Crispy Skinned Salmon
- Choose Your Salmon - use boneless skin-on portions, or cut a whole fillet into 150-200g portions.
- Dry the Fish - pat paper towels over all sides of each piece of fish. You want your salmon as dry as possible—the dryer your fish, the better and easier it'll cook.
- Press the Salmon Down into The Pan - grab a frying pan that can comfortably holds two portions, swirl in some neutral oil such as grapeseed or canola and set the pan over medium-high heat. While the frypan heats, generously season each piece of salmon with salt and pepper (especially the skin), and make sure you have a flexible metal fish spatula handy.
- When the oil is shimmering, lay one portion skin-side down in the pan and immediately do two things: press the salmon against the frypan with your fish spatula, and turn the heat down to medium-low. Pressing on the fish helps keep the skin in contact with the pan to ensure an evenly crisped surface (salmon skin shrinks as it cooks, and if you don't press it into the frypan, it can curl out of shape). Don't move your salmon around in the pan but do move the spatula around the fish to ensure it gets pressed against the frypan evenly. You need to push the salmon against the frypan for the first couple minutes of cooking, but after the initial push, you can add your next portion (if you're cooking more than one) and start pushing them alternately.
- Render Patiently - it takes longer than you might think to render the fat out of salmon skin until it's nice and crispy. Resist the temptation to turn up the heat and speed up the process: you need to keep your frypan over a medium-low heat to avoid over-cooking. After about six minutes, during which time you should keep pushing the salmon down into the skillet periodically, use the spatula to peek at the skin. You're looking for nicely browned, nicely crisped skin, and flesh that has become mostly opaque everywhere except for on the very top of the fillet. Depending on the thickness of your fillet, this should take 7 to 9 minutes.
- Flip Just For a Moment, Then Serve - once the skin is crispy, use your fish spatula to flip the salmon and "kiss" the top of the portion with the frypan - just long enough to finish cooking it which should only be about a minute or two. If you're nervous about the fish being fully cooked, insert an instant-read thermometer into the middle of the portion: you want it to reach 60°C for medium-rare, which is how I like it - if you like it more well-done, cook until it reaches 65-70°C. Serve immediately, perhaps with a salad and lemon wedges, or a sauce (hollandaise is my favourite) and vegetables - but always, always skin-side up. Now that you know how to cook crispy-skin salmon, impress your guests with a restaurant-quality meal at home!
Technique courtesy of Epicurious.com
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