Garlic Butter Salmon might look like a simple recipe, but it’s got clout. Salmon is basted continuously with bubbling garlic butter so it seeps into every crack and crevice. A cheffy technique that’s actually dead simple yet produces a luxurious result – you’ll feel (and look) like a pro!
(PS. Once you’ve done salmon, do it for steak!)
Garlic Butter Salmon
I was a bit hesitant to share this recipe, thinking, “Salmon cooked in garlic butter? So obvious. So simple,” But as I thought about it, I realised that I did actually have some things to say about this “simple” recipe.
Like: finely chop the garlic with a knife; don’t use a garlic press/crusher. Garlic crushers make the garlic bits too small such that they burn, and they force out the garlic juice so it spits everywhere when it hits the butter.
And: don’t just pan fry the salmon in butter. Nooo! If you really want a great garlic butter salmon, we need to baste, baste, baste!
Plus: my specific sear-then-baste times. Following this method gets you maximum butter basting with perfectly cooked salmon every time, rather than overcooked salmon because you got too caught up in a nerve-racking basting frenzy.
Well, well, well. What do you know? Turns out I do have a recipe to share with you!
What you need for this Garlic Butter Salmon recipe
Here’s what you need to cook this salmon recipe:
Salmon fillets – Opt for skinless, if you can. More exposed flesh means more garlic butter will seep into the meat! But if you’ve only got skin-on, it’s really not a big deal and I’ve included directions in the recipe;
Garlic – Because I think I mentioned this is a garlic butter salmon? Finely chop the garlic using a knife and don’t use a garlic crusher because the garlic will burn too quickly otherwise. Also garlic crushers force the garlic juice out, causing it to spit everywhere when it hits the hot butter;
Butter – 99% of the time when cooking, I use unsalted butter. For this recipe though, I used salted because I happened to have it. Conveniently, salted butter here partially takes care of the seasoning for you. If you only have unsalted, just add a pinch of salt into the butter;
Lemon – Just a little squeeze towards the end, for the tiniest tang to balance the richness of the butter. It’s not intended to be a lemon butter sauce like this one. Most people wouldn’t even identify lemon in this!
Parsley – For some colour as a garnish.
How to make this Garlic Butter Salmon recipe
This exercise is fabulously fast, and you’ll feel like a pro cook as you baste that bubbling butter over the salmon!
Season salmon with salt and pepper;
Sear the curved presentation side of the salmon (ie. put it in upside down) and cook for 3 minutes until it is nicely golden;
Butter and garlic – Turn the salmon, cook another minute, then add the butter. As soon as the butter melts, add the garlic; then
Baste, baste, baste – Immediately after you’ve added the garlic and even before it has had a chance to go golden, start basting. To do this, tilt the pan slightly so the butter pools on one side. Then scoop up the butter using a large spoon and spoon it over the salmon. The garlic will cook as you baste so by the time the salmon is done, the garlic is perfectly golden;
Baste 1 1/2 minutes – Baste for 1 1/2 minutes in total, which should be a total cooking time of around 3 minutes for the second side (1 minute cooking after turning + 30 seconds butter melting time + 1 1/2 minutes basting). Target an internal temperature of 50°C/122°F for medium-rare (optimum juiciness), with the thermometer inserted into the middle of the thickest part of the salmon. See below for more information on the internal temperature of cooked salmon; and
Rest 3 minutes, then serve with the garlic butter in the pan!
Internal temperature of cooked salmon
|Target “pull temperature”
(ie. take off stove)
after resting 3 mins
|Medium-rare (recommended) – Optimum juiciness
Restaurant-style / my preference
|Medium – Safest, not as juicy but still not overcooked!
While the FDA recommends an internal temperature of 63°C/145°F for cooked salmon (which is a fully-cooked medium), you’ll find that most chefs prefer salmon at 50°C/122°F. This is medium-rare which means the salmon is just cooked through and not raw, and is at its optimum juiciness.
These are the “pull temperatures” which means it is the target temperature while the salmon is still on the stove. Once you pull it off the stove, the salmon needs to be rested for 3 minutes before serving, during which time the internal temperature will rise by 3°C from 50°C/122°F to 53°C/127°F.
I promised you perfectly cooked salmon. So here’s a nice up-close-and-personal so you can see I did not lie . Not a speck of dry, woolly meat to be seen! This is what 50C flesh looks like.
“So much butter!” Yes … and no
You’ll see that this salmon recipe calls for 90g / 6 tablespoons of butter for 4 servings – more than I ordinarily use for a single recipe. We need that much so we can baste effectively. If you skimp on the butter you’ll find yourself scraping desperately at your pan for the basting.
The butter also has a tempering effect and regulates temperature. This means more evenly cooked salmon, and less smoking / burning of fats and meat in the pan.
6 tablespoons total works out at 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter per serving which isn’t an obscene amount. But it is quite a rich dish – salmon being a rich and oily fish anyway, plus a butter sauce. So you might choose not to serve the fish with all the butter in the pan; I know I don’t.
In which case, save the leftover butter for tomorrow. Smear hardened butter onto bread and pan fry until lightly golden and crisp, like pictured below. In my photo it wasn’t yesterday’s butter, I just squashed bread into the butter left in the pan and fried it up until golden. It’s ridiculously good!
The Garlic Butter Salmon here is pictured in the post with Cauliflower Puree – a nice change from mashed potato which I often predictably feature. Add to that a handful of leafy greens dressed in a French Dressing and you have it done: Dinner on the table in less than 20 minutes. And what a dinner! – Nagi x
Watch how to make it
Garlic Butter Salmon recipe
It may seem like a lot of butter for one recipe, but you need it to ensure good basting coverage. You do not have to use all of it for serving. Save leftover butter (even if just a smear!) and pan fry bread with it tomorrow, see post for photos. It’s Amazing – with a capital A!
- 4 salmon fillets (180g/6oz each), skinless and boneless
- 1/2 tsp salt , cooking / kosher
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp garlic (~2 cloves) , finely minced by hand (don’t use a garlic press)
- 90g / 6 tbsp salted butter , cut into cubes (or unsalted + 1/4 tsp salt)
- 1 tsp lemon juice , plus more to taste
- 2 tsp parsley , finely chopped
Season salmon: Take salmon out of fridge 30 minutes prior to cooking. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.
Sear salmon 3 mins: Heat oil in large non stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add salmon, presentation side (ie. curved side) down, and cook for 3 minutes until golden.
Turn, cook 1 min, then add butter: Turn salmon and cook the other side for 1 minute. THEN put the butter in.
Baste 1 1/2 minutes: Once butter is melted and foaming, add garlic and immediately start spooning the bubbling butter continuously over the salmon for 1 1/2 minutes. To do this, tilt the pan slightly so the butter pools on one side. Use a large spoon to scoop the butter up and spoon it over the salmon.
Remove salmon from stove: Check Internal temperature of salmon. It should be 50°C/122°F for medium-rare (optimum juiciness pull temp). Remove salmon to a plate. Rest for 3 minutes – it will rise to 53°C/127°F. (See Note 2 for internal temperatures)
Add lemon juice to butter: Put pan back on unlit stove to keep butter hot. Add lemon juice.
Other fish – You can use this method of cooking for any fish suitable for pan frying.
2. Internal temperature of cooked salmon:
3. Leftovers – Cooked salmon keeps for 3 to 4 days in the fridge. Gently reheat in oven or microwave, or use flaked at room temperature in salads, sandwiches etc.
4. Nutrition per serving, assuming all the butter is consumed.
More stovetop salmon love
Life of Dozer
Weekend visit to the hairdresser, a necessary evil in this gal’s life. Every time the hairdresser fiddled with the foils in my hair, Dozer would perk up, expecting something tasty. Because when he hears the rustle of foil at home, it’s usually meat related – slow roasting a lamb, resting a steak loosely covered etc.