Pan searing salmon is one of the best ways to cook it. This cast iron salmon recipe comes together easily to create a tender and delicious restaurant-quality salmon dinner in less than 20 minutes!
Pan seared salmon in a cast iron pan uses a simple cooking technique to create perfectly cooked salmon. It’s ready in less than 15 minutes and is the perfect addition to an easy weeknight meal.
Serve the salmon on its own, over a bed of greens or with your favorite side dishes like Honey Roasted Vegetables, Smashed Fingerling Potatoes, Sautéed Eggplant, Strawberry and Cucumber Salad or Roasted Zucchini and Squash.
Why Cook Salmon in Cast Iron
Cooking salmon in cast iron is one of the best ways to cook it. The cast iron heats quickly and evenly at a high temperature. You place the salmon in the pan and cook undisturbed for a few minutes before flipping.
The end result is salmon that is flaky on the outside and moist on the inside.
Ingredients You Need
The ingredients for this recipe are simple.
- Salmon Filet: You can use one large salmon filet or a few smaller pieces. A few smaller pieces may be easier to cook and flip. Choose skin-on fillets. When possible, chose wild-caught salmon, as it has the best texture, flavor and nutrients. You can use frozen salmon, just be sure to thaw it in the fridge overnight.
- Olive Oil and Butter: You can substitute the olive oil with avocado oil, if desired.
- Seasoning: Use salt, garlic powder and freshly ground pepper for the best flavor.
If you want to use another type of seasoning, you can use Italian seasoning or paprika.
How to Make Cast Iron Salmon
- Prepare the seasoning: In a small bowl, mix together the garlic power, ground pepper and salt.
- Season the salmon: After letting the salmon rest for 10 to 20 minutes at room temperature, you will want to place the salmon filet, skin-side down, on a plate or cutting board. Sprinkle the prepared seasoning over the salmon and gently rub it in.
- Preheat the pan with oil: This is perhaps the most important step of the process. You want to preheat the pan and coat it well with oil. If there isn’t enough oil, the skin will stick to the pan and it will be difficult to remove the filet.
- Sear the salmon: Place the salmon, skin side down, into the pan and sear for 4 minutes until the skin becomes slightly crispy and golden brown. Carefully flip the salmon and sear for 2 more minutes. Flip it back over in the pan.
- Add the butter: Add the butter to the skillet with the salmon and let the butter melt. Once melted, spoon the butter over the salmon and cook for an additional minute or two.
You can use a stainless steel skillet for this recipe, but do not use a nonstick skillet. The salmon will not get crispy in a nonstick pan.
The salmon is done when it flakes easily and looks opaque. When a fork is inserted into the salmon at an angle, the layers should flake and separate easily.
Salmon is cooked to medium doneness at 125 to 135 degrees Fahrenheit. Use an instant read thermometer to check for doneness. The FDA recommends cooking salmon to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit, but at this temperature the salmon will start to dry out.
Garnish the salmon with freshly sliced lemons and dill before serving, if desired.
- Let the fish come to room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes before pan frying. Also make sure to pat it dry with a paper towel.
- Preheat the oil in the pan. The pan should be hot enough that the oil is slightly simmering but not so hot that the oil is popping. This helps create crispy skin. If it’s too hot, you can reduce the heat to medium-low.
- Use an instant read thermometer to check for doneness. If you overcook salmon, it will dry out.
- Use a fish spatula. If you have one, a fish spatula is a great tool to easily flip salmon. If not, use another wide metal spatula.
- Switch up the seasoning. You can substitute the garlic powder for another type of seasoning like paprika or Italian seasoning.
- Add fresh herbs. After cooking, serve with fresh herbs like dill or parsley.
Other Cast Iron Recipes
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Cast Iron Salmon
- 1 large salmon filet, (about 1 1/2 – 2 pounds)
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Remove the salmon from the fridge and let it rest for 10 to 20 minutes.
- In a small bowl, mix together the garlic powder, salt and pepper.
- Place the salmon filet, skin-side down, on a plate or cutting board. Sprinkle the seasoning mixture evenly over the salmon and gently rub it in.
- Preheat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat with the olive oil, until the oil in shimmering. The bottom of the pan should be coated in oil. If not, add a little more oil.
- Place the salmon, skin side down, into the pan and sear for 4 minutes until the skin becomes slightly crispy and golden brown.
- Carefully flip the salmon using two spatulas, sear for 2 more minutes then gently flip it back over. Add the butter to the skillet and let it melt.
- Reduce the heat to medium heat and spoon the melted butter over the salmon as it cooks for an additional 2 minutes.
- Garnish with freshly sliced lemons and dill, if desired.