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How to Easily Remove Salmon Skin

Five simple steps for skinning salmon at home.

By Rachel Baron
Sep 8, 2022
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If you’re a hardcore salmon lover, you probably enjoy everything about it, from the flaky, tender orange flesh to the flavorful, fatty skin. But there are definitely times when the skin isn’t necessary, and may actually hamper the overall dish.

When exposed to high heat, salmon skin bubbles and gets so beautifully crisp that some people even remove it in order to eat it on its own. However, if you’re planning to poach or steam your salmon rather than roasting or pan-frying, you’ll likely be left with gummy, unappealing, gray skin. In these cases, you’ll need to know how to remove the skin without damaging the delicate flesh. Here’s what you need to know about skinning fish.

How to Skin Salmon

Skinning salmon (or any other fish) is pretty straightforward, once you’ve got the hang of it—just make sure you’ve got a sharp Knife and plenty of surface area to work with. We recommend a thin, flexible blade, like the fillet knife from our Fishing Knife Set.

Step 1: Set Up Your Station

It’s often easier to skin a whole fillet of salmon than a smaller piece, so we recommend holding off on slicing your salmon until after you’ve removed the skin. If you do have a whole side, lay it skin side down on a cutting board with the tail end facing towards you, keeping the cutting board close to the edge of the table.

Step 2: Make a Small Cut

Grip the end of the salmon, either with your hand or with a dish towel if you find it too slippery. Then, make a small cut between the skin and the meat—this will make it easier to grip.

Step 3: Gently Slice Off the Skin

Pulling the skin gently toward you, slide the knife slowly down the length of the fish, making long, even strokes away from you. The knife blade should be angled slightly downward to avoid cutting into the flesh. There should be minimal flesh still attached to the skin.

Step 4:  How to Skin Smaller Pieces

If working with a smaller portion of fish, turn it lengthwise so that the thinner part is facing you. Using the same process as above, grip the end of the skin while gently sawing through to the end.

TIP: If you’re working with a whole fillet, you’ll most likely need to remove the pin bones that run down much of the length of the fish. If you run a finger down from the thicker part of the fish towards the tail end, you’ll see the bones pop up. Gently pluck them out using a small pair of tongs or designated fish bone tweezers.

Salmon Skin FAQs

Whether to remove salmon skin comes down to three factors: personal preference, method of cooking, and health concerns. Here’s some other info about salmon skin before you start cooking.

Should Salmon Skin Always Be Removed?

We love crispy salmon skin, but we also understand that not everyone feels that way. If you’re not comfortable eating the skin, don’t hesitate to remove it—salmon is a near-perfect food, and everyone should get to enjoy it the way they like.

As we mentioned earlier, salmon skin should also be removed if you’re cooking it using methods like poaching or steaming, which will render the skin unpleasantly gummy.  However, even if you do plan to remove it before serving, you may want to leave the skin on throughout the cooking process. This helps keep the fish moist and protects it from overcooking, particularly when grilling or pan-frying. You can either discard the skin after cooking, or serve it separately for a crispy, flavorful bite.

What Can I Cook with Skinned Salmon?

While skinned salmon can be delicious on its own, it’s ideal for dishes like curries, where the appeal of crispy skin would be lost anyway. It’s also pretty great when flaked into salads or over rice. If you’re using sushi-grade salmon, which typically comes without the skin, you could cook up a pot of sushi rice and have yourself an at-home sushi night.

What To Do With the Leftover Skin?

If you like salmon skin but need to remove it for cooking a certain dish, there’s no need to toss it—simply pat the skin dry and slice into strips before shallow frying in hot oil. Enjoy your salmon skin ‘bacon’ with a sprinkle of salt for a tasty, zero-waste appetizer.

How to Shop for Salmon

A fishmonger will often have the freshest selection of fish, and the people who work there will typically know more about the different varieties of salmon and where they’re sourced from. That being said, you can likely get fresh, sustainably-sourced salmon from the seafood section of your grocery store if you know what to look for.

When shopping, keep an eye out for moist, vibrantly colored fish with gleaming, silvery skin. There should be no bruises or discoloration visible, and there shouldn’t be any strong fishy odor. Though wild salmon is often prized above farmed salmon for its higher sustainability factor, nutrition, and rich flavor, you can also find high-quality, sustainably-farmed salmon.

Ready to Cook?

Working with raw fish can feel a bit intimidating if you’re new to it. With that said, no one’s suggesting you dive headfirst into prepping a whole fish. Once you’ve tackled skinning your own salmon fillet at home, however, you may feel ready to move up to boning, filleting, and carving—like with this Blackened Snapper recipe from Chef Amanda Turner of Olamaie in Austin, Texas. It calls for a whole red snapper, so you can flex your newly-earned skin-removal techniques.

If that sounds like your game, you’ll probably feel better-equipped—not to mention, more confident—with a great set of tools. While you can use a Santoku or Chef Knife, our Fishing Knife Set helps you maximize that beautiful piece of fish with two knives designed for everything from deboning to filleting.

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