How to Cook Steelhead Salmon Fillet

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What is known as "steelhead salmon" is actually an ocean-going species of trout, but it's often referred to as salmon by markets and restaurants for good reason. While steelhead's flavor is milder than most salmon varieties, its relatively high-fat content places it closer to salmon than trout in appearance and texture. These similarities extend to culinary preparation. As with salmon, steelhead can be prepared in a variety of ways, from grilling to broiling. Pan-searing or pan-roasting steelhead, however, results in a healthy, delicious meal in minutes with little cleanup.

Pan-Seared Steelhead

Step 1

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Keep the fish refrigerated until you are ready to cook. Dry the fillets with paper towels, then season the flesh liberally with salt and pepper. Adjust the seasoning according to taste.

Step 2

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Add oil to the skillet and preheat it over medium-high heat. The skillet is ready when the oil is just beginning to smoke.

Step 3

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Place the fillets in the skillet with the skin-side up. Allow at least an inch between fillets. Sear the flesh of the fish for about 2 minutes. Turn the fillets over and sear them on their skins until the bottom of the fillet appears quite firm, or about 5 minutes.

Step 4

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Use a metal fish spatula to remove the fillets from the skillet. If you wish to serve the fish skinless, place the edge of the spatula just above the skin. The flesh will easily separate, leaving a perfectly seared bottom and no skin. Serve immediately.

Pan-Roasted Steelhead

Step 1

...

Keep the fish refrigerated until you are ready to cook. Dry the fillets with paper towels, then season the flesh of the fish liberally with salt and pepper. Adjust the seasoning according to taste.

Step 2

...

Add oil to the skillet and preheat it over medium-high heat. The skillet is ready when the oil is just beginning to smoke.

Step 3

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Place the fillets in the skillet with the skin-side down. Allow at least an inch between them. Sear the steelhead on their skins until the bottom of the fillets appear quite firm, or about 5 minutes.

Step 4

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Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover the skillet. Allow the fish to roast, covered, until the tops of the fillets have just turned opaque, no longer than 2 minutes.

Step 5

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Use a metal fish spatula to remove the fillets from the skillet. If you wish to serve the fish skinless, place the edge of the spatula just above the skin to remove only the flesh. Serve immediately.

Things You'll Need

  • 2 steelhead fillets, skin-on

  • Kosher salt to taste

  • Pepper to taste

  • Light olive oil

  • Heavy-bottomed skillet with lid

  • Metal fish spatula

Tip

The decision as to whether to sear or roast your fish is dictated by taste. Pan-searing results in a firmer, flakier interior with a crisp top and seared bottom. Pan-roasting results in a similarly seared bottom and a moister interior. In general, pan-roasting appeals to diners who prefer their salmon in the medium to medium-rare range, while pan-searing appeals if you prefer your fish medium-well or well-done.

Warning

When cooking over high heat, keep an extra pan handy in the rare event that smoke overwhelms your exhaust hood's capacity. If the skillet produces too much smoke, remove it from the heat; remove the fillets from the skillet and cover the smoking skillet with the extra pan. Allow the skillet to cool, covered, under the hood.

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