A salmon steak cut is a piece of salmon cut perpendicular through the spine and includes the spine bone and belly cavity. If you love flavorful salmon and want both fatty and leaner parts of the fish, then salmon steaks are your next dinner plan. This salmon steak recipe will teach you how to make evenly seasoned fish with a crispy and flakey texture with a wet brine.
I like how salmon steaks cook more evenly on a pan than regular filets since you don’t have the really thin part of salmon cooking for as long as the thick parts.
Where to buy salmon steaks
Sometimes, buying salmon steaks can be tricky. I like to use InstaCart to see which stores generally stock salmon steaks before I spend hours trying to find them in different grocery stores. I’ve had good luck getting them at my local H-Mart or other Asian markets for about $10.99 per pound.
They are generally more expensive at Asian markets like Mitsuwa or 99 Ranch, but you can also find them cheaper at Super King or Stater Bros. for about $7.99 per pound. Some people can also find them at Costco; however, I’ve never seen them at my local warehouses.
Salmon steak vs. salmon fillets
Salmon steaks are cut perpendicular to the fish’s spine and include the spine, whereas the filets are cut parallel to the spine, with many of the bones removed. Since the filets are cut along the spine, you can get a more significant cut of fish for more servings. The filets are often flakier because they are leaner, the fattier parts are often towards the belly of the salmon, which are cut out and disposed of. Salmon steaks have meat from both the lean and fatty parts of the fish and can offer different textures and flavors of the fish when cooked.
Seasoning / wet brine ingredients
For this recipe, I use a quick, 20-minute wet brine to ensure the salmon is thoroughly and evenly seasoned. The brine also keeps moisture locked in during searing and prevents albumin from coming out of the fish during cooking. Albumin is the protein inside the salmon that comes out if you overcook the fish.
All I add to the wet brine is filtered water and kosher salt (if you use table salt, cut the salt amount in half). Since this is only a quick brine, I leave the salmon and wet brine on the counter for 15 minutes with a lid. Towel off the salmon after brining it to get a good sear and season with more salt and ground black pepper.
How to pan-cook salmon steaks
There are many ways to cook salmon steaks, like pan-searing or baking in the oven. If you’re camping or BBQing, you can also try grilling. Before pan-searing the salmon, ensure they are at room temperature so they can cook evenly. I like to use a well-seasoned cast iron pan because they sear very well and are relatively non-stick.
Preheat the cast iron over medium heat and add some avocado oil (or other oil with a high smoke point). Carefully lower the salmon steaks on the pan and cook on each side for about 4-5 minutes. To figure out when to flip your fish, you’ll know when it easily releases from the pan. I like to use a fish turner for moving the fish without breaking the steak.
Sear the fish for another 4-5 minutes and use an internal thermometer to see if it’s reached about 130 °F. I like to add the butter, garlic, and thyme at this point to add more flavor and coat the fish with the mixture. Once the fish hits 135 °F, remove it from the pan and serve immediately.
The FDA states a fully cooked salmon measures at 145 °F, but I’ve found that pulling it at 135 °F is okay because it finishes cooking with the residual heat and doesn’t overcook in the pan.
What goes well with salmon steaks?
There are so many sides to eat with salmon steaks. Here are our favorites:
- Seasoned rice
- Cold broccolini salad with sesame dressing
- Asian coleslaw
- Sauteed green beans with garlic and butter.
If you love salmon, you should also check out how to make pesto salmon, broiled salmon, miso-glazed salmon, and smoked salmon. And if you end up with more salmon at the end of the day, try making the viral salmon rice bowl with your leftovers.
Can salmon steak be medium rare?
Fully cooked salmon has an internal temperature of 145 °F, which the FDA states is a safe temperature to eat salmon. However, sometimes salmon can be overcooked at higher temperatures, so I prefer to pull my salmon from the pan or oven at around 130-135 °F so the residual heat can finish cooking it on the counter.
Medium rare salmon is measured at an internal temperature around 120 °F. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this temperature unless you KNOW for sure your salmon comes from a reputable source (like Catalina Offshore) that has taken the proper procedures to freeze the fish long enough to kill parasites.
Pan-Seared Salmon Steaks
- 2 10 oz salmon steaks one-inch thick
- 6 c filtered water
- 8 tbsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ¼ tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp avocado oil or other high smoke point oil
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 4 cloves garlic smashed
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- container with a lid
- measuring cups and spoons
- cast iron pan or saute pan
- fish turner
- paper towels
- Remove any bones poking out of the fish carefully with your fingers or tweezers.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the salt and water. Whisk until the salt dissolves and place the salmon steaks in the water. Make sure they are covered completely. Let sit on the counter for 20 minutes to brine.
- Remove the salmon steaks from the brine and use paper towels to completely dry them off.
- Preheat the cast iron pan over medium heat and add the oil.
- Lower the salmon steaks onto the pan and let them sear for about five minutes per side until they easily release from the pan. You shouldn’t need much force to release them from the pan.
- After five minutes, turn the salmon over and cook for an additional 5 minutes. The tops should be crisp and seared.
- Add the butter, garlic, and thyme sprigs to the pan. Use a spoon to coat the salmon with the melted butter garlic. Cook for an additional 3 minutes.
- Use an instant-read thermometer to test the temperature. It should be done at 145 °F, but I remove it around 130-135 °F and let the residual heat finish cooking on the counter.