How To Skin Salmon Like a Pro

Salmon Fillet

Table of Contents

Whether you are a seasoned fisherman or simply a seafood lover, knowing how to skin a salmon is a good skill to have.

Many people will ask the seller to skin the salmon fillet for them before taking it home. However, when you find out how easy it is, you will ask yourself why you never learned sooner.

Furthermore, the next time you catch a fresh salmon, you will only need a sharp knife and the tips you’ve learned from this guide to prepare the fresh fish for a campfire cookout.

This guide will cover everything you need to know about the process, including an easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide on how to skin salmon.

Let’s get started.

How Do You Recognize if a Salmon Is Fresh?

how to recognize fresh salmon

Before you learn how to skin salmon, let’s take a look at how you would recognize if a salmon is fresh.

There are a few things you should be looking out for.

  • The more the salmon’s body bends, the less fresh it is. Take the salmon and grab it with one hand, putting your hand under the middle of its body. If the body bends a lot, then it is not fresh. However, if the body stays quite stiff, then the salmon is fresh.
  • If the salmon has an intense fishy smell, it is not fresh. Freshly caught salmon will have less of an intense smell.
  • Fresh salmon will have bright red gills. If the gills are dark red, then the salmon is not as fresh.
  • You will feel more resistance when removing pin bones on fresher salmon. If you don’t feel any resistance when removing the bones, the salmon is not fresh.
  • When you press down on the flesh, a fresh salmon’s flesh will bounce back. If the flesh takes the mold of your finger and does not return to its original form, the salmon is not fresh.
  • If the salmon’s flesh is more vivid and pink/red, it is a fresh salmon. Less fresh salmons will have dull-looking flesh.
  • The eyes of a fresh salmon will be bright and have a dark pupil. The eyes will also bulge out a little bit. However, if the eyes are sunken in and have a dull coloration, then the salmon is not fresh.

Before chopping up a salmon for sushi, go through the list above and make sure the salmon is fresh. Not only will it be safer to eat, but fresh salmon will taste much better.

Is It Necessary to Skin a Salmon?

A good question to ask yourself before learning how to skin salmon is if you actually need to. Is it really necessary to skin a salmon?

The answer to this question depends on personal preference and how you cook the salmon.

You Don’t Have To Remove the Skin Before Cooking the Salmon

salmon cooked with skin

The only time you should remove the skin before cooking is if you’re poaching the salmon. However, if you are roasting, broiling, baking, or grilling it, you can leave the skin on and then remove the skin after cooking it.

Many people prefer to leave the skin on for a few reasons. The main reason is that the skin will act as a barrier between the pan and the flesh. Salmon flesh can be pretty delicate, so leaving the skin on will prevent the salmon from overcooking or drying out.

You Can Eat Salmon Skin

It may come as a surprise to some that you can eat salmon skin. If you cook it correctly, the skin will add just the right amount of crispiness to the meal.

Salmon skin can also be healthy for you. The skin contains a lot of the healthy nutrients that the flesh does, including omega-3.

The skin also contains vitamin D and B, as well as selenium (an essential mineral).

The nutrients contained in salmon skin can also protect against heart disease and macular degeneration.

When you cook salmon skin, make sure to grill, fry, or sear the salmon. Cooking the salmon skin this way will give you the perfect amount of crispiness and bring out the fats’ flavors. If you smoke, boil or steam the salmon skin, it will become rubbery and will not be very appetizing.

However, it is worth noting that salmon skin can also be toxic depending on the source. For instance, salmon from Atlantic fish farms contain a much higher concentration of toxic contaminants than freshly caught salmon.

Before you eat the skin, make sure to verify the source if possible. If you don’t know where the fish came from, you should skin the salmon.

Equipment and Tools Needed

removing bones from fillet

The last thing to cover before learning how to skin salmon is what tools you need. Let’s take a look.

  • A sharp knife – Any sharp knife will do, but a fillet knife will work the best.
  • Needle nose pliers – You will need needle nose pliers to remove the pin bones.

Step-by-Step Guide to Skinning Salmon

Today we will be covering how to skin a freshly caught salmon.

However, for those who simply want to learn how to skin a salmon fillet (which you can buy at the grocery store), you will learn that too.

If you are starting with a store-bought salmon fillet, then start at step five.

Let’s get started.

Step One: Cut Off the Anal Fins

The first thing you will want to do is cut off the anal fins. You can find these fins near the rear of the salmon.

Take your knife, and place it directly below and parallel to the anal fins. Make a small incision, run your knife down to remove the entire fin.

Step Two: Scale the Fish

salmon anal fins

Scaling the salmon will make the next few steps much easier. Furthermore, it is relatively simple to scale a salmon.

To do this, take your knife and place it near the tail of the fish. You will then run the knife down the body and stop just before the head.

You should see scales falling off. Repeat this motion on all sides of the fish until you completely scale it.

Step Three: Remove the Roe of the Fish

The roe will either be female eggs or male sperm. The roe will either look like a long membrane or small balls of jelly-like substance.

To begin, turn the fish and place it on its back. Then take your knife and insert it into the anal hole. Now, cut a straight line from there to the fish’s mouth. This incision will open the salmon up; now, you can simply grab the roe and take it out.

After removing the roe, you can remove the rest of the fish guts and dispose of them.

Step Four: Fillet the Fish

filetting with knife

Take your knife and place it right below the front fin of the salmon. Make an incision and press down until you feel bone.

Turn your knife horizontal, and cut down the body of the fish until you reach the tail. Now you have successfully cut a salmon fillet.

Repeat this step on the other side of the salmon.

Step Five: Remove the Pin Bones From the Fillet (Optional)

tools needed

Before you skin the salmon, you will need to remove the pin bones from the fillet. However, this step is optional.

While many believe that fish bones can be harmful to digest, they can actually be healthy for your diet. If you want to skip this step, you can.

Even so, some people may not like the feeling of fish bones in their mouth, and others may be uncomfortable swallowing them. If this is the case, you can easily remove them.

To do this, place the salmon on the counter, so the skin is facing downwards. Take your finger and run it along the center of the salmon. You may feel a few small bones. Use the needle-nose pliers to remove them.

Continue running your finger up and down the salmon until you don’t feel any more bones.

Step Six: Skin the Salmon

skin removing from fillet

Now it is time to skin the salmon.

Take the cutting board you will be using and place it near the edge of the counter. Doing so will make it less awkward to cut the salmon and prevent your knuckles from dragging along the counter.

Place the fish skin-side down on the board. Grab your knife and make an incision at the tail end of the salmon. Drag your knife along the entire length of the fish, removing the skin from the flesh.

The skin should slide off easily after this. If not, take your knife and cut whatever pieces of skin are still attached to the flesh.


We hope that this guide has helped you learn how to skin a salmon like a pro.

If you have the right tools and technique, skinning a salmon should not be difficult for a beginner.

Against popular belief, it is not necessary to skin a salmon. Salmon skin can actually be healthy for your diet. If you grill, fry, or sear the salmon, the skin will add lots of flavor to the fish and be nice and crispy.

To skin a salmon, you will need a sharp knife and needle-point tweezers.

There are six basic steps: cut off the anal fins, scale the fish, remove the roe, fillet the salmon, remove the pin bones, and skin it.


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