How often do you cook fish at home?
I took an unofficial poll of about 20 people (not a scientific sample size I know), and determined that about 80% of people don’t cook fish at home as often as they would like to. Why is that? Is it the smell? The scales? The fear of choking on bones?
I think it’s a combination of these things that scare most of us off. I must admit I don’t eat as much fish as I would like to either. But when I do eat fish at home, I often go with salmon, and I almost always cook it like this, so I can devour the crispy skin.
Cooking fish at home can be easy!
Cooking fish this way is so easy, but there are a few steps involved before the skin hits the pan.
Turn on the fan. Your kitchen fan should be on full blast. This will help with the smoke caused by the skin crisping, as well as the aquatic aroma that is sometimes left behind after cooking fish.
Buy a pair of fish tweezers. I know, this sounds daunting already. The truth of the matter is, salmon have lots of bones. Pin bones to be exact. The thing about pin bones is they’re really thin, so they are easy to miss (and easy to choke on). The other thing about pin bones, is that they are all lined up within the salmon fillets. Once you have found one, you’ve found them all. Just feel along the row of spikes through the thickest part of the fillet with your index finger. Then grab them one by one and yank them out with your fish tweezers. You might be able to ask the people at the fish counter to do this too, but it’s a good thing to know how to do, just in case.
Beware of scales. Most fish that we buy in the grocery store these days have already had the scales removed. That said, it’s always worth double checking, because scales are not tasty and you don’t want to eat them. De-scaling fish is a bit of a task. Just ask my mom who was still discovering fish scales on the under-sides of the kitchen cupboards for months after I got a little carried away on a piece of salmon one day. I think I was about 12.
Crispy skin salmon for the win
There are a million really good ways to cook fish at home with minimal effort. For now, I’m going to share one easy method, my best, totally foolproof crispy skin salmon .
This method is especially good if you’re feeding only one or two people, because one to two pieces will fit nicely into the pan. If you’re feeding more people, you might have to use a few pans simultaneously which could be a bit overwhelming. Alternatively, you can crisp each skin individually, then line the fish pieces up on a baking sheet and finish them in the oven, rather than cooking them on the second side in the pan.
You’ll get what I mean when you watch the video.
Crispy skin salmon is my favourite of all the skin on fish. Although it is worth noting that there are many close competitors. Other fish like mackerel and trout are delicious with great crispy skin too. This same method can be used on any of those. Choose the fish you desire, or even better, get the freshest fish you can get your hands on.
This method will have you cooking salmon like a pro. But for an easy guide on how to cook all kinds of different fish, and how to reference which fish you can and can’t eat the skin, download my cheat sheet. Heck, you can even print it off and put it on your fridge for easy reference. (If you do, please send me pictures because that would melt my heart!)
OK so here’s how you get perfect crispy skin salmon every single time.
How to prepare crispy skin salmon
Once you have a de-boned and de-scaled piece of salmon, turn the heat on under your burner to a medium low, or about a level 4 on most electric stovetops. I see a lot of recipes calling for medium high heat, and I find this to be too high. We want crispy skin, not burnt skin.
Preheating the pan is a lesson in patience. You’re going to want to let it heat up for a good 5 minutes or so before putting the salmon in. I like to use a cast iron pan for this, but any heavy bottomed pan will do.
Pat the skin dry with some paper towel, then sprinkle with plenty of salt and drizzle/rub with some vegetable or olive oil.
How to cook crispy skin salmon
Place the salmon skin side down onto a piece of parchment paper (not necessary if you really trust the non-stick capabilities of your pan, but why not rest easy? It’s a great hack. Then, drop the whole darn thing – the salmon and the paper, right into your hot pan.
Hold the fish down with a fish spatula for the first 15 seconds of cooking to ensure good contact with the pan. Good skin to pan contact is paramount for crisped skin.
Cook the salmon for 6 minutes on this side. (longer if you have an especially thick piece of fish, shorter if you have a thin one. Let’s say minimum 5 minutes, maximum 7. While you’re waiting, you can season the flesh side with salt and pepper.
After 5-7 minutes, flip the salmon over and let it finish cooking for about 30 seconds on the flesh side.
How to serve crispy skin salmon
Now you can just kick back and enjoy the most perfectly cooked pan seared salmon you’ve ever had. If you’re like me, you’ll spend about 3 minutes just tapping on the skin and marvelling at the crispy sound. You can eat this with just about any side dish, but my favourite is usually a herby yogurt sauce and a crunchy salad. Fennel and citrus are always welcome to my salmon party.
For the photos in this article, I made a quick spinach pesto yogurt sauce using my favourite spinach pesto recipe.
Give this crispy skin salmon a try next time you want to impress yourself. You’ll be glad you did!