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Pan Seared Salmon Steaks

Just 5 simple ingredients to make the most delicious pan-seared salmon steaks. This recipe takes less than 15 minutes to make—a super simple ideas for a weeknight seafood dinner. Serve these salmon steaks over rice or with pasta and a salad for an easy dinner.

Salmon steak over rice on a plate
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This easy salmon recipe has just a few ingredients that give it all the flavor it needs: soy sauce, lemon juice, onion. Salt and pepper. Seafood is easy like that.

Don't be intimidated by cooking salmon! Everything is cooked in 1 pan, so you have minimum prep, little cleanup. All you need is a large pan with a lid and a cutting board.

Salmon steaks on a serving plate

Salmon steaks vs salmon fillets

Salmon steak is a cut of salmon that is cut perpendicular to the length of the fish through the spine bone. Salmon steaks are U-shaped and still have the spine bone in the center and the skin still attached to the outside of the salmon. Salmon fillets are cut parallel to the spine bone. Salmon fillets are typically sold deboned and sometimes have skin on one side. Fillets can be sold in one large fillet that is 2-3 lb big or in smaller pieces.

For both types of cuts, the skin is very easy to remove from the fish once it is cooked. And of course, you can use that salmon skin to make salmon skin "bacon." Salmon steaks are great for pan-searing because the center bone helps keep the tender flaky salmon from falling apart.... if you choose to leave the bones in while cooking (see tips below).

If you want to see more salmon recipes, check out this mayo-baked salmon, which uses whole fillets (awesome when cooking for a crowd!), and these blackened salmon rice bowls made with individual-portions salmon fillets.

Plates of rice with pan-fried salmon steaks.

How to remove bones from salmon steaks

The simplest way to do this is to ask the fish monger (aka the guy or gal who works the fish counter) to debone the fish for you. Unfortunately, many large supermarkets don't do this for customers. 

In that case, my advice is to leave the bones in until the salmon is cooked, and then take the bones out as you eat. This is the same approach to eating a whole fish, which is very common in Latin American and Caribbean countries and restaurants. It's a bit annoying to dig through bones as you eat, but it is SOO MUCH EASIER to remove bones from cooked salmon than to pull them out of raw salmon. So if you have to remove the bones at some point, then why not choose the easier way?? Besides, keeping the bones in makes it easier to cook the salmon steaks in one piece.

But of course, if you're serving this to kids or having a fancy dinner party, you might not want to leave the bones in. In that case, you'll need to remove all the bones before cooking. For this, you'll need a boning knife, fish tweezers, a cutting board, and lots of patience. Maybe disposable gloves, depending on how squick-avoidant you are.

Here is a great guide for how to remove bones from salmon steaks. Basically, you'll cut along the inner part of the U-shape to remove the membrane and cut around the spine to the center of the skin (but do not cut through the skin). Then you'll turn your knife around and cut on the other side to remove the spine bone and the other side of the membrane alone the U-shaped center. Then grab the fish tweezers and remove all the pin bones, which are the sharp needle-like bones that will be stuck in the salmon flesh. It's messy and takes a while. And it's hard to make sure you get ALL the pin bones, so you still have to be careful when you eat.

But of course, if you decide that removing bones from salmon is way too much work, you can just buy salmon fillets and follow this easy recipe of salmon with soy sauce. You might need to cut down on the total cook time because fillets are typically thinner than steaks.

More salmon recipes to try: Salmon Bites

Ingredients to cook salmon steaks with soy sauce.

Ingredients

  • 4 salmon steaks, thawed if frozen. I love wild Alaskan salmon whenever I can find it at a good price! Ask the fish monger to remove the bones, if they do that at your store. Or read the tips above for removing bones.
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce, divided (if you want to keep this gluten-free, use a gluten-free soy-sauce)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (from 1 small lemon, fresh lemon juice is best!) divided, or use lime juice instead
  • Salt & black pepper, to taste
  • Fresh herbs for garnish - such as parsley leaves, scallions, or chives

Equipment

The only special equipment you need for this recipe is a large 12-inch pan with a lid. A smaller pan would be too crowded. A lid is highly recommended because it helps to cover the pan and keep the heat in to cook the salmon through without burning it. If your large pan doesn't have a lid, I love this universal lid that I use on most of my pots and pans.

Other stuff you might need:

  • Instant read meat thermometer. If you don't have one, you can test the done-ness of the salmon by poking into the salmon steaks and seeing if it's flaky and cooked on the inside.
  • Boning knife and fish tweezers, if you choose to de-bone the fish before cooking. If you don't have a boning knife, then a small sharp knife will do. 

Instructions

Before getting started, decide whether you want to debone the salmon before or after cooking.

Season the top sides of the salmon steaks with salt and pepper, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon lemon juice.

4 salmon steaks on a cutting board seasoned with soy sauce and lemon juice

Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the chopped onion and sauté until it starts softening and becomes translucent. Don't let it burn.

Sauteed chopped onion in a pan.

Move the sauteed onion to the side of the pan so it's not over direct heat. Add the rest of the olive oil and the salmon steaks to the same pan, seasoned side down. Season the other side with the remaining salt and pepper. Pour the rest of the soy sauce and lemon juice over the tops of the salmon. Cook for 5 minutes, taking care not to burn the salmon.

Collage of 2 pictures showing how to add salmon steaks to a pan with sauteed onions.

After 5 minutes carefully flip each salmon steak, then cover the pan with a lid and cook until the salmon is fully cooked - about 5 more minutes, depending on the thickness of the salmon.  If you have thick salmon steaks, they might need a few more minutes. The USDA recommends an internal temperature of 145F for fish.

Seared salmon steaks in a cast iron pan.

Garnish with fresh herbs and serve hot, spooning the sauteed onions and sauce over the salmon.

Piece of salmon and rice on a fork.

What to serve with salmon steaks

These salmon steaks are neutral enough to go great with any side dish! My main consideration for the side dish for salmon steaks is that I want a QUICK side dish! The salmon cooks SO QUICKLY that I wouldn't want to turn a 15 minute dinner into a 45 minute dinner because the side dish is taking too long to cook. Quinoa, if started before you start on the salmon, will be ready in about 15 minutes. Instant microwave rice and couscous are both very quick. Microwave "baked" potatoes are quick too.

For vegetables, I like to serve a salad or a veggie that cooks SUPER FAST, like these roasted shishito peppers. A spiralized salad, or this summer chickpea salad with veggies is great. Sesame cucumber salad takes just 5 minutes to make, and this orzo coleslaw salad is both filling and nutritious, and is quick to put together if you pre-cooked the orzo.

If you enjoyed this recipe, let me know with a comment and a star rating below. And don't forget to share it on Facebook and save it on Pinterest for later!

Salmon steaks on a serving plate
Print Recipe
5 from 3 votes

Pan-Seared Salmon Steaks

5 ingredients and 15 minutes to make delicious Pan-Seared Salmon Steaks! Great for an easy weeknight dinner. Read the notes below the recipe for tips on removing bones from salmon steaks.
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time15 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Diet: Kosher
Servings: 4
Author: Kate

Ingredients

Salmon Steaks with Sauteed Onion
  • 4 salmon steaks - please read the notes below the recipe about removing bones
  • 1 small yellow onion - finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil - divided
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce - divided
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice - divided
  • salt and pepper - to taste
  • fresh herbs for garnish - such as diced parsley, scallions, or chives

Special equipment

Instructions

  • Before getting started, decide whether you're removing bones from the salmon steaks before or after cooking. See notes below the recipe.
  • Sautee chopped onion in 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat until the onion starts softening and becomes translucent. Don't let it burn.
  • While the onion is cooking, season the tops of the salmon steaks with salt and pepper, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice.
  • Move the sauteed onion to the side of the pan so it's not over direct heat. Add the rest of the olive oil to the pan, and add the salmon steaks to the same pan, seasoned side down. Season the other side with salt and pepper and the remaining soy sauce and lemon juice. Cook for 5 minutes, taking care not to burn the salmon.
    Collage of 2 pictures showing how to add salmon steaks to a pan with sauteed onions.
  • Carefully flip each salmon piece, then cover the pan with a lid and cook until the salmon is fully cooked, about 5 more minutes, depending on the thickness of the salmon. The internal temperature should be 145F.
  • Garnish with fresh herbs and serve hot, spooning the sauteed onions and sauce over the salmon.

Notes

Deboning salmon steaks: See if the fish monger will remove the bones for you when buying the salmon steaks. If not, my advice is to leave the bones in until the salmon is cooked and take the bones out as you eat (like at a lot of Caribbean restaurants). It's a bit annoying to dig through bones as you eat, but it is SOO MUCH EASIER to remove bones from cooked salmon than to pull them out of raw salmon. 
But if you're serving this to kids or having a fancy dinner party, you might want to remove all the bones before cooking. Here is a great guide for how to remove bones from salmon steaks. Basically, you'll cut along the belly flap (the U-shaped center) to remove the membrane and cut around the spine to the center of the skin (but do not cut through the skin). Then you'll turn your knife around and cut on the other side to remove the spine bone and the other side of the belly flap. Then use fish tweezers to remove all the pin bones, which are the sharp needle-like bones in the salmon flesh. It's messy and takes a while. And it's hard to make sure you get ALL the pin bones, so you still have to be careful when you eat.
Nutrition facts: The nutrition facts will depend on the size of your salmon steaks. Added salt is not included in the sodium estimate because it depends on how much salt you use.

Nutrition

Calories: 310kcal (16%) | Carbohydrates: 2g (1%) | Protein: 36g (72%) | Fat: 16g (25%) | Saturated Fat: 2g (10%) | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 94mg (31%) | Sodium: 1080mg (45%) | Potassium: 879mg (25%) | Fiber: 0.2g (1%) | Sugar: 0.5g (1%) | Vitamin A: 68IU (1%) | Vitamin C: 3mg (4%) | Calcium: 25mg (3%) | Iron: 2mg (11%)

The nutritional information displayed is an estimate and not to be used as dietary or nutritional advice. Consult a nutritionist or dietician for nutritional info based on the exact ingredients you use.

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