An Outdoor View: Salmon skin

On “Chopped,” the Food Network TV show where four chefs battle to see who is best, salmon often plays a part. At least one of the judges invariably complains that the skin isn’t crispy enough, whereupon I, who have been pulling the skin off salmon and throwing it away since the Eisenhower Administration, invariably wonder, “Crispy enough for what? Do you eat the skin?”

I eat the skin of canned salmon and sardines, and the skin of small fish that have been rolled in seasoned flour and fried in butter, but salmon skin is different. Whenever I’ve grilled, fried or baked it, the skin has always been soft and slimy.

Was I was missing something?

When I Googled “salmon skin,” the results astonished me. Some people not only eat salmon skin, but rave about the stuff. It’s delicious, and full of Omega-3, they claim.

Yearning for further enlightenment, I e-mailed everyone on my contact list, asking if they eat salmon skin, and how they cook and serve it. More than 20 responded.

My brother’s wife, Reta, surprised me with a one-word response: “Ugh!” I took that to mean that salmon skins disgust her, despite her Norwegian ancestry.

Reta’s son, Geoff Simpson, wrote: “I’ve had salmon skin at sushi restaurants. Not sure how they prepared it; probably fried as it was quite crispy.”

Jim Richardson: “Can’t help you with this one. I always hated tossing out the skin because it seems like there should be something to do with it. Years ago, we had a Samoyed-husky and they could manage to eat the skins if they were cooked well. If they managed to scarf down a raw skin, they usually ended throwing it up (in the house) some time later.”

Janet Alexander: “We don’t eat the skin and know of no one who does except a China- born friend who eats fish brains, skin and all but the bones.”

Chip Derrick: “I have never eaten salmon skin knowingly.”

Melvin Grove: “Sounds like something they do in third world countries or the Lower 48.”

A.E. Poynor: “The only time I have eaten the skin on the salmon is when it was poached in white wine and butter. The other time is when I planked it on cedar and couldn’t get the skin off the meat.”

Linda Wall: My daughter-in-law’s Hawaiian family grill or pan fry the skin on the fish until it is crispy on the skin side. They think that it is a delicacy.”

Rich Green: “Cannot help you with this one. My brother who has spent over 20 years in Japan in the AF and as a civilian visited us one time and I did salmon on the grill and he ate the skin. First time I ever saw that happen. He loved it but it blew my mind.” Rich later added that he cooked the salmon skin-side down, without aluminum foil, and that his brother still talks about how good that salmon was, skin and all.

Jon Holland: “I eat it all the time. Belly skin mostly, from fresh, clean fish. I prefer poached, or grilled. Poached allows you to play with wine, and spices, which always is a good idea.”

Dick Bishop: “We routinely eat salmon skins from Chitina reds or other species, kings from the Tanana PU fishery, Bristol Bay reds if we get some via friends. Fried, baked, barbecued. Usually don’t eat skins from Tanana chums. Mary sometimes rejects skins from a particular serving. In general, I like nice crisp salmon skins.”

While most of the respondents either said or implied, “Hold the salmon skins, please,” some were positive enough that I intend to continue beating this horse until it stops moving. All that remains is for me to catch a salmon, cook it properly, and eat not only its flesh, but its skin, which I hope will be crispy enough. That, like salmon-fishing season, I look forward to with high expectations.


Tips for cooking skin-on fillets:

How-to for crispy salmon-skin strips:

How-to for salmon-skin chicharrons:

How NOT to cook salmon:


Les Palmer can be reached at

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