Not only is fish skin is delicious when it's crisped to perfection, it's also nutritious and actually good for your skin! Check out our article on the health benefits of fish skin to learn more.
Achieving perfectly crisp fish skin is easy with the proper tips and tools. Here's how it works.
- Start with a perfectly dry piece of fish. After fully defrosting, pat dry with a paper towel.
- Preheat your pan over medium-high heat, then add oil just to cover the bottom.
- Season your fish right before you cook it. Salt draws moisture from the fish and ruins your careful drying process.
- Start skin-side down. Make sure the entire skin comes in contact with the pan (see "Preventing Fish Skin Curl" below).
- Don't use a lid! Using a lid will effectively steam the skin, making a crispiness impossible. If you're concerned about grease splatter, we recommend using a splatter screen, which costs around $10 on Amazon. See video below, showing a splatter screen in action.
- After several minutes, you will notice that your fish is no longer translucent at the edges and begins to release from the pan. Flip carefully (ideally with a fish spatula, also shown in video below) and cook a few minutes more, until done.
- Enjoy your perfectly crisp skin!
Preventing Fish Skin Curl
Fish skin tends to curl away from a hot pan because of the temperature difference. You are likely to take your fish out of the fridge right before you start cooking, so the very cold fish will contract when it hits the very hot pan.
There’s a quick and easy way to fix this - and it's not scoring the skin (see below). Instead, place the fillet skin-down on the pan and use the back of a spatula (preferably a fish spatula) to apply just enough pressure to force the skin to stay flush. Once the fish relaxes, the curling will stop and the spatula can be removed for the remainder of the cooking time.
Why Not Score the Skin?
Scoring the skin, though effective at preventing curling, will dry out the fish. This is because there's a little layer of fat under the skin that keeps the flesh moist during high heat cooking. If you score the skin, that fat will be released into the pan and the fish will lose its moisture.