This is our absolute favorite way to make salmon! A doubled-up method; we sear the salmon in a cast iron skillet until the skin gets super toasty and crispy (salmon bacon, HELLO), then broil to finish. The result is a flaky, medium-well salmon that is perfectly cooked every time.
Welcome to the inside of my brain, wherein if something goes well a few times I declare it THE BEST with very little testing of other things, then do the same thing over and over in perpetuity because it works for me.
So if we're being honest it's THE WAY I cook salmon, but I'm calling it the best salmon recipe because it is so, so good.
This is our easy weeknight salmon. We have it at least once a week. We cook it the same each time BUT with different seasonings, which I think is a big key to "cooking well" without, say, culinary school. I can't cook all.the.things. but I have a few methods that I'm great at, so I change up the spices and BOOM variety.
You're like...this is not very inspiring it sounds like you only know how to do this one thing.
Honestly, doing a few things well is highly preferable than doing a lot of things medium, but that's just me.
Back to dinner! This is one of those super basic way of cooking salmon in a cast iron skillet, and the key is that we use the stovetop and the oven for an over/under approach.
The OTHER key to this recipe is that, unlike a pan fried salmon recipe where we quickly flip salmon in a hot pan, we start with skin-on salmon in a COLD cast iron skillet, then let some of the fat render out while the skin gets super duper crispy and amazing. Yes, you can eat salmon skin! If you want to! If not, give it to someone who likes it. This method needs skin-on salmon as an insulator of sorts; even if you don't eat the salmon skin still cook the salmon with it for this recipe.
Fish Seasoning Blend
I season salmon differently every time, but this is one of my go-tos, and I think the best salmon seasoning ever: a quick dill seasoning blend that is honestly great on any fish or even chicken or pork. The secret here is sugar!
We have: coarse sugar, kosher salt, dried dill, onion powder, garlic powder. The sugar doesn't make this dish sweet, necessarily, but balances the fatty salmon (good fat, chill) and savory spices + salted butter we're using to cook.
Mix the spices together for the seasoning blend, then set that aside while you grab your fish.
This is two large pieces of fish; enough for 4 people. I sometimes do one big piece, 4 smaller pieces, whatever works for the meal I'm serving and what's available at the store. Skin-on salmon fillets work in any shape or size here!
For timing purposes, this salmon takes a little under 30 minutes to make, start to finish. To save time, you can start the salmon first then make the seasoning blend - the first little part of the salmon and pan heating up together can take some time.
The Best Way To Cook Salmon
Put the salmon in the cast iron skillet skin-side DOWN, and turn the heat to medium-low (low if your oven runs hot). We want this part to take about 10 minutes for the fat to really render well from the skin. Shove a pat of butter in the center of the pan; it'll melt and brown + flavor the fish a bit.
Sprinkle the seasoning blend all over the salmon. It should form a crust of sorts on top.
Now, we wait. This may take longer or less time depending on your pan, how cold the salmon was, your stovetop, all of it. The goal here is for the salmon skin to get nice and crispy, the fat to render out, and the salmon to start cooking - it'll turn opaque at the edges and the cooked part of the salmon will creep its way up the side of the fish.
Adjust the heat as necessary to keep the salmon cooking but the skin not burning. This takes a little bit of trial and error but I usually end up with the heat on low once the skin starts sizzling - cast iron skillets can get too hot fast and stay that way. If this takes a little longer it's worth it!
Preheat the broiler to high while you're cooking the bottom of the salmon (and any sides!). After about 10 minutes (again, sometimes this takes longer, don't rush it), when the salmon skin is crispy and the fish is visibly cooking, transfer the salmon to the oven under the broiler.
Broil the salmon (the sugar helps here too!) for about 5 minutes until the seasonings on top are crispy and the fish is flaky. Again with the timing - ovens are different the broilers are weird. There's no fixing that, so keep an eye on the fish and give it more time if needed at any step, especially if you have a super thick piece of fish.
The result? Tender, flaky, moist salmon with tons of flavor. I make this with broiled lemon green beans and rice or potatoes, but any sides you like are great. This is also delicious over kale salad - we do that a lot!
This is absolutely a super duper kid-friendly recipe in our house. We got Beck into salmon by calling it Pink Fish, and now she's all over it anytime someone will make it for her. Will....well, Will is on a kiwi-only kick, but he's 20 months old right now so I'm waiting it out.
I hope you try this recipe for seared salmon asap. It's some watch-and-see, for sure, but the method is so simple and WORKS once you get the hang of it. Using salmon with skin on it really protects against dry fish, aka the saddest thing in the world.
Make this soon, and enjoy!
The Best Way To Cook Salmon
- 1 ½ pounds skin-on salmon fillets one big piece, a few smaller ones, whatever!
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon sugar coarse if you have it
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon dried dill
- ¼ teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- Drizzle the oil in a COLD cast iron skillet. Add the salmon skin-side down. Place the butter in small bits in the pan around the fish.
- Place on the stovetop over medium-low. Let the fish come to a gentle sizzle - this will take several minutes.
- Meanwhile, combine all the spices in a small dish and sprinkle over the fish to form a crust. Preheat the broiler to high.
- After about 10 minutes (this is way more about looking at the fish, less about time), the skin should be sizzling and the salmon starting to cook up the sides of the fish. Check the bottom of the fish - the skin should be crispy but not burned. Adjust the heat as needed, I usually have to turn the burner all the way down to low for thicker pieces of fish.
- When the salmon is cooked about halfway up and the skin is crispy, transfer the entire skillet to the broiler. Broil for 4-7 minutes until the top of the fish is slightly golden and the flesh is flaky and just barely cooked through. You can broil for less time if you prefer medium or medium rare salmon.
- Carefully remove the salmon from the oven and serve as desired.