The best way how to cook salmon fillet seems to be a hotly debated topic. In this article, we will look at how to cook salmon fillet skin-on in a pan as well as answer a few common questions and bust a few myths along the way. As always, it's best to start with the most basic question.
What is a salmon fillet?
It's important to realise that a salmon fillet and a salmon steak are two different cuts. Salmon steak is a cross-section cut with two pieces of fillet still attached to the spine. It requires a touch more skill to cook and we will look at those another day, but the principles are very much the same as for cooking salmon fillets. Salmon fillet, on the other hand, is a boneless cut with the flesh removed from the spine in a lengthways cut.
A quick bit of geeky fish knowledge
Fish is a protein-rich food source just like meat. However, the proteins in fish are much shorter and the collagen holding together the muscle fibres are not as tough as with beef or chicken. This means that fish requires less cooking time. Fish will be cooked at a lower temperature compared to meat. Fish proteins start coagulating at 42C. By the time it reaches 60C the fish will start to dry out and essentially be overcooked. The trick is to get the internal temperature of the fish just right at around 50C and I will show you how.
Why is this the best way to cook salmon fillets?
Salmon with crispy skin and succulent tender flesh is the only way you should want to eat it. This recipe does exactly that and we even went a few steps beyond and cooked our salmon fillets with garlic, lemon and parsley butter. The result is phenomenal. Simple, quick and perfectly cooked. You could have this on its own or serve it with this amazing mashed potatoes, one of these sides or these awesome Chinese beaten cucumbers.
How to cook salmon fillet with garlic, lemon and parsley butter?
Step 1 - Make sure you have good quality salmon fillets. As always, Product is king and you should always buy the best you can afford. You also need a good non-stick pan or a well-seasoned cast-iron pan.
If you have neither of those things might get a bit sticky so we will have to at least have a piece of baking paper to fry on.
To make sure the salmon is cooked perfectly also use a kitchen thermometer as we will need to measure the internal temperature. If you do not have one, you could insert the tip of a knife into the thickest part of the salmon to test the temperature.
When done, the internal temperature should be like warm, but not hot water. I highly suggest you get a thermometer though.
They are an inexpensive and very useful kitchen tool.
Step 2 - Before you start cooking make sure the skins of the salmon fillets are dry. Moisture is a killer when it comes to frying fish.
It will make the skin stick and oil will splatter everywhere as the moisture hits the pan. So make sure it's dry.
I also score the skin with a sharp knife but this step is optional. Just take a piece of kitchen towel and dry the surface well before frying.
You want all your ingredients ready and prepared. Being organised in the kitchen is important to cooking well.
So, chop your parsley, cut your lemon, crush your garlic and make sure your serving plate is ready before the salmon hits the pan.
"Make sure you have good quality salmon fillets"
Step 3 - Heat your pan with a generous amount of olive or cooking oil. when the oil just starts to smoke, it's time for action.
Season the salmon liberally skin side only.
Carefully place the salmon fillet skin-side-down into the hot pan and cook 1 minute on high heat.
Step 4 - Turn the heat down to medium and keep frying skin side down for about 3 minutes and then flipping and cooking 1 minute on the flesh side.
Depending on the thickness and size of your salmon fillets, times may vary.
I used 120g salmon fillets for this recipe and the cooking times above is what I used.
Step 5 - At this point, your salmon fillets should read 42C. Remove from the pan and set aside.
The residual heat will keep cooking the fish and the temperature will rise till about 50C.
Perfect and what we are looking for. As mentioned before, if you do not have a temperature probe.
Then insert the tip of a knife into the thickest part of the fillet. Touch the tip of the knife. It should be lukewarm but not hot.
"How to cook salmon fillet in a pan"
Step 6 - Place 50g of butter and 10g chopped garlic into the pan over medium heat.
Cook for about 1 minute just so the garlic releases a bit of fragrance and the butter starts to bubble. DO NOT BURN THE GARLIC! Remove the pan from the heat.
Step 7 - Squeeze in a touch of lemon juice(5g). Add a few pieces of lemon. Add 10g chopped parsley and a fresh grating of black pepper.
Put the salmon fillets skin side up back into the pan, glaze with a bit of butter and serve immediately.
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Frequently asked questions related to cooking salmon fillets
How many calories in salmon fillet?
Every 100g of skin on salmon fillet contains 104 calories.
How to cook salmon fillet on the stove?
The process is described in this article above and in my opinion the best way to cook salmon fillets.
What is the healthiest way to cook salmon?
The healthiest way to cook salmon would be steaming or sous vide. Salmon is great source of omega fatty acids and the skin carry a great amount so try not to remove it. To steam or sous vide salmon follow the same internal temperature guideline mentioned above.
How to cook salmon fillet in foil?
To cook salmon in foil you first need to add a layer of baking paper between the fish and foil. Make sure it's well sealed and bake in the oven at 200C for about 10 minutes or until the internal temperature reads 42C. Rest for 5 minutes to finish cooking via residual heat and serve.
How long to cook salmon fillet?
It all depends on the size and temperature but the most important part is to make sure the salmon reaches an internal temperature of around 50C by the time it's consumed.
What temperature should salmon be cooked at?
Various techniques require different approaches and temperatures. Sous vide at 52C. Oven-baked at 200C. Pan-fried on medium-high. Barbecued over hot coals.
How to cook salmon fillet in the oven?
Turn oven to 200C. Season with salt and olive oil. Place on a baking tray lined with parchment. Bake skin side up until the internal temperature reaches 42C. Allow the residual heat to cook the salmon further until the temperature reaches 50C.
How do you not overcook salmon?
By following the internal temperature when you cook salmon it is impossible to over cook if correctly done. Do not exceed an internal temperature of 55C.
What to serve with salmon?
How do you tell when salmon is done cooking?
By reaching an internal temperature of 50C.
What sauce goes with salmon?
In this recipe, we did a garlic, lemon and parsley butter. Try and keep sauces light and fresh as salmon is a fatty fish and needs something zingy for balance. Try gremolata, salsa verde or tapenade. Even a light white wine cream works great.
How to cook salmon fillets from frozen?
Don't. You will overcook the outside while the inside will still be frozen or raw. The safest way is to thaw fish in the fridge over-night and cook when fully defrosted.
How to cure salmon fillet?
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