What you’ll need
Cast-iron, carbon steel, stainless steel, or nonstick skillet
Achieving shatteringly crispy skin on pan-seared salmon or sablefish (black cod) is easier than you think. Surprisingly, a well-seasoned cast-iron or carbon steel skillet yields the best results. As with grilling, once the fish is well cooked on one side, it will easily release from the pan without sticking or breaking. However, a nonstick skillet works well too, though it should not be heated without oil or above medium heat. Surface moisture on the fish will inhibit crisping and increase the likelihood of it sticking to the pan.
1. Pat the fish very dry with paper towels, brushing off any scales remaining on the surface. Set the fish, skin side up, on a plate and refrigerate, uncovered, for 30 minutes to dry out the skin.
2. Heat the pan over medium-high heat until it’s very hot. Just before cooking, season the skin with salt. Add 2 tablespoons of oil to the pan and heat until it shimmers. To test for the correct heat, hold one edge of the fillet in the pan. It’s ready when it sizzles.
3. Add the fish skin-side down to the hot skillet and press gently with a spatula to flatten for 10 seconds. Lower the heat to medium, then remove the spatula and cook on the skin side until the fish is nearly done, 5 to 8 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillet. When you see the sides of the fillet become opaque and the bottom ¼-inch is golden, season the top with salt and pepper or desired spices, then carefully flip and cook for 10 to 30 seconds, depending on the thickness of the fillet, to the desired internal temperature (see How to Know When Fish is Done Cooking)