gordon ramsay pan seared crispy skin salmon

Gordon Ramsay Pan Seared Crispy Skin Salmon

When achieving the much-desired crispy skin on salmon, many cooks make the mistake of using very high heat. This approach can lead to uneven cooking and excessive crisping of the skin. The secret lies initially with a nonstick pan set to medium heat. The aim is to reach a perfect crisp without overcooking the flesh beneath.

As the salmon meets the heat, there may be a tendency for the fish to buckle in the pan. While the immediate reaction might be to press it down, this can strip the skin from the meat. Instead, a gentle press is recommended, just enough to ensure even contact with the pan’s surface. With the salmon’s thickness taken into account, around two to three minutes on the skin side should suffice to start the crisping process.

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Pan Seared Crispy Skin Salmon Recipe

Pan Seared Crispy Skin Salmon Recipe

The residual heat plays a crucial role in achieving perfectly cooked salmon. After the butter bath, removing the salmon from the pan to let it rest allows the residual heat to continue cooking the fish gently.

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  • 4 pieces 6 Oz. Salmon

  • 2 Ea. Confit Fennel

  • 20 Ea. 16-20 Ct Shrimp

  • 4 Oz. Vegetable Stock

  • 8 Ea. Fennel Sprigs (Garnish)

  • Fennel Puree:

  • 2 Ea. fennel sliced on mandolin

  • 1/4 Tbsp. fennel seeds

  • 1 Ea. lemon juice, zest peel

  • 2 Oz. butter + 2 Oz. extra butter

  • 1 tsp. salt to taste


  • Searing Crispy Salmon
  • Season the salmon fillet with salt and pepper.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Place the fish skin-side in the pan and cook until seared on one side, about 4 minutes. Turn the fish over, reduce the heat, and cook for 3 minutes more until the salmon is almost cooked but still a bit pink inside.
  • Searing Shrimp
  • HEAT 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add shrimp and cook until seared about 2 minutes. Remove and place aside.
  • Making Fennel Puree
  • Sauté fennel, fennel seed, 2 oz. Butter and salt in a pan with a lid on. Add lemon juice and peel to the pan. Continue to cook/stir till the fennel is soft with the lid on. Once soft, remove the heat with the lid still on and blend with the extra 2 oz. Butter. Finish by passing through a fine-mesh strainer.

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Should You Start with the Skin Side Up or Down?

You should start pan-searing salmon with the skin side down. The skin requires direct, prolonged contact with the hot pan to become crispy. By starting skin-side down, you give the skin time to crisp up before you flip the salmon to finish cooking.

Tips for Crispy Salmon Skin When Frying

To get crispy skin when frying salmon, follow these steps:

  1. Start with a dry piece of fish; pat the salmon skin dry with a paper towel.
  2. Season the skin with salt, which can help draw out more moisture and enhance crispiness.
  3. Use a nonstick pan or well-seasoned cast iron skillet for best results.
  4. Heat the pan over medium-high heat and add a high smoke point oil, such as vegetable or grapeseed.
  5. Once the oil is hot, place the salmon skin-side down and do not move it; let it cook undisturbed.
  6. Press gently on the salmon with a spatula for the first few seconds to ensure even contact with the pan.
  7. Cook most of the way through on the skin side before flipping; about 70-80% of the cooking time should be skin-side down.
  8. Flip and cook for a short time on the flesh side to finish it off.

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Why Isn’t My Salmon Skin Crispy?

If your salmon skin didn’t turn out crispy, it could be due to the following reasons:

  • The skin wasn’t dry enough before cooking; excess moisture prevents crisping.
  • Insufficient heat in the pan; the pan should be preheated properly.
  • Not using enough oil or using an oil with a low smoke point, which can burn easily.
  • Moving the salmon around in the pan instead of letting it cook undisturbed.
  • Flipping the salmon too early before the skin has had enough time to crisp up.

Crisping Salmon Skin Without Overcooking the Fish

To make sure the salmon skin is crispy without overcooking the fish:

  • Use high heat to start and lower it slightly once the skin starts to crisp to avoid burning.
  • Keep the skin side on the heat for the majority of the cooking time, only flipping towards the end to finish.
  • Monitor the heat and adjust to prevent the skin from burning while ensuring the fish is cooked to your desired level.
  • Consider finishing the salmon in a preheated oven after crisping the skin if you’re dealing with a thicker cut to ensure even cooking without burning the skin.

Summing Up

As the last flecks of heat dissipate from the perfectly crisped skin of the salmon, one can’t help but marvel at how a simple fish, treated with respect and patience, transforms into a dish that stands proudly amongst gourmet creations. This technique, finessed over the stovetop’s calm flame, illustrates that achieving culinary greatness isn’t always about complexity but honoring the inherent flavors of high-quality ingredients and understanding how to coax them to their fullest expression.

This recipe isn’t just a set of instructions; it’s a dance between heat, timing, and intuition, yielding a dish that whispers of the sea and sings of the mastery behind its creation. In your kitchen, as in the finest restaurants, it’s these nuances that morph cooking into an art form you can savor with each vibrant, delicious bite.

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Last Updated on January 21, 2024 by John Siracusa


  • John Siracusa

    Hi, I'm John. I've worked in the Food Service industry for over 25 years, working in my family's business. Cooking for me has always been an art infused with traditions. My career was inspired by Hell's Kitchen, the West Side of Manhattan, which has one of New York City's best independent restaurant communities. I also admire Gordon Ramsay's no-nonsense approach to always being your best.

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