What’s the best part of a golden brown roasted chicken? It’s the crispy skin of course! Now think about the rubbery skin of a poached chicken. Not as appealing, right? The same principle applies to fish skin. Many home cooks are in the habit of eating the filet and leaving the skin behind. If it’s cooked properly, crispy fish skin can add a satisfying textural contrast to your plate.
How to get crispy fish skin every time
If you’re cooking fish in a frying pan, it’s easy to achieve crispy fish skin at home.
Start with the right cut of fish. Not all filets are skin-on! A thick piece of fish with the skin on and scales removed is a good place to start. The skin of popular fish like salmon and steelhead is packed with healthy fats and vitamins.
Place your pan over medium-high heat, and be sure to let it heat thoroughly before you introduce the fish. When the fish hits the pan it will generate steam, and steam is the enemy of all things crispy! The hotter the pan, the more quickly the steam will disperse. If the pan isn’t hot enough, the slowly escaping water will steam the fish skin, leaving you with a soft and soggy product.
Don’t be afraid to use plenty of oil. Oil will help conduct heat and it will keep the skin from sticking to the pan. A generous glug (1-2 Tablespoons) of olive oil should do the trick.
Once it’s in the pan, resist the urge to fuss with your filet. Place the fish skin-side down in the pan and don’t move it for 3-4 minutes. This helps the sear develop and keeps the skin whole. As the skin sears and renders, any stuck bits should release from the pan. If you wait to move it until it’s thoroughly crispy, it should release from the pan without any trouble.
After the skin is nicely crispy, the top of your fish may still look a little raw. To finish it off, you can either flip the fish and cook to your desired degree of doneness, or cover the pan with aluminum oil to trap heat until the fish is cooked through.
Try some of our favorite recipes for crispy-skinned fish filets.