Do you eat salmon skin? It’s a hot topic for foodies, as many eaters wonder if it can be eaten and the best way to cook it—or how to remove it. We’re here to tell you that the texture and taste of salmon skin make it something you’d want to leave on and take advantage of. Get ready for your mouth to water, because we’re going to answer all the questions you have about salmon skin.
Can You Eat Salmon Skin?
In most cases salmon skin is a safe, and succulently delicious bonus to meals like baked salmon with spring vegetables. However, it is worth mentioning it’s safer to only eat salmon skin from reputable, high-quality sources.
Like other living organisms, fish accumulates pollutants found in air and water. More specifically, chemicals called polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, can be absorbed by salmon over its lifetime, often found in higher concentrations in the skin and layer of fat beneath it.
PCBs are chemicals that were used in industry until they were banned after being shown to cause adverse health effects in 1979. Unfortunately, remnants are still found polluting our soil, water, and air. Also found in drinking water, dairy products, fish, and meat, PCBs have been associated with cancer, as well as negative effects on the nervous, immune, and endocrine systems.
Bottom-feeding or large predator fish like American eel, sea trout, bluefish, striped bass, walleye, and lake trout tend to be those most commonly associated with higher levels of PCBs.
What to look for in high-quality salmon
To get the best salmon, and therefore the best salmon skin, look for salmon that looks and smells great. You shouldn’t notice any gray blemishes or brown areas, and instead see a dark pink color.
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It’s also best to get it from a reputable source, either directly from a local fish market or direct-trade (D2C) seafood from Alaskan fishermen. For the safest and freshest tasting salmon, we recommend sushi-grade salmon since it is captured, processed immediately, and iced or frozen thoroughly.
So, Is Salmon Skin Safe to Eat?
Yes, salmon skin is generally safe to eat. Salmon skin has a lower PCB level compared to some other types of fish. However, we strongly recommend consumers to be more attentive in choosing their salmon. Different types of salmon can have different levels of PCB in the skin.
While the Food and Drug Administration encourages “consumers not to alter their consumption of farmed or wild salmon,” because both are well below tolerated levels of PCBs, wild caught salmon is definitely the safer choice. In fact, one study found that PCBs in farmed fish was reported at a whopping 36.63 ppb versus just 4.75 ppb for wild salmon. This makes the wild-caught salmon have the safest skin to enjoy.
Nutrition: Is Salmon Skin Good for You?
Just like the flesh, salmon skin is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins B and D, and minerals like niacin and phosphorus. Not only is it a good source of omega-3s, but it’s actually where the highest concentration of these hard-to-get fatty acids are found!
Not only does leaving the skin on treat your mouth to a unique flavor and texture, but the additional omega-3s may minimize inflammation, support brain development, and reduce your triglyceride levels, therefore your risk of heart disease.
And the good news keeps getting better. By keeping the skin on during cooking, it also helps to retain salmon’s many nutrients and healthy oils. You’ll end up with a tastier meal with more nutrients because they won’t be lost during the preparation process.
How to Remove Skin for Salmon
Not into eating the skin? Or you ware saving the skin for different way of cooking? Here are some steps for how to remove skin from salmon:
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- Place the salmon, skin-side down, on a flat surface or chopping board. When it comes to how to get skin off salmon, here’s a trick: sprinkle some salt towards the tail end to give you a better grip and prevent the salmon from sliding.
- Holding that same tail end, use a sharp knife to begin cutting between the skin and flesh, starting opposite from the tail end.
- Still holding the tail end tightly, cut along the entire length of the filet. Be careful to avoid fingers and take care to not cut through the skin.
- Remove and discard the salmon, or save it for a special treat!
Wondering how to take skin off salmon after it’s been cooked? That’s easy. It’ll peel right off after the salmon is cooked with the skin on.
Tips on How to Cook Salmon with Skin
Now let’s get your mouth watering by talking about how to cook salmon with skin. You can go about this in countless ways, trying everything from pan seared salmon with skin for a nice, crispy texture to grilling salmon with skin for those beautiful grill marks.
1. Skin down
When cooking salmon fillet with skin, always cook the skin down.
Whether you’re pan searing salmon, grilling, or baking it, always, always, keep the skin-side down. This will make it much easier to slide a spatula underneath to flip it in a pan, it will make the skin crispier and more delicious, and it will form a protective coating for the delicate flesh, ensuring a more even bake.
2. Throw it on the grill
When it comes to how to grill salmon with skin, the process is easy.
You’ll want to pat dry room temperature salmon. The drier it is, the less it’ll stick. Right before throwing it on the grill, rub it lightly on both sides with olive oil and a few sprinkles of salt and pepper.
PRO TIP: Season salmon just before grilling to prevent moisture loss and fire flare-ups.
Then, add the salmon to a clean, preheated grill. Place skin-side down on the hottest part of the grill and give it 6 to 8 minutes. After that point, gently flip to a lower heat area of the grill and cook for an additional 2 to 4 minutes.
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PRO TIP: Salmon cooks pretty quickly on a grill, so be careful to not allow it to cook for more than 12 minutes.
3. Try the air fryer
Trying air fryer salmon with skin might be even easier than grilled salmon with skin—and it only takes 7 minutes!
Just put the seasoned (rubbed with olive oil, salt, and pepper) salmon filets in the air fryer basket. Set it for 390℉, wait in excitement for 7 minutes, and voila!—you have an easy, delicious, beautiful dinner.
4. Use it as a healthier substitute for bacon
It may not look as pretty as the pork-sourced delicacy, but salmon skin makes for a tasty and healthier version of bacon. It’s easy to make, too!
- Remove skin and slice into long strips
- Toss in salt and leave to brine for 10-15 minutes
- Pat with paper towel until completely dry
- Add vegetable oil so that it reaches ¾ inch high in pan or wok
- Once the oil is hot, add salmon skin
- Stir frequently and cook for 10-15 minutes until the strips crisp up
- Serve with soy sauce, spicy mayo, or another dipping sauce
BONUS Question: Is Salmon Skin Safe for Dogs?
Like salmon itself, salmon skin is safe for dogs, but it’s also higher in fat so it should be avoided or reserved for a very special, occasional treat.
Final Thoughts on Salmon Skin
The choice is ultimately yours, but salmon skin is an extremely tasty and healthy addition to a salmon filet. Just be sure to choose wild-caught salmon to minimize your intake of potential contaminants.
When cooking salmon filet with skin on, always cook the skin side down. It’ll make the preparation process a little easier and will result in crispy, delicious skin.
That sizzling, succulent, skin awaits—so go enjoy some Copper River Salmon with skin on.