Ask the Test Cooks

Ask Matthew: Is It Important That Salmon Be Skinless?

This series answers all your cooking questions. And yes, by all we mean the wild, silly, and "stupid" ones, too.

Published Dec. 7, 2018.

Before Matthew Fairman joined Cook's Country as a test cook, he cooked in many restaurants and taught college literature and writing. When he’s not pitching a new take on fried rice to his editors or whispering to his slow cookers, Matthew is usually scaling plastic mountains at the climbing gym or running food experiments on his wife, Lauren, and cat, Daisy. One day, he hopes to pay for climbing trips by selling fried rice from a food truck to hungry people stumbling out of bars after last call.

Have a food-related question? Fill out this form or shoot Matthew a message at

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How important is it that the salmon be skinless? I usually prefer skin on my fish; would it adversely affect the dish if I used skin-on fillets?

— Dennis M., Recipe: One-Pan Roasted Salmon with Broccoli and Red Potatoes

Dear Home Cook,

First, let me get this out of the way: I like salmon. I like salmon a lot. I greedily devour salmon in sushi, smoked salmon on bagels, salmon collar, teriyaki salmon, salmon burgers, cold-smoked salmon, cured salmon, hot-smoked salmon, farm-raised salmon, wild-caught salmon, and Alaskan, Scottish, and Atlantic salmon. If I were stranded and hungry in the British Columbian wilderness (purely hypothetically speaking), you better believe I’d wade into a frigid, grizzly bear–infested stream for a chance at one of those upstream-swimming sockeye salmon. I’m sorry, did someone ask a question? Oh yes, subbing skin-on salmon for skinless.

I want to take this opportunity to thank you for standing up and being counted as a fan of salmon skin. As you may have guessed, I, too, am a fan of salmon skin, and for this, I do not apologize. As a general lover of all things salmon—Smoked Salmon Tacos, Grilled Salmon Fillets, and One-Pan Roasted Salmon with Broccoli and Red Potatoes being some of my favorite recipes of ours to cook at home—I’ve thought a lot about this question.

And my answer is yes, you can use skin-on fillets if you like them. I do. In fact, I’ve made that one-pan salmon dish at home with skin-on salmon and enjoyed it, and I commonly use skin-on salmon no matter what the recipe calls for. But be sure to arm yourself with a good fish spatula, because the skin has a tendency to stick.

One-Pan Roasted Salmon with Broccoli and Red Potatoes

Salmon loves a sauce, so I created one with chopped chives, whole-grain mustard, lemon juice, and olive oil.
Start Cooking

I think there are a couple of reasons we called for skinless salmon in that recipe. First, with this particular cooking method, the skin would never have had the time or heat to crisp up (you typically need a hot skillet for this), and people usually prefer crispy salmon skin, if they want it at all. Additionally, there’s a bit of extra fat under the skin, and that fat is rendered in the pan with the other vegetables and could make them seem a tad greasy.

So, yeah, keep the skin! Just know that with that skin will come a bit of extra salmon fat. And that fat could divide your eaters into two camps: those who prize salmon for its richness and welcome the (heart-healthy) fat and those who find it greasy and prefer a life of puritanical prudery (I kid, I kid).

TAKEAWAY: Do you! Keep the skin on your salmon, as long as you don't mind the bit of extra salmon fat that comes with it. 

Good night (and good luck),

Matthew Fairman

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