Crispy Skin Salmon Recipe
The absolute BEST crispy salmon recipe, pan seared to perfection! All you need is a bit of oil, salt & pepper, and some skin-on salmon filets. Flaky, savory, and with a crave-ably crispy skin—this dish is delicious all on its own, or drizzled with lemon butter sauce! Learn how to cook crispy skin salmon on the stove in just 15 minutes.
How to Get Crispy Skin on Salmon
- Use quality skin-on salmon filets—wild-caught Pacific salmon if possible. For crispy skinned salmon, thicker filets like King (Chinook) salmon or Coho salmon work better than Sockeye. Farmed Atlantic salmon can also work well in this recipe (although it’s generally lower in nutrients & higher in pollutants.)
- Pat the filets dry before cooking—drier filets will crisp up more!
- Make sure the pan is hot enough—water droplets should sizzle and dance when sprinkled onto the heated pan. A hot pan ensures the salmon skin gets an immediate sear and crisps up quickly!
- Use enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan—not just cooking spray. Let the fat in the oil work its magic to crisp up the salmon skin.
- Pan sear skin side down. If you want to make the salmon skin crispy and comforting, it needs to be the first thing that goes into the hot oil!
Is it better to pan sear or bake salmon?
The best method to cook salmon with crispy skin is to pan sear or pan fry on the stove. This produces the crispiest texture, the flakiest filets, and it only takes 10 minutes! Baking salmon in the oven takes longer, and it typically isn’t as crispy. Some consider baking healthier because it uses less oil, but pan frying can also be a healthy method. The fish only absorbs a negligible amount of cooking oil, and that crispy skin is so worth it!
Is crispy salmon skin good for you?
Did you know salmon skin contains more omega-3s, minerals, and protein than the fish itself? And, we’re more likely to actually eat that nutrient-rich skin when it’s crispy & delicious! Salmon skin is safe to eat—although lower-quality farm-raised filets tend to be lower in nutrients and higher in pollutants. If you’re able, choose high-quality wild-caught Pacific filets for this crispy skin salmon recipe.
Why is salmon skin so tasty?
Salmon skin has a deep, savory flavor thanks to its rich fat content. And, when cooked well, salmon skin adds a crispy texture that pairs beautifully with a tender, flaky filet! As a bonus, cooking salmon with skin on also helps to lock in flavor and prevent the filet from drying out. If you usually skip the skin because you’re not a fan of the taste or texture, give crispy skin salmon a try!
Crispy Salmon Recipe Ingredients
- Skin-On Salmon Filets. You’ll need filets that are 4-6 oz each and ~1-inch or so thick, if possible. When making crispy pan seared salmon, I prefer to use King salmon or Coho salmon, or Atlantic salmon filets when needed. And be sure to buy your salmon with skin on to get that crispy texture!
- Avocado Oil or Light Olive Oil. It’s important to use a high smoke point oil when making pan fried salmon with crispy skin, since you’ll be cooking at a high temperature. I prefer to use avocado oil, which has a smoke point of 520°F (271°C). Or you can use light olive oil (sometimes called “pure” olive oil), which has a smoke point of 465-470°F (240-243°C).
- Salt & Pepper. This crispy skin salmon turns out unbelievably tasty seasoned with just salt and pepper. Simple, satisfying, and perfectly juicy—it doesn’t even need a sauce!
Is pan frying salmon in olive oil healthy?
Although light olive oil is suitable for pan frying, it is not healthy to pan fry salmon in extra-virgin olive oil—which has a smoke point of only 350°F (180°C). The smoke point is the temperature at which an oil begins to smoke and break down. Its flavor becomes burnt and bitter, and the oil releases harmful polar compounds which have been linked to cellular damage. It’s best to use a high smoke point oil for pan frying.
How to Cook Salmon with Crispy Skin
- Rest filets & pat dry. Let the filets come to room temperature for at least 10 minutes, then pat both sides dry with paper towels. This will help the skin crisp up more and cook faster!
- Heat skillet over medium-high for 3-5 minutes. Test to make sure your pan is hot enough by sprinkling water onto it—if the droplets sizzle and dance, it’s hot enough.
- Heat oil until it bubbles slightly. Be sure to add enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan in a thin layer, and let it get hot before adding the salmon.
- What side of salmon do you sear first? To cook crispy skin salmon on the stove, sear the skin side first so it starts to cook and crisp immediately! Season the skin with salt only (no pepper!), then use tongs to carefully place the filets into the hot oil.
- How long does it take to get crispy salmon skin? When the pan and oil are hot enough, you can pan fry crispy salmon skin in just 5 minutes over medium-high heat. Let the filets cook undisturbed, skin side down, for the first 5 minutes. They’ll start to curl up as they cook, so gently press them down with a spatula to ensure the skin is flat against the pan.
- Do you flip salmon when pan frying? Yes, after pan frying salmon skin side down for 5 minutes, flip the filet to get a nice sear on the flesh. When you see the sides of the filet are cooked/light pink ¾ of the way up, season the flesh with salt & pepper, and it’s ready to flip.
- Flip and cook 20-30 seconds. Just a quick sear after flipping is perfect for medium to medium-rare salmon (internal temperature of 125°F or 51°C). Cook up to 1-3 minutes on the other side for a more well-done filet (145°F or 63°C).
See how to cook salmon with crispy skin in my Crispy Lemon Butter Salmon Dinner video!
Why is my salmon skin not crispy?
- Make sure the skin is dry. If you want to make salmon skin crispy, you need to pat the skin dry as best you can. Soaking up moisture beforehand will allow the skin to crisp up faster!
- Heat the pan properly. If your pan isn’t hot enough, salmon skin can turn out tender instead of crispy. Remember to check the pan with a water test, then heat the oil until it’s bubbling slightly.
- Don’t skimp on oil! You need enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan—so the heat is distributed evenly, and the salmon skin pan-fries to a crisp. Frying occurs when food is submerged in hot oil, causing it to dehydrate and crisp up. If you use too little oil, the skin won’t get very crispy, and it might even burn.
How do you eat crispy skin salmon?
Enjoy your crispy skinned salmon bite by bite! Eat the crispy salmon skin with the tender filet to get the most flavor and texture in every bite. If you usually peel off salmon skin or separate the filet from the skin with your fork, there’s no need to do that with crispy skin salmon. Of course, you can also munch on the crispy skin on its own, almost like a seafood version of bacon!
What to serve with crispy skin salmon
- Drizzle with lemon butter sauce for savory flavor and richness.
- Pair with an easy rice pilaf as a side.
- Top with a sweet and zesty mango salsa.
- Brush with a sweet balsamic glaze.
- Serve as a simple salmon salad with your favorite dressing or a squeeze of lemon.
- Pair with roasted vegetables, sauteed spinach, or a sauteed vegetable medley.
Crispy Skin Salmon
- 2 skin-on salmon filets (4-6oz each), King, Coho, or Atlantic salmon
- 1-2 Tbsp avocado oil (or light olive oil), enough to cover bottom of pan
- salt & pepper, to taste
- Remove salmon filets from fridge and allow to sit at room temperature for 10 minutes. (This is a great time to prepare lemon butter sauce, or any other sauce you’d like!)
- Pat salmon filets dry using paper towels. Season on skin side with salt only. (No pepper on the skin or it will burn!)
- Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes. Check to see if the pan is ready by doing a water test: sprinkle a splash of water onto the pan, and the water will sizzle/dance when the pan is hot enough.
- When pan is heated, add enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan in a thin layer.
- Heat oil until it bubbles slightly, then add salmon filets skin side down. (Be careful so the oil doesn’t splash and burn you! I use tongs to gently place filets in pan.) Use a spatula to press down salmon filets to prevent them from curling as they cook, so the skin stays flat against the pan.
- Sear salmon skin side down for about 5 minutes, depending on size of filets. (Mine were about 1-inch thick.) Cook until skin is crispy and fish is cooked ~¾ of the way up the sides of the filets—color will change to lighter pink as it cooks. Season flesh side with salt & pepper before flipping.
- Flip and cook 20-30 seconds on the other side—or longer for a more well-done filet. (For reference, salmon is cooked to an internal temperature of 125°F /51°C for medium doneness, or up to 145°F / 63°C for well-done.)
- Remove filets from pan immediately. Serve warm with your favorite sauce & sides!