How To: Unilateral Sauté

Ok, so maybe that’s a facetious title for this post, but come on.  It was written by yours truly and if there was ever a blog that should be taken with a grain of salt, preferably accompanied by a large margarita, it would be this one…at least the introductions before the recipes, anyway.

Regardless, you should definitely know the unilateral sauté method for seafood, specifically for any skin-on fillet.  I’m talking salmon, sea bass, mahi mahi…just about anything that you can cook with the skin still on works here as long as the scales have been removed (skin is edible; scales are not).   It takes five minutes, no additional fats are added to your seafood, and maybe it’s just me, but it looks really cool to see those proteins denature immediately upon hitting the pan, inspiring me to create my own sound effects.  Don’t believe me?  Check it out on Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, Season 1, Episode 19.  The technique begins at roughly 11:50 at the following link at Hulu:

Julia & Jacques Cooking at Home – Salmon

Or, you could just take my word for it and try this out at home tonight.  Your choice.

A few words of advice: Jacques recommends using a non-stick skillet for this technique.  Personally, I use my non-stick skillet for one food only—eggs—and otherwise, we buff that thing with silk and treat it like a queen so it won’t decide to revolt and kill us off with toxic chemicals released into our food.  Instead, I use my 10″ stainless sauté pan, and yes, cleanup is still easy.


Unilateral Sauté

Serves two

2 skin-on salmon fillets

Sea salt


Allow the salmon fillets to warm to room temperature.  Season both sides of the fillets with sea salt.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot.   Place the salmon fillets skin-side down in the heated skillet.  Cover with a tight-fitting lid, then remove from heat and allow to cook for five minutes.*

Remove the fillets from the skillet and serve immediately alongside the veggies and grains of your choice.


* I originally wrote this a little over a year ago, and my technique has changed a little since then.  I still use my stainless sauté pan, but instead of heating over medium-high, I heat at medium heat until hot, add the salmon, cover, reduce heat to low, and cook for five minutes.  Medium-high heat would burn the skin on wild-caught salmon, and would leave the center a little rare for my taste on thicker cuts.  We’ve found this to be a better compromise.


Tags: , , , , , , ,

Categories: Fish, How To:, Seafood


Once upon a time, Malia tossed a coin in the air to choose between two new career paths: become an acupuncturist and herbalist, or become a chef. Chinese medicine won that day. After graduation, however, a funny thing happened. Her love of cooking--and eating--began to weasel its way into how she practiced the medicine, and over time, what once appeared as two different paths heading in different directions suddenly revealed itself as only one path after all.


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