Crispy salmon skin is the crackling of the sea! Making Crispy Skin Salmon is as simple as ensuring the skin is dry, and using enough oil so the skin goes golden and crispy rather than just burning. Easy!
Crispy Skin Salmon
I’m always one for saucing up my salmon (whether it’s a honey garlic number, garlic butter or a herby cream sauce), marinating it or cooking it up in a sticky sauce. But when you know how to cook salmon so the skin is crispy from end to end, you don’t need to fuss with all that. The extra textural element and flavour you get from the crispy golden skin is all you need for a salmon dinner. Serve it naked, straight up!
And if you’re wondering just how crispy we get that skin? THIS crispy ⬇⬇⬇ (volume ON!)
What you need to make Crispy Skin Salmon
All you need is salmon with the skin on (duh!😂), oil, salt and pepper.
Skin-on salmon – Make sure the fish is descaled (ie. scales removed) and pin-boned, ie. tiny bones that poke out around the middle the fillet removed. Good fishmongers should sell fish fillets that’s already been scaled and pin-boned – and that’s partly why you pay a premium for filleted fish!)
To check, just run your fingers along the flesh surface and the sides. You will feel if there are any bones inside. Use fish boning tweezers (or even personal grooming tweezers!) to pull them out. For scales, run your fingers back and forth across the skin – again, you will feel if the scales are still in there. To remove, use the flat side of a knife and scrape against the scales. The scales will flick everywhere, but they will come off easily!
Where possible, choose fillets that are as even in thickness as you can find as they will cook more evenly. If you can only get the pieces with one thick end and one really thin end, don’t worry. The thin part is the salmon belly flap which is fatty, so can take the extra cooking and still stay juicy. It will still be delicious!
Oil – Olive oil is my preferred oil to use, but any cooking oil will work just fine here; and
Salt and pepper – Not only for flavour, but also to give the crust an extra little edge of crunch!
How to cook Crispy Skin Salmon
The two key things to ensure crispy salmon skin are dry skin, and not skimping on oil! Oil helps distribute the pan’s heat evenly as well as fry the skin to help crisp it. If you skimp on oil, the skin will just burn instead of going golden, and it really won’t be that crispy.
Pat dry + optional fridge dry – Crispy skin requires dry skin, so pat it dry with a paper towel. If time permits, leave the salmon skin side up in the fridge for an hour or so. Fridge air is very low in humidity so will air dry the skin even more. If you bought your salmon vacuum-packed (which prolongs the shelf life), I really recommend this fridge drying step because the skin gets fully saturated with fish juices sitting in its bag;
Oil, salt and pepper – Drizzle the fish with a tiny bit of oil and spread with fingers, just to give the salt and pepper something to adhere to. Make sure you do this only just before cooking, because the salt will draw moisture out of the salmon skin and make it sweat = bad for crispy skin!
Skin side down first – Put enough oil in a non stick skillet so the base is fully covered. Do not skimp on the oil – you need enough oil to ensure the skin is evenly bronzed instead patchy with burnt bits. Heat the oil on medium-high, then put the salmon in skin side down and turn down to medium;
Press down on the fish – Using a spatula, egg flip or even tongs, press down on each salmon for 10 seconds so the whole skin is pushed as flat against the skillet as possible until it “sets” flat. Unlike other fish, skin and flesh curling is not such a problem with salmon, but pressing down helps ensures that we get evenly crisped skin from end to end;
Turn after 7 minutes – cook the salmon 3/4 of the way through skin side down. It’s easy to tell how the salmon is progressing: Just look at the side of the salmon. When it changes from translucent to opaque 3/4 of the way up the side, the fish is cooked 3/4 of the way through. Now it’s time to turn the the salmon;
Cook 1 1/2 minutes flesh side down – This is just to finish off the last of the uncooked side and will take very little time;
Turn again – for crispy skin assurance!! My little trick to ensure super crispy salmon skin hits the table every time is to turn the salmon one more time and cook the skin for another 60 seconds so it’s super hot and crisp when you plate it up. Fish skin loses crispiness when it cools down (unless you deep fry it) so by giving the skin one last blast before taking it off the stove, it will stay crispy for longer!
Skin side UP!!! Plate up skin side up to preserve that crispy skin you’ve worked so hard for! Also, don’t pour sauce on the skin, it will make it soggy almost instantly. If you want to serve a sauce with the salmon, pour it on the plate first (neatly!) and place fillet on top, else pour sauce around the plated fillet.
Here’s a close up of the salmon skin so you can see how crispy and wafer thin it is. To hear how crispy it is, just watch the recipe video!
What to serve with Crispy Skin Salmon
A properly seasoned, perfectly cooked salmon that’s juicy inside can be served plain because it’s an oily fish with plenty of flavour in the flesh. With the crispy skin as an extra element, it really doesn’t need anything else except perhaps a wedge of lemon!
However, I’ve served it here with a lemony, herbed risotto. The risotto serves as both a side and a kind of sauce because it’s so nice and creamy; you sort of scoop it up with the salmon.
Want the recipe? 😇 (And what if I told you there’s an entirely hands-off ,oven-baked way to make creamy risottos??) Published the recipe! Here it is: Lemon & Herb Risotto (hands-free baked method!)
But if you do want a simple sauce, try this Creamy Dill Sauce for Salmon or Creamy Garlic and Herb Salmon. It’s quick to prepare, and brings a lovely fresh contrast to this rich fish, with the dill a classic pairing with salmon. Or, if you’re up for a decadent and fancy option, try Hollandaise or taragon-infused Béarnaise sauce! Then choose a side salad or veggie side, and add some crusty bread to complete your meal! – Nagi x
Watch how to make it
Crispy Skin Salmon
- 4 salmon fillets , skin-on (Note 1)
- 1 tsp olive oil (or other cooking oil)
- 1 tsp salt , cooking/kosher (3/4 tsp table salt, Note 2)
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 2 tbsp olive oil (or vegetable oil)
- lemon wedges
- Dry skin: Pat the skin of the salmon very well with a paper towel until dry. If time permits, place the salmon skin side up in the fridge for 1 hour (uncovered,) to dry it out even more.
- Season: Drizzle flesh side with half the oil (just a tiny bit) and rub over skin. Sprinkle with half the salt and pepper. Turn fillet over and repeat. Do not do this step until just before cooking.
- Heat oil: Put enough oil in a large non stick skillet so it fully covers the base. Heat on medium high until it shimmers (but not smoking).
- Skin side down: Place salmon in the skillet skin side down, then immediately turn the head down to medium.
- Press down: Using a spatula or something similar, press down on each salmon for 10 seconds so the skin is pushed flat against the skillet and "sets" its form. If you can do at least two at a time that is ideal.
- Cook 7 minutes: Cook for 7 minutes, or until the salmon is cooked 3/4 of the way through (you will see the colour changing up the side of the salmon) and the skin is crispy.
- 90 sec on flesh side: Flip the salmon to skin side is up and cook for a further 90 seconds.
- Final skin blast! (My secret tip) Flip the salmon again to skin side down, turn the heat up to medium high and cook the skin side again for 60 seconds, just to give it a final blast of heat to reinforce crispiness!
- Serve skin side UP to protect the crispy skin. Fish skin will only stay crispy while it's hot, so serve immediately! Pictured in post with creamy Lemon & Herb Risotto which acts as a side dish and semi-sauce (super easy no-stir recipe!).
Life of Dozer
Dozer swears that skin is crispy…. Volume on so you can hear for yourself!