How to Sear Salmon Fillets

How to Sear Salmon Fillets - Moist and Flaky with a Golden Crust. Restaurant-quality salmon recipe by Tori Avey

It all started when my stepdaughter, aka “the pickiest eater on planet Earth,” developed a taste for salmon. Once I discovered she liked this healthy food, I was determined to perfect my salmon-cooking technique. She preferred the salmon served at one of our favorite local restaurants– it was pan-seared, moist and flaky with a crisp golden crust. After struggling to make it the same way at home, I finally landed on a technique that produces restaurant-quality salmon every time. And my stepdaughter? She now likes mine better than the restaurant version!

This technique involves a simple combination of pan searing and oven roasting. Use boneless fillets, skin on or off– either will work. By following this recipe, you can have perfectly seared salmon fillets on the table in less than 20 minutes. Roast some veggies, steam a little couscous, and you’ve got a healthy, satisfying meal.

Restaurant? We don’t need no stinkin’ restaurant! Give yourself a pat on the back and a Michelin star, you’ll be rocking salmon fillets like a boss from now on.

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How to Sear Salmon Fillets - Moist and Flaky with a Golden Crust. Restaurant-quality salmon recipe by Tori Avey

How to Sear Salmon Fillets


  • Boneless salmon fillets, skin off or skin on (up to 4 per batch)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

You will also need

  • Nonstick skillet with metal handle (not plastic)
Total Time: 20 Minutes
Servings: Varies
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. If you have time, let the salmon come to room temperature, it will cook faster and more evenly that way (but don't stress, when I'm in a hurry I do it straight from the fridge). Sprinkle salmon fillets generously with salt and pepper.
  • How to Sear Crisp, Moist Salmon Fillets - Restaurant-quality salmon recipe by Tori AveyPlace skillet on a burner over medium high heat for 3-4 minutes till drops of water sizzle and bead on the surface when you sprinkle them. When water dries pour 2 tbsp oil and swirl around the bottom of the pan to evenly coat. Oil will begin to smoke lightly after a moment or two.
  • Place salmon fillets gently into the skillet, up to 4 at a time (depending on the size of your skillet), making sure not to crowd the pan. The fillets should not touch. If using skin-on fillets, the skin should be facing upward, with meat against the pan.
  • How to Sear Crisp, Moist Salmon Fillets - Restaurant-quality salmon recipe by Tori AveyTurn the heat to high. Let the salmon sear for 2-3 minutes till a golden brown crust begins to form on the bottom edge of the meat. You'll be able to see the crust starting at the edge where the meat touches the pan. Once you see that, there is no need to lift the salmon and check-- the crust will continue developing in the oven. The less you disturb the salmon during cooking, the better.
  • How to Sear Crisp, Moist Salmon Fillets - Restaurant-quality salmon recipe by Tori AveyAt this point, do not turn the salmon. Instead, transfer the whole skillet to the preheated oven. Let the salmon continue roasting in the oven for another 6-10 minutes. How long it cooks will depend on the thickness of the fillets and desired doneness-- some people like salmon a little on the rare side. Our family likes it fully cooked and flaking, but still moist. For a fillet that is 1-inch thick at its thickest point, this usually takes around 7-8 minutes in the oven. Once cooked you can cut into the thickest part of a fillet with a sharp knife to make sure it's done to your liking.
  • How to Sear Crisp, Moist Salmon Fillets - Restaurant-quality salmon recipe by Tori AveyWhen the salmon is done roasting, use an oven mitt to carefully remove the skillet from the oven. I do mean carefully, the skillet will be hot and the oil will be sizzling!
  • Remove the fillets from the pan carefully with tongs, plate them crust-side up, and serve. Keep in mind that if you keep them in the hot skillet they will continue to cook. If you're not serving the fillets immediately, you might want to take them out of the oven a little under-done and leave them in the hot skillet to finish cooking before you serve them. If you've left the skin on, it will be crisp at this point. Skin off, the only crispy area will be that golden brown crust. My stepdaughter likes that part the best. Enjoy!
  • How to Sear Salmon Fillets - Moist and Flaky with a Golden Crust. Restaurant-quality salmon recipe by Tori Avey

Comments (64)Post a Comment

    1. Nan Hall-Benton absolutely! Just make sure it’s well seasoned and you give it ample time to warm up on the stovetop, cast iron can take longer to heat up due to its thickness.

    2. Hi Elayne, part of why this technique works so well is the Maillard reaction (the searing that produces the crisp crust). This starts in the very hot skillet and continues in the hot oven. What you can do (and I have done this for larger crowds) is put a baking sheet or roasting pan in the oven (must be metal) while it is preheating, so the pan heats with the oven. Then, start the cooking process in the hot skillet on the stovetop. When you transfer salmon to the oven, place the fillets in the same position (crust side down) onto the preheated pan or sheet. Careful, be sure to use oven mitts, that preheated pan will be hot! Then you can continue cooking according to recipe instructions. Hope that helps!

  1. I can commiserate with your daughter. I’m an extremely picky eater. However I don’t mind Salmon and I absolutely adore Blue Gill and Pollock, no fishy taste, so I will definitely be making this tomorrow evening.

  2. 3 wks in a row and my hubby keeps requesting I make this recipe. Also, my very picky 5 yr old son also eats it!! Thanks so much for recipe :) Malka , Batya this is the easy and delicious recipe I told u about!

  3. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Just made this tonight – marvelous! I used cast iron (well seasoned) and a convection oven (set to 400 instead of 425). Also used avocado oil instead of vegetable or olive oil, for the super-high smoke point of the oil. This was so good I’m planning on sharing it with my parents when they come visit in a few weeks!

    1. In addition to the recommendation for grapeseed or peanut oil, I can also recommend avocado oil, if you can find it. If I’m not mistaken, it has the highest smoke point of any common cooking oil, and in my opinion the light flavor compliments the fish very nicely.

      Costco has it – it’s also great for seasoning cast iron pans, if you have any.

  4. Thank you for such good substitutions. I’m cooking this tomorrow night. Goin with the sunflower seed oil. Very excited and will let u know how it came out! ! Thanks!

    1. Mary, searing first should be fine– but please don’t leave them for any longer than 1 hour and do make sure you cook them all the way through (not rare) due to risk of food borne illness. Meat should never be left at room temperature for more than 2 hours cumulative, which includes time in the car from the grocery store– with the heat from the searing, I would say 1 hour at the very max before cooking. When ready to cook, these really do best in a fast oven as recommended in the recipe, rather than a slow oven.

  5. Love salmon! Can’t wait to try it; will definitely report results.( just finished butternut squash preparation, came out great.

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