02 Jul Pan Fried Salmon Cutlets


Pan Fried Salmon Cutlets

2 July 2024

Pre - Heating - allow 40 - 60 mins - PREP. TIME: 5 MINs   -   COOK TIME: 5 mins   -   SERVES: 1

Fish cutlets are vastly superior to fillets. Because they are the same thickness all the way through cutlets cook evenly, the skin around the flesh keeps everything in place and if you are worried about bones - these salmon bones are quickly identified and can be easily removed after cooking.

I have written this recipe for one. A 20cm pan is the perfect size for one cutlet. For 2 people you will need a bigger pan 25 - 30cm. I find cooking cutlets this way tricky for many more people unless you have a hot grill or barbeque with more room. If barbequing you could still cook one cutlet in a pan and then create enough pan-sauce to serve with the other cutlets. See the variations below.

The process of pan frying is very simple so long as you do not try and skip the preparation of heating the pan and salting the fish.  If the pan is not hot enough - this dish will fail. If the fish is not salted first - it will be unremarkable.

Select a pan that accommodates the cutlets without crowding or being so large that any juices burn off before the fish is cooked.  Heat the pan in the oven or over a flame so that it is searingly hot; paint the cutlet with olive oil and place in the pan. It only takes a few minutes to cook - you want a good, crisp golden crust before you turn the cutlet. Turn once only - the side that is now facing up - is your presentation side - this is what you see on the plate, so it needs to look appetising. Paint with oil and juices from the pan or fresh olive oil. Do not overcook as the fish will continue cooking once removed from the heat.  Serve immediately with a pan sauce - see the variations below the recipe.

You will probably need to specially order cutlets from your fish monger. Ask for cutlets 1 -2 cm thick. Buy extra if you like - they freeze well!

We love to eat salmon cooked this way with a Greek Village Salad. A Greek rice pilaf is also an excellent accompaniment.

ingredients for 2 people

1 x 1- 2 cm thick sliced salmon cutlets

Olive oil

Salt and Pepper


4-6 cherry tomatoes

4 black olives


Chopping board and kitchen knife

20cm fry pan

Heavy duty oven proof towel or mitts

Tongs and a Spatula for turning and lifting the fish

Basting brush for painting on the olive oil

A heated serving plate 


Step 1 - Preparation

When you get the fish home, unwrap it, pat it dry using clean kitchen paper towel. Place it on a dish and store uncovered in the refrigerator until ready to use.

30 - 60 minutes before cooking - remove the fish from the fridge - pat it dry with paper towel and bring to room temperature for 30 - 60 minutes before cooking

40 - 60 minutes before cooking preheat the oven to 220 C. 

Place the oven proof pan or griddle in the hot oven and heat for 20 - 30 minutes before you are ready to cook.

10 minutes before cooking salt the cutlet on both sides with 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt.

While the pan is heating and the fish is coming to room temperature - prepare the other ingredients

RInse and trim the parsley and chop finely.

Rinse and halve the tomatoes lengthways.

Rinse and dry the olives

Pour 2 teaspoons of olive oil onto your hands and rub over the fish cutlet.

Step 3 - Cook

Turn the heat on top of the stove to high.

Turn the oven off and place the serving dish in the warm oven.

Carefully remove the hot pan or griddle from the oven, protecting your hands with a quality oven mitt or dry towel.

Place over high heat on top of the stove and lightly paint the interior of the pan or griddle with olive oil.

Once the oil is smoking - which will be almost immediately, gently place the cutlet in the pan.

Baste the top of the fish with olive oil

After a minute or two - check the underside of the fish - it should come away from the base easily and be becoming golden brown and crispy.

Once the underside is well coloured and crisp - baste the top of the fish with more olive oil from the pan and gently turn the cutlet over using the tongs and spatula.

Allow the fish to continue cooking on the other side for another minute or two,  baste the top of the fish as before.  

Carefully transfer the cooked fish to the heated serving plate - using the tongs and the spatula.

If you are concerned that the fish is undercooked - pop it into the warmed oven allow to cook just for another minute or two.

Drizzle the oil and juices from the pan over the fish.

Place the pan back over medium heat,  add a little olive oil if you need to and then add the tomatoes. Allow them to blacken slightly in the hot pan and just begin to blister. Toss in the olives to warm through. 
Turn off the heat.

Step 4 - To Serve

Arrange the blistered tomatoes and olives over the salmon. Garnish with parsley. Grind over black pepper and drizzle with olive oil.

Garnish with lemon quarters if you like.


Add capers to the tomatoes and olives.

Garnish with chopped parsley, or  fronds of fennel and lemon zest.

Sprinkle with sea salt, grind over some black pepper and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. 

Arrange the quarters of lemon around the fish.

Serve immediately


Recipe by Elizabeth Peddey

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