Pan Seared Salmon with Garlic Butter Lemon

Pan Seared Salmon with Garlic Butter Lemon Sauce

Crispy golden on top and barely cooked in the middle, this pan-fried salmon is easy to prepare and elegant to serve.
Golden and crispy on top and barely cooked in the middle, this pan-fried salmon is one of my go-to recipes when I need to get the kitchen going. Not only is it fast — it only takes 15 minutes from start to finish — it’s also elegant. In fact, that’s how high-end restaurants typically prepare salmon. It’s actually more of a technique than a recipe, and it’s easy to master at home.

How to Make the Best Baked Salmon

Preparing grilled salmon that you can proudly call better than a restaurant boils down to a few rules.

Use the right equipment

The best pans for salmon are those with a heavier bottom that you can heat to high heat and conduct heat evenly. I’ve had the best luck with stainless steel (this pan is the holy grail) and cast iron. A non-stick coating would work too, but it’s not my favorite for searing or frying as it doesn’t crisp up the surface of the fish *that*.
Get a fish spatula. I use this long, flexible spatula more than anyone else, and it’s useful for so much more fish. From flipping roasted vegetables to eggs and pancakes to flipping fish fillets perfectly, a large surface area fish spatula is a must.

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With skin-on salmon

Leaving the skin on the salmon makes it easier to roll over because the salmon is less likely to spread.
The skin insulates the salmon, making it difficult to overcook.

You can eat salmon skin. It’s not my cup of tea, but if you like crispy salmon skin or just want the nutritional value (similar to salmon meat) then go for it.

Let the salmon come back to room temperature

This rule applies to almost all fried proteins. Letting the salmon come to room temperature ensures that the inside is done cooking while the outside is crispy, so don’t overcook the fish while you wait for the inside to warm up.

Take the salmon out of the refrigerator at least 10 minutes before you plan to cook it.

Pat dry

Water is the enemy of cooked salmon. Be sure to pat the fillets dry with kitchen paper before placing them in the pan.

Season the fish before cooking

Salt absorbs water from the fish. To keep it dry (as per the tip above), wait until seasoned before adding to the pan.


I use kosher salt, black pepper, garlic powder and dried thyme.


I use a mixture of olive oil and butter.

Optional additions:

Lemon slices and chopped parsley. Optional, but they add flavor and color to the dish.

Some tips

  1. A good quality nonstick pan will save you unnecessary stress with salmon sticking to unseasoned pans and lots of tears of frustration
  2. If you are hesitant to use butter, you can use 2 tablespoons olive oil instead of butter
  3. You can also add a little white wine for a gourmet touch! (I usually add 3-4 tablespoons)
  4. Only fresh parsley is worthy of this! I really don’t recommend cooking or garnishing with dried parsley
  5. This grilled salmon recipe is restaurant quality and ready in 15 minutes! Perfectly cooked, crisp, flaky salmon served with a silky buttery lemon garlic sauce.
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More reference:

Pan Seared Salmon with Garlic Butter Lemon Sauce

  • 28 oz (800 g) skinless salmon fillets
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice, divided
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced or minced
  • 4 tablespoons freshly chopped Italian parsley leaves, divided
  • Lemon slices of half a lemon


  1. Pat the salmon fillets dry with paper towels at room temperature. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Squeeze 1-2 teaspoons of lemon juice on each fillet, rubbing in all the flavor.
  2. In a large nonstick skillet or skillet, heat olives over medium-high heat until hot. Place the salmon fillets, meat side down, pressing down lightly so that the entire surface of the meat touches the pan. Fry undisturbed for 3-4 minutes, until crisp and golden brown.
  3. Flip the other side of each fillet and bake for two minutes. Add butter, minced garlic, 3 tablespoons parsley, remaining lemon juice and lemon slices. Stir butter and garlic around each fillet.
  4. Cook salmon for an additional 1-2 minutes or until salmon reaches desired doneness. (The butter will begin to brown slightly.) Season and season with salt and pepper, then add more lemon juice to taste.
  5. Garnish with remaining parsley and drizzle each fillet with butter.
  6. Serve immediately.
Pan Seared Salmon with Garlic Butter Lemon Sauce
Pan Seared Salmon with Garlic Butter Lemon Sauce

Frequently Asked Questions

When is the salmon ready?

When the salmon is done, it will go from red and translucent to pink and opaque.

The USDA recommends cooking fish to an internal temperature of 145°F, although many cooks find it best to cook salmon to 130°F and let it sit for 5 minutes.

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Aside from using a thermometer, another way to check doneness is to lightly press down on the top of the fillet with a fork. If the meat falls off (separates) easily, the fish is ready.

How to get crispy salmon skin?

To get nice and crispy skin, fry salmon skin side down over medium-high heat for about 4 minutes.

Turn it to the other side only if you can see (when you lift the edge) that the skin has turned brown. It is also important to add enough fat to the pan.

Can I cook skinless salmon?

I personally like salmon skin. Especially when fried and crispy! However, if you prefer to cook peeled, just follow the same instructions and cook for about 3 minutes per side.

Can I use frozen salmon?

I recommend defrosting the salmon before using it in this recipe. You can use frozen salmon if you are baking in the oven. But when frying, I think it should be thawed first so that it can be fried evenly.

*Marinating is optional: most important for poorer quality salmon. Either way, you’ll want to bring the salmon to room temperature before cooking so the marinating step (it helps with flavor and moisture) is easy.

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