Secret to the Perfect Seared Salmon

Looking to channel your inner chef? Are you bored with your go-to recipes? We’re here to help and provide inspiration for new meals you can make at home with Vinous in the Kitchen. Led by Eric Guido, Vinous’ resident Italian wine critic and also a professionally trained chef, Vinous in the Kitchen is a series of delicious recipes you can easily prepare at home. Through his video tutorial and accompanying article, Eric will guide you through each recipe step-by-step, offering useful tips and techniques, as well as ideas on wine pairings. Find the bottles on Delectable, and make sure to share your own favorite pairings. A perfect seared salmon is on the menu today. Buon appetito! ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ I absolutely adore seared salmon. As a lover of all things meat, and being a huge fan of grilled and pan-seared steaks, there is no other fish that speaks to my soul as well as a seared piece of salmon. It provides a hearty, flavorful, and texturally seductive experience, which bridges the gap between sea and land. However, like most people, seared salmon was one of the most intimidating preparations for me to start making at home. I would go through attempt after attempt trying to understand how to get that perfect sear without overcooking, sticking to the pan, tearing the skin, or mutilating the meat itself. I tried every manner of non-stick cookware, which helped with the sticking, yet it still failed to properly sear. I then gave up on the sear for a while and resorted to the broiler, which provided a crispy exterior, yet usually an overcooked interior, and the skin side was never quite right. In the end, it wasn’t even culinary school that finally opened my eyes, nor was it an executive chef at a restaurant where I worked. Instead, it was a night shift commis (basically a junior chef in training with no official schooling) who had been tasked with working the grill one evening while I was watching over the kitchen and helping to cater a party we had going on in our penthouse. These were always the most stressful times, working with a skeleton crew and often staffed by the “new guys”, while feeding the late-night crowd of the restaurant and sending tray after tray of hors d’oeuvres up to a party. That’s when an order for our pan-seared salmon with garlic butter and squash noodles came up on a ticket, along with eight other entrees that were all gnocchi, risottos and pasta. This was a nightmare situation in our busy kitchen because that one ticket took up every burner we had, and nearly everything on it was my responsibility. Meanwhile, the commis stood by watching, without anything to do. Then a miracle in disguise took place; our commis offered to handle the salmon…stating, “I’ve seared salmon a hundred times.” Of course, I was skeptical, but if there was one thing that working in restaurants had taught me, it’s that even the lowest man on the totem pole often has a skill set that can outmatch the rest of us. And so, out of desperation, I set him to the task. To my surprise, he didn’t even need to use one of my burners; instead he removed the grill from its seat over the flames and replaced it with a large cast-iron pan that I had never seen used in that kitchen before. He then gave it a quick seasoning with hot canola oil, wiped it down, and went on to cook one of the most uniform, perfectly seared pieces of salmon that I had ever seen. When the ticket was done, perfectly timed and all, and the plates were on their way to the table, I quickly humbled myself and asked our commis / grill man, “Can you teach me?” That was fifteen years ago, and that one night changed everything about how I have prepared this dish ever since. Today, when salmon is on the menu, there are smiles all around. Now, I’m going to show you just how easy it is to sear salmon. No sticking, no mutilated meat, perfectly cooked, seared and with a crispy skin. Let’s get to it. WATCH THE FULL VIDEO TUTORIAL HERE SEARED LEMON-BUTTER SALMON Think of this less as a recipe and more as a process. Feel free to mix up the seasonings and get creative once you’ve gotten the sear down. INGREDIENTS YOU’LL NEED(SERVES FOUR): 1 ½ pound salmon filet (portioned into four pieces) 1 tsp cumin 1 tsp paprika 1 whole lemon (quartered) 2 tbsp clarified butter or ghee ½ cup Castelvetrano olives (green Sicilian olives) Salt to taste 4-8 sprigs of thyme CLASSIC WINE PAIRINGS: Beaujolais Red Burgundy (fresh non-oaked style) Oregon Pinot (fresh, non-oaked style) Pinot Gris (Alsace) Riesling (more powerful, Austrian) Rosé FEATURED WINES: 2010 Calabretta Nerello Mascalese Sicilia Vigne Vecchie 2016 Forge Les Allies Dry Riesling, Finger Lakes Kelley Fox Wines Pinot Gris Maresh Vineyard THE PROCESS: 1. Take your salmon out of the refrigerator from 20 minutes to a ½ hour before cooking. 2. Place a large cast-iron pan over medium-high heat. 3. Pat each piece of salmon dry on both sides with a clean paper towel. 4. Assemble your mixture of cumin and paprika in a small bowl and whisk to consistency. 5. Line up the salmon on your cutting board, and using a sieve, sprinkle the seasoning mix over the salmon pieces to form a uniform coating. 6. Bring the salmon close to the pan and add one to two tablespoons of clarified butter or ghee to the cast-iron pan. This may start to smoke quickly. 7. Now season your salmon liberally with salt, and gently place each piece into the pan, skin side up. Be careful not to bunch the pieces together, and try not to move them once placed. 8. While the fish cooks (about 2 to 3 minutes), use your time to quarter the lemon, and place one wedge on each plate. 9. Pat the skin side gently with a clean paper towel, season liberally with salt and prepare to flip the salmon. A fish spatula works best due to its shape. When flipping the fish, be very careful not to splatter yourself with the hot butter. Flip each piece individually. 10. Bring the flame to high and allow to cook for one minute before returning it to medium-high. 11. Now add the green olives and sauté in the butter for another two minutes before removing the pan from the heat. The cast-iron pan will keep cooking your salmon. 12. Remove the olives and set aside for plating. 13. If you like your salmon medium-rare, then you can remove it from the pan to your plate. If you prefer medium-to-well, place the entire pan in a 350-degree oven for three to five minutes. 14. To plate, place a piece of seared salmon in the middle of your plate with the lemon wedge next to it. Portion out the olives onto each plate on the opposite side of the lemon. Place one to two sprigs of thyme on each piece of salmon. Lastly, spoon the hot butter mixture from your pan over each piece of salmon (and prepare to be met by one of the most amazing smells on earth as the butter gently cooks the thyme leaves). 15. You’re ready to serve. --Eric Guido, Secret to the Perfect Seared Salmon, May 2020 Check out previous Vinous in the Kitchen Recipes: Mastering Cast Iron Chicken Jump Start Spring with Asparagus Risotto

Clos De La Roilette

Clos de la Roilette Griffe du Marquis Fleurie Gamay 2017

Ripe strawberries, cherries, dried red fruits on the palate with sweet spice, and oak. Med+ body and acidity. Crunchy, med to med+ tannins. Long finish. Holy crap. Is this beauj? — 4 years ago


Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2017

Fruit -forward wine with a soft feel and just so easy to drink. I wish I paid more attention to it last night. Have to get another to property describe. :) — 4 years ago

Jason, Severn and 9 others liked this
Jason Brater

Jason Brater

Great Pinot at this price.

Kelley Fox Wines

Maresh Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015

Just gorgeous—maybe my favorite yet from Kelley Fox. The old vines, elevation and pacific breeze of this site clearly contribute to an incredible elegance and transparency. Vibrant strawberry, rhubarb and black cherry with spice, forest floor and tilled soil. I don’t have enough experience to know how high end wine ages under screw cap but honestly it’s in a great place right now. — 4 years ago

Peter, Anthony and 14 others liked this
Jason Keefer

Jason Keefer

Haven’t had that producer, but love the Maresh fruit!


Oberhäuser Leistenberg Kabinett Riesling 2018

Smoky, like a struck match. Good lemon and orange on the palate, slight lime brown sugar mojito scent, lots of rocks. Melon, cantaloupe or honeydew. Some cucumber. Smooth acid, lots of it, round and lush moving along the cheeks. Mint. A honeyed finish. A bit out of balance, but good still. I’ve got the windows open, getting ready to eat some sushi. It’s a good night to be stuck in an apartment in Brooklyn with the right supplies.

Gets better after a day open in the fridge. Integrates and becomes slightly sweet balanced on a sharp knife edge of acid minerals and swimming pool vibes.
— 4 years ago

Severn, Erik and 10 others liked this
Chris Shultz

Chris Shultz

@Andrew Schirmer i saved a bit for later today. I’m excited.
Aravind A

Aravind A Premium Badge

Ooh! Love this wine; does it live up to 2018 hype?
Chris Shultz

Chris Shultz

@Aravind Asok it was excellent with some air. After a night in the fridge everything was perfectly knitted together. The reduction was gone, for one. It’s pretty off-dry, and very prickly with minerals and acid, which needed that time to come together. I’ve had a couple of other basic estate 2018s but this was the first cru I’ve had and it was very good, a step up for sure.

Anthony Road

Finger Lakes Pinot Gris 2017

Loads of character here. Very earthy nose with lots of turned, rocky soil notes, over some pear, Golden Delicious apple fruit. Even an Alsace-like petrol note. Balanced and not too ripe in the mouth (a lot of Alsace Pinot Gris strike me as too ripe). Long minerally finish has some echoing savory notes. Terrific! — 4 years ago

Hugh, Ron and 26 others liked this

Enderle & Moll

Spätburgunder Rosé 2016

Drinks much more like a light red. In more of a hearty and savory territory as opposed to crisp and refreshing. Cherries, ripe strawberries, spice, herbal, faintly yeasty/sour finish. A touch of effervescence would have made this pretty much perfect. — 4 years ago

Severn, Pooneet and 22 others liked this
Pooneet K

Pooneet K Premium Badge

That stuffed pork loin looks pretty good too!
Peter van den Besselaar

Peter van den Besselaar Influencer Badge

Appetizing picture
Chris Shultz

Chris Shultz

I’ve got some in the mail. Sounds like it’ll be perfect when I can drink it outside again

Domaine Patrick Javillier

Aloxe-Corton Pinot Noir 2017

Paul K

I had to try one. It’s awesome. So light, the color Is medium garnet but more transparent than most. When I poured I worried this would be too thin, but not the case! The nose is floral, red fruit, and a touch of hay. Light body, but it dances. Cherries, pomegranate, strawberry... really nice. I can’t wait to try the next one after 5+ years and hope I give it time to let in some mushroom, soil, and brown sugar. I’m imagining this with that and think it’ll be a 97. — 4 years ago

P, Brandon and 21 others liked this


@Paul K Paul great post Cheers 🍷
Paul K

Paul K

Cheers @P A and @Rob Brobst III !!!


Vigne Vecchie Sicilia Nerello Mascalese 2010

Garnet with low concentration. VA and Brett.... until after two hours: leather, tar, tart cherry, dried herbs, and licorice. Large neutral oak. Elevated acidity, tannin, and body. — 5 years ago

Rick liked this