Broiled salmon is one of the all-time great weeknight meals — the effort-to-deliciousness ratio really can't be beat! Topped with a pat of spiced butter and served on a bed of fluffy brown rice, this is my favorite way to serve up tender fillets of fish.
There are plenty of ways to cook up a salmon fillet, but searing and broiling is my hands-down favorite method. The first step of searing the fish gives it a nice crispy bottom, and a quick trip under the broiler finishes the cooking in just a couple minutes. There's no flipping or nudging required — once you've laid the fish down in the hot pan, it does its thing without any fuss.
To keep the fish from sticking to the skillet, make sure that you wait until the oil is hot before you lay down the fillets. As the oil heats, it will begin to shimmer and ripple. When a tiny wisp of smoke comes up, you know it's ready. Oh, and be sure to use a fairly heavy-bottomed stainless steel or cast iron skillet — avoid thin pans or those with wood or plastic handles. Since the pan is going under the broiler, it needs to be of the sturdy, all-metal variety.
Baharat, a Middle Eastern spice blend.
Easy compound butter
Once your fish is finished cooking, it's time to gild the lily with a pat of aromatic, spiced butter. I love Baharat, a Middle Eastern spice blend of black pepper, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, and other warming spices. But use any spice blend you might have on hand — this is your chance to use up any odds and ends you may have in the cupboard! Spiced butter is also delicious on steamed vegetables and grilled meats.
Serve your fish atop a bed of rice, quinoa, or any other steamed grain you like. The grain will soak up the spiced butter as it melts over the top of the fillet, making every bite a savory mouthful!
Broiled Salmon with Spiced Baharat Butter
For the compound butter: 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tablespoon Baharat or other spice blend
1/2 teaspoon salt
For the salmon: Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound salmon fillets (typically 2 fillets)
To make the compound butter, stir together the butter, spice blend, and salt in a small bowl until thoroughly combined. Refrigerate until the salmon is ready.
You can also make the butter ahead of time and store it in the fridge or freezer. If making ahead, transfer the compound butter to a sheet of parchment or wax paper. Roll into a log, about five inches long and one inch in diameter. Twist the ends closed and secure with kitchen twine or rubber bands. Refrigerate for up to one week. Compound butter can also be frozen for up to a month.
To cook the salmon, turn on the broiler and position an oven rack a few inches below. Place a large (12-inch) skillet on the stovetop over medium-high heat, and coat the bottom of the pan generously with olive oil. When the oil begins to shimmer, gently place the salmon in the pan, leaving at least an inch of space between the fillets. The fish should sizzle on contact.
Do not move the fillets once they are in the pan. As the fish cooks, the fillets will turn from translucent to opaque. Allow the salmon to sear until the opaque color has traveled about one third of the way up the fillets and you are just beginning to see a bit of golden brown color around the edges, 2 to 3 minutes.
Position the skillet under the broiler. Broil until the fish is opaque and beginning to brown slightly on top, about three minutes. The fish should still yield slightly to the touch when you remove it from the oven, but should flake easily with a fork. If you like, you can use an instant read thermometer to check the fish for doneness. The USDA recommends a minimum internal temperature of 145°F, which should be measured at the thickest part of the fillet.
Cut the fillets in half and serve, topping each piece with a small pat of the compound butter.
Try other spice blends in the butter, such as curry powder or garam masala for an Indian-spiced twist. Or go a little spicier with berbere or chili powder, Moroccan with Ras el Hanout, or Mediterranean with za'atar.
As with any fish, buy the best salmon you can find and afford. For more information about best practices for buying salmon, take a look here: Salmon Fact Sheet from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch