Perfect pan-seared salmon (unilateral cooking method)


The worst thing about cooking fish, in my humble opinion, is worrying about keeping it all in one piece. Of course, this can be solved rather easily by changing your cooking method: baking or steaming or even poaching can save the day here. But those methods aren’t very fun, now are they? I like a little fat in whatever I’m cooking, and insist upon the fact that good olive oil or flavorful butter can add depth to a dish and that fat-free can almost never live up to the real thing.

So, I’m going to share a little secret with you. A French secret. Called the unilateral cooking method. All it requires is that your fish still have its skin. It will change the way you cook, and it will make mouthwatering moist and put-together fish as simple as heating a pan, garnishing with oil or butter, covering and walking away, only to find the perfect end result a few minutes later when you remove the lid!


Pan-seared unilaterally cooked salmon filets

Fresh salmon filets
Spices: I prefer ground ginger and espelette or cayenne pepper, with salt and pepper
Olive oil or vegetable oil

Heat your olive oil over medium-high heat for about 2-3 minutes so it’s really hot. Place your salmon filets skin side down and don’t touch them again until it’s all over! Season with salt and pepper and whatever spices you like or have lying around. Turn the heat down slightly after about 5 minutes of cooking time. You want the skin of your salmon to crisp and brown, but not burn. Once this is done, cover with a lid and leave the heat on medium-low. Cook for about 10 minutes longer, checking often and removing once the salmon is cooked to your liking. I prefer when it’s barely cooked, perfectly tender and moist. Enjoy!


6 thoughts on “Perfect pan-seared salmon (unilateral cooking method)

      • Thanks! Espelette is a mild French chile pepper, less spicy than cayenne and full of flavor! You can substitute cayenne, just use less (unless you really like hotness!). As for the oil, about 1 T per filet, just enough so it doesn’t stick!

  1. Thank you, alamericaine. I’m looking forward to trying this technique and recipe. If you have some vegetarian dishes that you’d recommend, I’d love to check them out. I try to follow a Mediterranean diet. Not always successful.

    • I’ve been making Baba ganoush lately with roasted eggplant and hope to have a recipe up soon, but it’s so easy you can find a quick recipe anywhere. Hope you do try the salmon. The seasoning possibilities are endless and the fish cooked this way is just perfection!

  2. Pingback: Hazelnut crusted trout with lemon brown butter and spicy kumquats | à l'américaine

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