Basic Pan-Grilled Salmon

Chinook Salmon

Chinook Salmon

By Cat, Sept 2015 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

See also: 1. Fish & Seafood Menu; 2. Salmon (About)

I make this recipe frequently because it is quick and oh so easy. I only use wild-caught salmon, preferring the darker meat of chinook or sockeye salmon, but Alaskan king salmon is also quite good. Wild salmon is available only during the summer months, so late in the season I buy some frozen wild salmon (frozen on-board, right after being caught) that my local meat market cuts into individual servings for me. I store these in my freezer and eat it during the early winter months (it starts to get rancid in late winter/early spring, and isn’t as tasty).

Basic Grilled (or Pan-Grilled) Salmon

I provide two different versions that depend on the type of salmon cut:

  • for salmon fillet (skin on one-side), and
  • for salmon steak (U-shaped, with skin around the outside or no longer there) – this is usually a thicker cut than a fillet.

To flavor this fish, I just use salt and pepper, then accompany with a sauce. For the salt, I prefer unrefined sea salt because it provides all the trace minerals present in salt water, all of which our bodies need.

For the pepper, I use the mixed-color peppercorns, which has more flavor and color.  I also like a lot of pepper, enough to give the fish a grey cast.  Purchased ground pepper just doesn’t give it the same flavor. Another pepper option is to use a mix of ground red and black pepper, which provides just a touch of heat.

See below for suggested sauces to augment the flavor of the salmon.

Caution: Salmon have a lot of thin bones, many are about the diameter of a piece of hair. Examine each piece of the salmon for bones, before putting it into your mouth. If you miss a bone and swallow it, eat some plain dry bread (no butter); hopefully the bread will escort the bone out of your body.

Salmon Fillet

This first recipe uses salmon fillet, with skin on one side.

Ingredients & Equipment

  • ½ – 1 pound salmon filet, with skin (for 2 – 4 each 4 –  6 oz servings)
  • unrefined sea salt, to taste
  • Your choice: freshly ground black pepper, red/black pepper mix, or mixed color pepper
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp coconut oil
  • cast iron skillet or grill pan (with ridges)

Preparation

  1. Rinse salmon in cold water; pat dry.
  2. Lay salmon on a plate, skin side down.  Sprinkle the unrefined sea salt over the salmon with your fingers, then rub it in slightly.  Using a grinder, grind the pepper (medium-coarse) over the fish, making sure you’ve covered it well, then pat into the flesh.
  3. Let sit for 30 minutes or so in your refrigerator.
  4. Just before you are ready to serve, heat pan over medium high heat, then add coconut oil and heat it to a simmer.
  5. Place the fish in the pan, skin side down, and grill for specific time (see Grill-time options, below), depending on thickness. Using tongs and spatula, carefully turn the fish over and grill for lesser time. Use tongs and spatula to carefully turn the fish over to grill on the other side. If desired, you can remove the cooked skin by sliding a spatula between the flesh and skin (I do that).
  6. Grill-time options: If fish meat is:
    1. More than ¾ inch thick, grill 3 – 4 min, with a lid over the pan to help the center of the flesh cook through. Then turn over (skin-side up) and grill for another 2-3 minutes, with lid over the pan.
      • Per 1/29/23 test, my piece is ¾″ thick, but tapers to ¼″ thick along one edge. Cooked skin-side down 3 min, turned over, and cooked 2½ min. Removed skin and turned over again to cook 1 min.  Result: Perfect!
    2.  ½ – ¾ inch thick, grill skin-side down for 3 – 3½ minutes; turn over (skin-side up) and grill for another 2-3 minutes. Most salmon I get is in this category, and the times work well.
    3. Less than ½ inch thick, grill skin-side down about 2 minutes, turn fish over (skin-side up) to grill 1 – 1½ minutes
      • Per 12/14/22 test of half a small salmon with skin (1 fillet), about 5.8 oz; ¼″-½″ thick and 10″ long including head and tail. Result: Perfect!
  7. Important: With a fork or knife, carefully inspect the center of the flesh.  It should still be slightly rare in the middle, as it will continue to cook after you remove it from the heat.  You do not want it to be overdone, as it will develop an off flavor (from oxidation of the delicate omega-3 fats).
  8. Remove fish to the plate and cut it into servings.
  9. Garnish with a desired sauce (see below), fresh lemon, or leave it bare.  It’s excellent either way!

Salmon Steak

This second recipe uses salmon steak – thick, U-shaped cut with skin around the outside of the U. The steak is usually thicker than for a filet cut (as above)

Ingredients & Equipment

  • ½ – 1 pound salmon steak, with skin along the outside of the steak (for 2 – 4 each 4 –  6 oz servings)
  • unrefined sea salt, to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, red/black pepper mix, or mixed color pepper
  • optional seasonings: garlic, lemon juice, honey
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp coconut oil (depending on size of steak, and number of steaks used)
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp real butter  (optional)
  • optional, to taste: garlic powder; lemon juice; honey
  • cast iron skillet or grill pan (with ridges)

Preparation

5/12/23: This is my first recorded test for a salmon steak, based on a “Delish” recipe (1). My steak is 1½ inches thick and weighs 5.75 oz. Orange text is for my testing notes.

  1. Two prep options:
    1. Prep the fish cut as for previous version. However, a steak is typically cut to be about 1-inch thick. – thicker than for a fillet (as above).
    2. Alternately, simply season both sides of the steak with unrefined sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper. This is what I did for my first test.
  2. Just before you are ready to serve, heat pan over medium high heat, then add coconut oil and optional butter, to warm them to a simmer.
  3. Add steak and grill the first side about 4-6 minutes, depending on thickness.
    1. First test (didn’t save the date):
      1. I just used a bit of garlic powder. Grilled first side about 5-minutes; turning it over was not easy, as it stuck to the pan.
      2. Grilled 4 min on second side, testing for meat temp and doneness. Only reached 110° F near center, and is not done, so grilled another minute, covering pan with lid; still not done so grilled another minute; total 6 min on second side. Still not totally done, except near the skin, so I  just let it rest, off heat, with lid another minute. I removed the cooked skin from the sides before serving. I did not add the lemon sauce.
      3. The meat was done and delicious. It had lots of bones, most of which were very thin, like a strand of hair. Hard to find and if you accidentally swallow one, your esophagus will get cut and it hurts. I was lucky and found all the bones.
    2. 6/9/23 test: My steak has no skin, weighs almost 0.6 lb (~9.5 oz), and is at least 1″ thick. I forgot to use this recipe version, and instead followed version for fillet.
      1. Grilled first-side 3.5 min, and other-side 3 min. Forgot to cover with lid (big mistake; if I’d covered with lid, it would not have needed another ½ minute cooking time. Checked done-ness at the center (with a sharp knife): a bit too rare so covered with lid and let it cook another ½ minute. Result: a bit over-done but still tasty.
      2. Flip it over, and cook another 3 – 5 minutes. Optional: add any of the following: garlic powder or finely chopped fresh garlic, lemon juice, and honey.  I just used a bit of garlic powder.
      3. Grilled 4 min on second side, testing for meat temp and done-ness. Only reached 110° F near center, and is not done, so grilled another minute, covering pan with lid; still not done so grilled another minute; total 6 min on second side. Still not totally done, except near the skin, so I  just let it rest, off heat, with lid another minute. I removed the cooked skin from the sides before serving. I did not add the lemon sauce.
      4. The meat was done and delicious. It had lots of bones, most of which were very thin, like a strand of hair. Hard to find and if you accidentally swallow one, your esophagus will get cut and it hurts. I was lucky and found all the bones.

Sauces to accompany salmon:

Salmon lends itself to accompaniment by many different sauces which you can easily make at home.  Here are some ideas:

References:

  1. Delish: https://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/a25239929/salmon-steak-recipe/

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