I am going to be cooking salmon for dinner tonight on the stove and debating whether to use a non-stick or metal pan.

I was going to use the non-stick at first, but saw an interesting approach where a guy puts olive oil and butter into his metal pan, which seems more flavorful.


  • Aren't non-stick pans metal?
    – Flimzy
    Aug 29, 2013 at 5:12
  • 1
    The downvotes on this question confuse me. Seems like the platonic, pure, perfect .se question - answerable with room for alternative perspectives, and of interest to other cooks. Aug 29, 2013 at 14:17
  • I also don't see why this was downvoted... If you downvoted, please leave a comment to help improve the question (or edit it!), since thats what helps SE sites improve.
    – samoz
    Aug 29, 2013 at 16:54

2 Answers 2


If you are pan-frying fish (not sauteeing - that is different), the type of pan you use should not be your primary concern. Any pan wide enough to hold your fish should be sufficient. You could use nonstick or cast iron. Both will work if proper technique is used.

Here are things to consider:

Salmon will stick to almost anything, even non-stick surfaces, when it cooks. The secret to not winding up with ruined salmon is in the chemistry of the cooking process. After the maillard reactions in the meat progress, the surface of the fish that is in contact with the pan will begin to caramelize, and that caramelization will cause the fish to automatically detach from the pan. The pan should be pretty hot to accomplish this, and it's important not to move the fish in the pan until this happens, unless you want a mess on your hands.

When I pan fry salmon, I find that I don't need much fat. I will usually not add any fat to the pan and simply brush the salmon with some canola oil and grind on some salt and pepper before adding it to a hot pan. Butter can also work, but I would use clarified butter because of its higher smoke point.

Other things to consider include:

  • Are you making a fillet or a steak? These have different geometries and lend to different cooking methods.

  • Thickness of the pieces. You want to make sure that the inside cooks before the outside is overcooked. Thicker pieces may need to be pan fried on both sides and then finished in a hot oven. Thinner pieces, such as a sockeye salmon fillet, can be done on the grill or under the broiler entirely.

  • Do you know your target temperature? Salmon is done when it reaches ~130 F. Get a thermometer and insert it into the thickest part of the meat when you think it might be done.

Hopefully that helps somewhat!

  • Selected as the answer due to discussion of the carmelization and factors of the fish. I ended up going with the stainless steel pan, but also using oil and butter to pan fry. Turned out beautifully!
    – samoz
    Aug 29, 2013 at 16:56

This is a matter of personal preference.

Assuming you are sauteeing or pan frying (as it would make no difference for poaching, for example):

There is no reason that you cannot put butter and olive oil in a non-stick pan.

Use a traditional pan if you want fond (the brown flavorful bits) to form at the bottom of the pan, to use as a the basis of a pan sauce. If your salmon is skin-on, that will help keep it intact. You will want to oil your pan well.

Use a non-stick pan if your priority is making sure you keep the fish intact.

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