How To Skin Salmon Fillets Like A Pro

Salmon fish is one of the tastiest and healthiest fish that swim. Because of this, it is also one of the most expensive. Salmon skin is a special treat in the culinary universe because many top chefs around the globe love to leave it on. It does help the meat cook better and more evenly. If you’re one of those individuals that have to take it off though, it can be frustrating not knowing if you’re going to spend money and then mess something up. How to skin salmon is a skill you want to have on hand. Can you eat salmon skin? Yes. Just be sure to eat it properly.

All it takes to achieve a good result is a good quality fillet knife, a little patience, and a lot of confidence. Different species of salmon have different habits and different body compositions but this method should work for all of them. It shouldn’t matter if you have a chinook salmon, a sockeye salmon, or another species. This should be able to cover every single one. Knowing that, let’s get started.

But First, Understand The Salmon Skin

Salmon skin with a salmon on a cutting board.

The skin on a salmon is covered in tiny scales that can be removed easily or left on while cooking. The skin itself is incredibly soft and pliable. This just makes the meat very tender as well. This can make cooking easier for you because it’s popular to just leave the skin on and peel it off once cooked. One thing to remember is that the taste of the skin is abnormally fishy which some people may not be into. It has that distinct fish oil quality to it.

Taking the scales off of a salmon such as a chinook or sockeye is not very hard to do although it takes some time, especially with the size of the fish being bigger. Since they are relatively small in comparison, it can be done with a simple scaler or spoon. As a self-proclaimed “amazing cook”, not only is the skin delicious but I also believe it is essential to leave it on as you cook the fish and many top chefs of the culinary world would agree with me.

Tools Needed:

  • Skin-on salmon fillet
  • Long fillet knife or specialty salmon knife
  • Knife sharpener
  • Cutting board
  • Cut-resistant glove

Prepare The Fillet

Salmon meat is expensive regardless if you get it fresh or frozen. Because of this, you want to get all of the meat you can. You don’t want to waste any if at all possible. The right thing to do would be to harvest it right after the fish comes out of the water. You can catch salmon. If this is impossible, fresh fish is better purchased from local butchers and fish markets that take their job seriously.

There are a few things that you want to do with your fish to get it prepared for skinning and ultimately cooking. The first is to make sure that it’s the right temperature. I am not Gordon Ramsay but it is suggested to let the protein rest and get up to room temperature for ten minutes before you cook it. This makes the fillet cook more evenly when you apply heat and it locks in the juices.

Knife Selection and Understanding The Skinning Process

There are a lot of factors that go into selecting a good knife to skin your fillets with. The very first criterion is a very long blade. Since salmon are larger fish, a larger blade makes the entire process easier. Try to aim for a blade that is at least seven inches. Also, you want nice tempered steel that holds an edge for a long time. In addition, the knife must fit your hand well and you must be able to grip it tightly and comfortably.

The key to a great skinless fillet is setting the salmon on a cutting board parallel to the countertop and keeping your knife at a forty-five degrees angle. Any more acute than that and you start cutting into the meat. Anymore obtuse and you risk cutting through the skin itself. So remember. Forty-five degrees. When using your knife, use long sawing strokes. Start at the tail and work your way to the opposite end of the filet until the skin is off.

How To Skin Salmon Fillets With A Fillet Knife

Outline of where to cut salmon skin on a fish.

Taking the skin off a fillet of salmon is pretty simple in concept and a little harder in execution. Make sure to use the right fillet knife for this purpose. I recommend a special salmon knife for the best results. You can also use a sturdy chef’s knife for the job if it’s all you have. Set the fish fillet on your cutting board after it has been at room temperature for at least ten minutes.

Make a vertical slice through to the skin about one inch away from the tail end. This will act as a handle to grab onto. Put on a cut-resistant glove and grab this small piece of meat with it. Start to pull on it to add some tension. Turn your knife at a forty-five-degree angle with the blade facing the opposite direction angle. Run your knife between the skin and the meat. Use long sawing motions with your knife and keep going until you get to the end of the fillet. Once that is done, go back and slice off any white meat and make it pretty.\

Alternatively, you can use an electric fish skinner like the Skinzit electric skinner.

Clean Up With Clean Water

One of the best things about salmon is how incredibly clean the meat is. We are talking so clean that it is regularly eaten raw. It’s one of those few fish that is safe to consume undercooked if prepared under the right conditions. Popular Chinese food such as sushi and Japanese Food such as sashimi are both popular choices that include raw salmon.

Lady washing hands in a kitchen sink with running water.

Given this, cleanliness is all the more important. Because it is already so clean, you want to keep it that way. Give the meat a great washing under cold water and always wash your hands. Always remember to clean and disinfect any fillet knives, cutting boards, and the like. While you are unlikely to catch anything serious from touching clean salmon fillets, it is always better to be safe than sorry. It is better to clean and not need to rather than to wish you had and have to go to the hospital for food poisoning later.

Store Your Salmon Fillets Correctly

Now that you have clean skinless salmon fillets for the fridge, make sure to use the right container. If you leave your fillets whole, I recommend keeping them on a platter covered in aluminum foil or plastic wrap. If you want to decide to cut your fillets into steaks as is common practice for salmon, use a vacuum sealing device to seal the steaks inside of a freezer bag. This locks in freshness. Open the bag when you want to cook them.

Salmon meat is pretty great by itself but also goes well in all sorts of delicious dishes. Try a pan-roasted salmon with a garlic and thyme butter sauce or a tasty grilled salmon burger. The fridge is your best friend here as it preserves the natural flavor of the fish. You can store it for as long as the dish you make with it. It should stay fresh in the fridge for about one week.

Grilled skinless salmon steak on a blue plate with salad and a fork on a table.

Cook And Enjoy Your Salmon Fillets!

Now you can enjoy that rich salmon flavor in every dish that calls for it. It is very good smoked, baked, or used in sushi. Now you know how to skin salmon fillets the right way without putting in a whole lot of work. If you have a great recipe that involves using salmon, leave us a comment reply and tell us what it is! Do you have a favorite salmon dish?

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