In just a few minutes, with only a few ingredients, using just one pan, we're making an incredible dish featuring one of the world's best pan sauces. Whether you're an expert cook or just getting started, this is one recipe/technique that you must master—and the good news is, it couldn't be simpler.


Read the full recipe after the video.

Recipe Summary

5 mins
7 mins
12 mins

Piccata is one of my all-time favorite pan sauces, and while it's more commonly used for veal, pork, and chicken, it's absolutely perfect with a quickly seared salmon filet. Start to finish, this dish can be finished in about seven minutes, although to be fair, it might take a little longer if you insist on overcooking the fish, which unfortunately maybe people do.

There's no way to know what percentage of people who cook salmon, cook it too long, but I'm guessing that it's very high. It's pretty easy to do, and a half-inch thick piece of salmon can go from perfect, to dry and chalky in less than a minute. Once that happens, the fish completely changes in character, and it's like you're eating an entirely different food. So, above and beyond learning how to make one of the world's greatest pan sauces, I'm hoping the technique shown here minimizes the risk of that happening.

As I've said many times over the years, you can always cook something a little more, but you can't un-cook it. So, even if after you've followed these directions your salmon is a little undercooked, leave it in the sauce, over low heat for another minute or two, until it's perfect. By the way, since we are going to spoon the sauce over the top, you are allowed to poke into the flesh to check doneness. If you've been a serial salmon-over-cooker for decades, it may take a couple tries to dial things in, but regardless, I really hope you give this a try soon.


Original recipe yields 2 servings
The ingredient list now reflects the servings specified
Ingredient Checklist


Instructions Checklist
  • Season salmon with salt, pepper, and cayenne. Sprinkle flour onto one side of each fillet and pat gently onto the fish.

  • Heat clarified butter in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add salmon, floured side down, and let sear for 2 ½ minutes. Flip and sear the other side for 2 minutes. Remove to a plate and cover with foil.

  • Add capers to the skillet and press with the back of a fork to gently mash. Pour in wine and lemon juice; add lemon zest. Swirl the pan to combine. Let reduce by half, about 1 minute.

  • Reduce heat to low and add butter; swirl the pan or stir with a spoon or spatula until butter is almost fully melted. Transfer salmon and any accumulated juices from the plate back into the skillet. Allow butter to fully melt while spooning sauce over salmon.

  • Pour in water to thin sauce if needed; continue to spoon sauce over salmon and cook until salmon is fully cooked through and flakes easily with a fork. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the fillets should read about 145 degrees F (63 degrees C). Sprinkle parsley over top.

  • Remove from heat and transfer to a serving plate; spoon pan sauce over salmon.

Chef's Notes:

You can use olive oil instead of clarified butter, and tarragon or dill instead of parsley.

You should get about 1 1/2 teaspoons zest and 2 tablespoons juice from the lemon.

If not using wine, you can substitute with 3 tablespoons water plus the juice from 1/2 of a lemon.

Use center-cut salmon fillets for this; do not use tail pieces. Make sure your fillets are about ½-inch thick.

Nutrition Facts

566 calories; fat 42.8g; cholesterol 162.5mg; sodium 361.1mg; carbohydrates 7.9g; protein 34.7g. Full Nutrition