Today, we answer the question, “Do you eat the skin on salmon with scales?”. The short answer is no. But the reason may surprise you!
Keep reading to find out exactly why salmon scales aren’t edible, how to properly and effectively remove them, and when. Just remember to pick out the freshest fish possible using my in-depth guide.
And, once your whole salmon has been properly scaled, you can try making my delicious, tender Grilled Salmon Skewer recipe. You can serve it with this refreshing Vegan Peach Salad or classic Roasted Potatoes.
Does Salmon Have Scales?
In general, almost every fish species have scales covering the majority of its body. These scales have multiple functions, essentially making a fish function as it should.
Fish scales are very small, hard, flat plates if you will. The scales overlap to create a type of protective armor. This is what helps protect the flesh underneath from bruising super easily.
Now, the reason many people aren’t sure whether or not salmon has scales is that many fisheries and stores sell them pre-scaled. This is essentially just to make the life of the customer easier because trust me, descaling a fish is a messy business.
Can You Eat Salmon Skin?
So, as you probably know, fish skin is a very popular part of the cut and is even prepared on its own. So, while the skin is edible it has to be descaled (have its scales removed).
The scales on any type of fish are not edible and won’t be appetizing. Now, it’s not so much as them being poisonous but more about their physical characteristics.
These hard scales are like fingernails but razor-sharp. If you eat them, you can easily slice open your lips, tongue, or gums. And it can even get lodged in your throat!
So, do you eat the skin on salmon with scales? The short, undisputed answer is no. Under no circumstances should you eat salmon skin that still has its scales on.
How To Remove The Salmon Scales
There are actually a couple of different ways to scale a fish. But just know that they are all messy! So, let’s first quickly talk about how to manage the mess and what your set-up should look like.
How To Reduce Mess
When scaling a fish, the scales fly everywhere! You will still be finding scales weeks after you’ve “cleaned everything.” And, because they are practically invisible to the eye, they get stuck to surfaces and disappear completely! That is until you accidentally stumble upon them again!
So, I would highly recommend scaling the whole fish in a large basin. You can even clean your bathtub with food-safe detergents and line it with big plastic bags. This all may seem excessive. But again, trust me! I’ve been there many times.
Using any type of large sink, basin, or tub, will help make clean-up significantly easier!
And even better yet, if you have a food prepping station outside or a clean basin. By all means, line it with plastic. But at least the mess will stay outside.
Now, you will need a cutting board if you aren’t working inside a sink. If you are working inside a sink or basin, just make sure it’s clean.
Then, you will also need gloves. I always recommend wearing gloves when scaling fish because again, these scales go everywhere and are very difficult to remove.
Finally, you will need a hard knife. By this, I mean that the back of the knife shouldn’t be flexible. A boning knife works best.
You can also invest in a fish scaler if this is something you are planning on doing often.
Method 1: Using A Knife
Now, the process is pretty easy. Rub the back of the knife (not the sharp side) against the scales. So, start at the tail and work your way upwards.
You will immediately notice a bunch of scales on your knife blade. Just keep cleaning it off and work in small sections. Be careful to not skip any areas.
Keep working your way up the fish and right around. You will see that some areas have fewer scales than others (like underneath the belly), but you still shouldn’t skip any area.
Method 2: Using A Fish Scaler
There are many different types of scalers available. Some even help reduce the mess you create. This set is a personal favorite!
If you use a scaler, the technique is exactly the same as using the back of a knife. The only difference is that scalers are a little easier to use and generally scale better.
It basically comes down to having a specialized tool for a specialized function. Everyone can remove the pit of a cherry, but the cherry pitter makes it easier.
Is The Skin On Salmon Good For You?
Only if the skin is free of any scales and, of course, if it is completely fresh!
The skin of salmon is actually shockingly nutritious. It is the part that contains the highest number of omega-3 fatty acids in the entire fish. And, if you don’t already know, these fatty acids are proven to reduce the risk of heart disease!
Other than that, there are few things better than crispy salmon skin over a soft, tender, and juicy piece of fish.
But as always, everything in moderation is perfectly acceptable. Even though there are many reasons people aren’t able to eat salmon (and its skin) generally it is completely safe to eat.
Do You Remove Salmon Scales Before Or After Cooking?
Always before! No exception! Removing fish scales is already a very tedious, time-consuming, and messy process.
Now, imagine having cooked the perfect piece of fish. Imagine it sitting on your counter for 20-30 minutes while you struggle to remove the scales. Then, imagine the scales getting into all the cooked food!
It’s a nightmare, and I think you get the picture!