There are lots of salmon recipes out there, but not much talk of what is the best pan for cooking salmon. In this article, we will look at the 6 best types of pans for cooking salmon on your stovetop and in particular, the best type of skillet for cooking salmon. Each has its own advantages and challenges that you need to consider when choosing your go-to cookware.
When you are shopping for a skillet for cooking salmon, there are some universal things to keep in mind. The first is that it needs to have sloped sides that you can allow you to get a turner under your fish when it is time to take it out or turn it over. The next thing to keep in mind is size. Too small of a pan and you will have difficulty in turning your salmon over and you will fight the issue of crowding. Lastly, you need to buy quality. You can never go wrong by investing in good quality pans. Cheap pans perform poorly and need to be replaced fairly often.
Cast Iron Pans For Cooking Salmon
Cast iron has been used for cooking for at least a millennium. It is durable, affordable and if treated correctly is relatively non-stick. The advantage of cast iron for cooking salmon is that it can withstand high heat. You can use it on the stovetop, oven or broiler all with no issue. The other advantage in my book for cooking with cast iron is that they will not leach chemicals into your food as coated pans can.
Because it is so durable you can use any kind of utensils on it. Non-stick surfaces require wood or plastic ones to keep from damaging their surfaces.
The only downside is that while cast iron can hold a lot of heat, making it great for frying, it is not excellent at transmitting heat. This means that some spots in your pan will be hotter than others. If you are moving your food around in the pan this really isn’t a big issue, but it is something to be aware of.
When shopping for a cast iron pan, if you can find it, look for one with a finished surface. Most production cast iron pans these days have a rough surface making them less non-stick. Ones that are sanded or machined two a smooth finish cost more, but are better to cook on.
Teflon Pans For Cooking Salmon
Many people like cooking their salmon in Teflon pans, or those coated with a similar substance. The advantage, of course, is that you can use less oil and have your fish not stick to the cooking surface. The other advantage non-stick pans have is that they are typically built on an aluminum core, which transmits heat very effectively, giving your a very evenly heated cooking surface.
For me, I don’t like that it is a proven fact that non-stick coatings are toxic when heated above 570°F. This to me seems counter-intuitive if you are using it as a frying pan. Because of this heat limitation before the pan becomes toxic, you should never cook anything on more than medium in a Teflon pan. Additionally, it will take a lot of science to prove to me that eating Teflon as it flakes off pans is safe.
To help preserve that non-stick coating and keep it on the pan, you have to use wood or plastic utensils. I have yet to meet a plastic turner that I really liked.
Ceramic Coated Skillets for Cooking Salmon
Originally billed as a more environmentally friendly alternative to Teflon and other chemically created non-stick pans, ceramic coated pans have found a fan base, but also their detractors. Essentially ceramic pans are a metal pan base that has been coated with a ceramic slurry and then fired to harden the coating.
Ceramic pans for cooking salmon are fine, and won’t put chemicals into your food. They are not however as non-stick as Teflon. Their surfaces are also harder than those on non-stick pans, but you should still use non-metallic utensils on them because they will scratch the surface.
In my experience, in a relatively short amount of time, they lose their slick factor and start functioning more like a cast iron or stainless steel surface, possibly worse. While is it probably not suggested by the manufacturer, using a non-abrasive cleaner like Bon Ami to clean and polish the surface. This seems to help keep the surface smooth and slick longer. Eventually, though, it will need oil and be like other regular pans.
Stainless Steel Skillets for Salmon
If you are looking for a non-reactive, non-toxic surface, stainless steel is a great choice for cooking salmon. Like cast iron, you can use metal turners on stainless without harming it.
To deal with the issue of uneven heating, quality stainless steel pans are clad with several layers of different metals on the bottom. The better ones have 5 layers of steel or aluminum sandwiched in a shell of stainless steel that covers not just the bottom but extends from rim to rim.
Stainless steel pans are an excellent choice for cooking salmon and a whole host of other foods. Depending on the handle material you can even move them from stovetop to the oven.
Copper Pans for Cooking Salmon
A less common choice for pan cooking salmon is copper. Copper pans are exceedingly good at conducting heat giving a very even cooking surface which is prized by chefs. There are some significant downsides to copper though.
The first is that copper is very reactive. This means that it really needs to be clad with another metal like stainless steel or it will change the flavor of the foods cooked in it. Additionally, it is expensive and requires maintenance or it will corrode. If you are willing to pay the price and take good care of them, copper pans will cook salmon on a cooktop nicely.
Aluminum Pans for Cooking Salmon
A mainstay of commercial kitchen, aluminum pans are affordable workhorses. Aluminum pans for pan-frying salmon are light to use and do an excellent job of transferring heat, much like copper.
Raw aluminum almost immediately oxidizes to create a non-reactive coating that is incredibly hard. Many people worry about aluminum leaching into their food when they cook with aluminum pans. This is not really a concern unless you are cooking with an acidic sauce such as ones that are tomato-based and even then only an incredibly small amount will leach into your food.
The amount of aluminum that leaches into food, however, is minimal. In lab tests, tomato sauce that we cooked in an aluminum pot for two hours and then stored in the same pot overnight was found to contain only .0024 milligrams of aluminum per cup. (A single antacid tablet may contain more than 200 milligrams of aluminum.) Our science editor reports that the consensus in the medical community is that using aluminum cookware poses no health threat.Cooks Illustrated
In general aluminum, pans are very forgiving and you can use whatever utensils you want on them. They are softer than cast iron or stainless steel pans and can be scratched though if abused.
The Bext Pan For Cooking Salmon
Regardless of the material, any of these pans will cook salmon on your stove. Which material you choose will really come down to what features are the most important to you and price. For some, it is the non-stick properties of Teflon pans. For people like me, the utility and non-toxicity of cast iron and stainless steel are the best choices.
If you are unsure of your cooking skills or want to use the least amount of oil possible, use a high-quality non-stick pan and treat it nice. If you want a pure metal pan and don’t mind using a little oil to keep food from sticking, I would suggest an all-clad skillet for cooking salmon.
Just be sure to invest in good quality pans that will last many years. Going cheap is going to make cooking harder and leave you with pans that wear out too soon.
To help your shopping for a pan for cooking salmon on the stove-top, I’ve gone through and picked out what my choice would be in each category. These to me are the best combination of quality, price, and design in each of the materials. Yes, they are Amazon links which means any purchases you make from them help keep the light on here and my coffee mug full.