Cast Iron Salmon

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Crisp skinned cast iron salmon is a quick and easy preparation method that can pair with any number of sauces and sides. It takes just 10 minutes of your time!

A crisp skinned salmon filet cooked to medium

Salmon is probably one of my favorite fish, especially since we get such beautiful wild caught filets from Wild Alaskan Company. 

Sometimes I just want something quick and easy for dinner, and when it comes to salmon, our fastest, most favorite way to enjoy it is by searing it in a cast iron pan. The skin gets perfectly crisp, and it takes just a few minutes from the time it hits the pan to the time it hits our plates.

Ingredients…Or lack of!

Here’s the deal with a recipe like this, it’s really more about technique than an ingredient list. All the same, if you want a simply prepared, good piece of cast iron salmon, here’s the minimal list of what I recommend. 

  • Salmon filets – Whenever possible I recommend a wild caught filet, 4-6 ounces. I prefer sockeye when I can get it.
  • Grapeseed Oil – This is a nice high heat oil that won’t burn in your hot pan.
  • Salt & Pepper – I use kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper. 
  • Lemon slices – I love to give these a quick sear in the pan and then squeeze them over the cooked filets.

Cast Iron Salmon Technique – Getting the perfect, crisp skin

The secrets to crisp skin and perfectly cooked salmon is all in the heat of your pan and the timing. Of course, to make cast iron salmon, you need a cast iron pan. I use my 6” skillet to sear up to 2 filets. If you’re cooking more, use a large pan to make sure the filets have plenty of room. 

two salmon filets in a cast iron pan

Start the pan over medium high heat and let it get hot. Season your filets with salt and pepper. Add in your oil and when it shimmers, lay the filets, skin side down into the pan and turn the heat down to medium low.

Don’t move it. That’s the number 1 most important rule. Don’t touch it!

salmon cooking in a cast iron pan

Let it cook for 3-4 minutes. You’ll see the change in color from the bottom, as the salmon cooks, and the skin crisps. When it’s ready, it will release. If you try to flip it before the skin is ready, it’ll stick. If it resists you, wait. 

When it’s been flipped, toss those lemon slices in around the fish and let it cook skin side up for just 1 minute. That should render a perfectly cooked filet of 145°F. 

If you prefer a more cooked salmon, let it go for another minute. I’d really avoid cooking it much longer, or you risk dry salmon, which is no fun. 

crispy skinned salmon in a pan

FAQ’S

Is it okay to eat salmon skin?

I was kind of surprised when my husband asked me this one day. Yes. Salmon skin is perfectly safe, and incredibly delicious when cooked right.

Is it safe to eat salmon that’s still pink in the middle?

Yes, I actually recommend it! 145°F is the food safe temperature for salmon, and at that temp it will still have a pinkish tint in the middle.

Can I cook salmon without skin in a cast iron pan?

You bet. You won’t be worried about crisping the skin, and since it doesn’t have that barrier to protect the moisture of the filet, the technique changes a little. 

Place the filet into the hot pan, turn the heat down to medium low, and cook it for just 2 minutes. Then flip it and cook for 2 more minutes. That should deliver even cooking on both sides, with a perfect pink middle.

Serving Suggestions

When you’re preparing something simple like this, it’s a good idea to have side dishes and accompaniments in mind. Sometimes for us, it’s just a simple spinach salad and some good asiago bread.

cooked cast iron salmon

Depending on the season, you could serve this up with a prosciutto wrapped asparagus in the spring, grilled squash or summer squash pasta salad in the summer, or tomato carrot soup or roasted garlic broccoli in the fall or winter.

I’m a big fan of serving this with a sauce as well. Try out a tangy maple mustard vinaigrette, Dijon cream sauce, lemon dill vinaigrette, sweet blueberry compote, or a creamy lemon sauce to make it perfect. 

There’s really no way to go wrong when you have a perfectly cooked cast iron salmon to enjoy. I hope you find this simple preparation as satisfying as I do! Happy Eating!

cooked cast iron salmon
5 from 5 votes

Cast Iron Salmon

Print Recipe
Crisp skinned salmon cooked quickly in a hot cast iron pan
Prep Time:4 mins
Cook Time:6 mins
Total Time:10 mins

Equipment

  • Cast iron skillet

Ingredients

  • 2 4 ounce salmon filets skin on preferred*
  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil*
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 lemon slices optional

Instructions

  • Heat pan over medium high heat while you season your filets with salt and pepper.
  • Add oil to the hot pan and wait until it shimmers and moves like water around the pan.
  • Place the filets skin side down in the pan. Don't move them and allow them to cook for 3-4 minutes.
  • Flip the filets. They should release naturally, if they stick, wait another minute. Add the lemon slices to the pan.
  • Cook on the opposite side for 1 minute or until 145°F internally. Cook longer if you prefer a more well done salmon.
  • Serve immediately, skin side up, with desired sauces and sides.

Notes

*If cooking skinless filets, cook for 2-3 minutes per side instead. 
*Use any high heat cooking oil. I prefer grapeseed, but canola, avocado, safflower, or vegetable oil also work.

Nutrition

Serving: 1filet | Calories: 162kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 23g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 62mg | Sodium: 631mg | Potassium: 559mg | Fiber: 1g | Vitamin A: 47IU | Calcium: 15mg | Iron: 1mg
Course: dinner, Lunch
Cuisine: American
Keyword: easy recipe, fish, main dish
Servings: 2 people
Calories: 162kcal
Author: Mikayla M

Nutrition information and cooking times are provided as a best estimate. Values may vary based upon ingredients and equipment.

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10 Comments

    1. I have to say, we make fish often during the summer because it cooks so quickly and salmon is a favorite in our house! I ask my kiddo which fish he wants and he most often says ‘pink fish’

  1. 5 stars
    I’ve been wanting to make proper crispy skin salmon for so long but for some reason, I couldn’t get that so delightfully crisp that people would eat it. You gave me the secret: using a cast-iron skillet! The salmon was super moist and tender, and yes, that skin was shatteringly scrip! Thank you so much!!

  2. 5 stars
    I love salmon but I don’t think I’ve ever made it in a cast iron skillet. Your recipe was straightforward and easy to follow. I think I’ll be making it like this from now on.