Cast-Iron Salmon With Baby Kale Salad

Whip up a delicious dinner that satisfies the mind and appetite.

Cast-Iron Salmon with Baby Kale Salad
Photo: Photographer: Antonis Achilleos; Prop Stylist: Christine Keely; Food Stylist: Ruth Blackburn
Active Time:
25 mins
Total Time:
25 mins

You know it's true—everything tastes better when it's cooked in a cast-iron skillet . That's especially true for this easy, perfectly tender salmon ; the skillet's nonstick surface and its superb ability to conduct heat evenly make it the perfect tool for the job. Paired with an effortless fast-fix salad, this recipe is one of our favorite super-fast and healthy weeknight suppers .

Why This Salmon Supper Is so Darn Good for You

Are we all on board the Salmon Fans Express? If you haven't heard, salmon has a wealth of health benefits. Thanks to its abundance of omega-3 fatty acids, salmon can help prevent or reduce the effects of cardiovascular disease, cancer, Alzheimer's, and arthritis. It's also packed with vitamin B-12, which keeps your brain sharp and helps you feel energized. On top of that, this salmon is served on a bed of vitamin- and nutrient-packed baby kale that's tossed with a light vinaigrette, which delivers big flavor without a lot of extra fat or calories.

How to Pick Out the Best Salmon

Whether you're visiting your local fish market or strolling the freezer aisle at the grocery store, there are a ton of options out there when it comes to salmon. Fresh, frozen, farmed, wild, fillets, sides, and tail portions—oh my!

Before you get overwhelmed by all the choices, stop and take a deep breath—the best salmon for you is what makes sense to your pocketbook. Sure, you can pay top dollar for wild Alaskan salmon. You can also pay less for frozen farmed Atlantic salmon. And that's perfectly OK. Pick whatever works for your budget, and don't worry about buying it frozen—there's a good bet that any non-frozen salmon you find at the store was—until recently—very much frozen.

Skinless Vs. Skin-On Fillets

There are folks out there who love eating crispy salmon skin; I am not one of them. For this recipe, however, using skin-on fillets gives you an extra advantage when it comes to cooking.

You start these fillets skin-side down; the skin adds an extra layer of insulation, protecting the fillet from falling apart and making it easier to flip. If you can't find skin-on fillets, don't fret—just use a little extra oil and care with your spatula when it comes time to flip the fish.

If you're still iffy about the salmon skin, don't worry—it's easy to peel and remove after cooking.

How to Cook Salmon in a Cast-Iron Skillet

Cooking salmon (or any fish, for that matter) is super simple when you use a cast-iron skillet. Start by adding a little oil to the skillet, then pop it in the oven to preheat like you do when making cornbread .

Once the skillet is nice and hot, transfer it to the stovetop over high heat and add more oil and the salmon—skin side down. SAFETY ALERT: Please remember that the handle of the skillet is hot as fire! When using this method (and I often do), I'll cook with an oven mitt on one hand as insurance against grabbing that hot skillet handle. It never hurts to be careful, right?

Alright, back to cooking: Cook the fish, without disturbing it, until the bottom sides are browned, crispy, and the fillets release easily from the pan when gently lifted with a spatula, anywhere from 3 to 5 minutes. Carefully turn the fish, then pop the skillet in the oven until the salmon is cooked through, about 5 minutes more.

How to Clean Your Cast-Iron Skillet

At the risk of inciting a riot, I'm going to float an opinion that angers Southern grandmothers more than talking in church: After I cook fish in my cast-iron skillet, I (gulp) clean my skillet with a tiny—and I mean miniscule—amount of (I can't believe I'm admitting this!) soap. Call it a dash, a hint, a speck—I basically lean over the sink and whisper the word "soap" to my skillet.

Purists will say to NEVER EVER under the threat of eternal damnation put soap on your skillet. And trust me, I get it. But just like adding a pinch of sugar to your cornbread shouldn't tarnish your Southern pedigree, the same is true for wiping out your skillet with the barest bit of soap bubbles. If your skillet's nicely seasoned , it ain't gonna hurt it none. And it will prevent your future batch of skillet brownies from tasting like salmon croquettes . I'm sorry, but you're welcome.


  • 4 (5- to 6-oz.) skin-on salmon fillets

  • ½ tsp. kosher salt, divided

  • 1 large cucumber

  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill

  • 1 ½ Tbsp. red wine vinegar

  • tsp. granulated sugar

  • 5 Tbsp. olive oil, divided

  • 1 lemon, cut in half crosswise

  • 1 (5-oz.) pkg. baby kale (about 5 cups)

  • ¼ cup shelled pistachios, chopped

  • ¼ tsp. black pepper


  1. Place a large cast-iron skillet on oven rack in top third position, and preheat to 425°F. Meanwhile, pat salmon dry with paper towels, and sprinkle evenly with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Set aside.

  2. Peel cucumber, and halve lengthwise; scoop out seeds using a spoon, and slice cucumber into half-moons. Whisk together dill, vinegar, sugar, and 3 1/2 tablespoons of the oil in a medium bowl. Add cucumber, and toss to coat. Set aside

  3. Carefully remove hot skillet from oven (leave oven on), and place on stovetop over high heat. Add remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons oil to hot skillet. Place salmon, skin side down, in skillet; cook until browned and crispy, 3 to 5 minutes. Flip salmon; add lemon halves, cut side down, to skillet. Immediately transfer skillet to oven. Bake in preheated oven until desired degree of doneness, about 5 minutes for medium.

  4. Add kale and pistachios to cucumber mixture in bowl, and toss to combine. Sprinkle evenly with pepper and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Arrange salmon over salad; squeeze charred lemon halves over assembled salad.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

415 Calories
30g Fat
6g Carbs
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 4
Calories 415
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 30g 38%
Total Carbohydrate 6g 2%

*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.

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