
White Wine Pairing for this Salmon Recipe
The Asian flavors of this salmon marinade do also make some white wines a viable option for pairing here. Unlike white fish, which tends to call for a lighter style white wine, salmon is a meaty fish requiring a more full bodied white wine for a good pairing.
With that in mind, I have often served this pan seared salmon with a Chardonnay. That can definitely work, and is course something pretty easy to find.
However, there are other full bodied white wine types that can work with this recipe if you are looking to try something different. A White Rhone blend can be a good option.
You may be more familiar with Rhone Valley red wines. If you haven’t tried a white Rhone yet, I’d encourage you to do so, especially if you are interested in alternatives to Chardonnay.
Roussanne, Marsanne, Clairette and Viogner are the white grapes I’ve come across most frequently from the Rhone. But there others, too, summarized here on the Rhone Rangers website.
To pair with our recent remake of this salmon recipe, I opened a white Rhone we get regularly. The 2017 La Grange de Piaugier Côtes du Rhône Blanc ($14) has a light scent of lemon on the nose. Peach fruit and a bit of citrus on the palate, with notes of minerality. Definitely a bottle I’d recommend with this pan seared salmon recipe, and it is relatively easy to find. But I’d definitely encourage you to try other white Rhones with the recipe, too.
Pinot Noir Pairing
Salmon just begs to be served with Pinot Noir; although there usually isn’t begging required to get me to open a bottle of Pinot. I usual go for wild salmon from Alaska, so it seems natural to stay in the Pacific Northwest. Again, not much arm twisting required to have me go for Oregon Pinot Noir.
When making this recipe for a past update to the article, we enjoyed this dish with a bottle of 2011 Soter North Valley Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley. Definitely a very good wine and nice pairing. This recipe can easily by made on a busy weeknight, but this Pinot is more a weekend type wine by our standards! (don’t recall exact price, $30ish I believe). We often grab the Bouchard & Fils Pinot from France or the Hahn Pinot from California when looking for a Pinot to enjoy with salmon midweek.
I will pair salmon with Pinot regardless of the fish preparation; but salmon and Pinot is an especially good pairing with the salmon is prepared with mushrooms. See this Salmon Farro and Mushrooms recipe paired with an Oregon Pinot Noir for an example of this delicious combo.
Simple Pan Seared Salmon
Simple Pan Seared Salmon with a Ginger Soy Marinade. Easy, tasty and healthy seafood recipe!
- Prep Time: 10 mins
- Cook Time: 8 mins
- Total Time: 18 mins
- Yield: 3 servings 1x
- Category: Entree
- Method: pan sear
- Cuisine: Asian
- 12 ozs wild salmon fillet
- 1/4 cup soy sauce, preferably lower sodium
- 1 tbsp canola or similar oil
- 1 tsp brown rice vinegar
- tsp honey
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- generous pinch ginger
- Get salmon ready: Take the salmon out of the fridge before you get ready to put the marinade together so it starts coming closer to room temperature.
- Make the marinade: combine the remaining ingredients, soy sauce through ginger, in a mixing bowl.
- Prep the salmon: Rinse and pat the salmon dry, then place it in a large bowl or plastic bag. Pour about 2/3 of the marinade over this fish. Set the remainder of the marinade aside. Turn the fish over gently a couple times so that it becomes well coated with the marinade. Let the fish marinate for 10 before cooking.
- Heat the skillet: After the salmon has marinated for 10 minutes, spray a skillet with cooking oil and heat the pan on medium high.
- Sear salmon skin side down: When the pan is good and hot, remove the fish from the marinade and gently shake off some of the excess marinade–but you’ll want to keep some to cook in with the fish. Place the fish skin side down, and cook for 4 minutes without moving the fish.
- Cook the other side: After 4 minutes, use a spatula to turn the fish over. Cook the salmon 2 minutes after turning it flesh side down.
- Finish the salmon: Turn the fish back to the skin side one more time. Spoon a couple tablespoons of the reserved marinade over the fish after turning it, and let it cook in for 1 to 2 more minutes. At this point, gently cut open the fish at a thick spot to check for doneness. The actual time will depend on the thickness of your fillet, but it likely be done after the 8 minutes total cook time.
- Take salmon from heat: When the fish is cooked, remove from the pan to a plate, and loosely tent with foil. Let it rest a couple of minutes, letting it cook a bit more. The skin will sometimes come off during the cooking process. If it doesn’t, it can be easily pulled off with your fingers or a knife prior to serving.
- Serve the salmon: Portion the salmon and serve.
- Use a non-stick skillet for this recipe.
- I have a strong preference for the flavor of wild salmon. You could try farm raised salmon if you like, but the cooking time may vary a bit. I have only made this with wild salmon.
- Not moving the salmon for the first 4 minutes it is on the pan is key. After 4 minutes, you should be able to turn the salmon over with the skin in tact. However, it is a good idea to have a 2nd pan ready as a backup to finish the salmon, if the skin gets seriously stuck onto the skillet.
Keywords: salmon, pan seared salmon, easy salmon recipes, nut-free