Should You Remove Scales From Salmon Before Cooking?

Salmon is one of the most popular fish dishes on the market. You can find salmon in high-end, mid-tier, and even budget restaurants. Many cooking instructions regarding the fish can be found online, in cookbooks, etc. Some guidelines tell you to cook the salmon with the scales on, but should you?

You should remove salmon scales before you cook the fish. While the scales contain some nutritional value and are relatively safe to eat, they don’t taste great or feel pleasant in the mouth. Salmon scales can also hinder the cooking process, preventing flavor from getting into the fish.

should you remove scales from salmon before cooking

While the previous paragraph may have covered almost everything you need to know, I understand if you have more questions regarding whether or not you should descale salmon before cooking it. 

So in the rest of this article, you will find most of the answers to some questions you may have regarding salmon scales.

Is It Safe To Eat Salmon Skin?

As always, when it comes to any type of health advice, I always recommend speaking to a doctor because I cannot account for your individual health needs. That said, it is always crucial to remember when talking about salmon skin that there is a difference between healthy fat and what I like to call “bad fats.” 

Now, many people say that salmon skin is too fatty and should not be consumed, but they fail to remember that salmon skin contains healthy fat.

That does not mean you should overindulge, but when eating a piece of salmon, I recommend keeping the skin on because when cooked right, it adds flavor and gives you a lot of nutrients that are excellent for your health. Some of these nutrients include:

  • Omega 3
  • Protein
  • Vitamins

Is It Safe To Eat Salmon Scales?

Look, If you eat a few salmon scales, it is unlikely to cause any problems. If the salmon skin and its scales are adequately cooked, The scales will not pose any more threat than the salmon flesh, at least in terms of nutritional value. 

The safety issue is less about what the scales contain and more about how you eat them.

Salmon scales can be sharp, and if you do not chew them correctly, there is a slight chance that they could cause problems to the digestive system. Remember, the scales on any fish are there to protect them, so they can be hard to break down. 

It is important to remember that fish scales are made primarily from bone. While they may seem smooth on the surface, once you start chewing them, they can begin to lacerate the inside of your mouth, especially your gums and tongue.

Can You Descale Salmon After Cooking?

While I do not recommend it, many people cook salmon with its scales on. However, they do not eat the scales. Instead, they remove it once the salmon is cooked. You could remove them traditionally by rubbing the fish with a blunt knife or a similar metal object.

One of the more popular methods of descaling already-cooked salmon is to burn the scales off once the fish is cooked. You can easily do this with any flame. However, you will still need to rub the salmon with a metal object. That said, the process is a lot easier once you have burnt the scales.

Be careful not to burn the skin. While crispy salmon skin is a tasty treat, burnt salmon isn’t that great.

What Happens If You Don’t Descale Salmon?

If you don’t descale your salmon, the first thing that will happen is you might struggle to make crispy skin salmon because keeping the scales on could affect the cooking process.

Apart from that, a few things will happen if you keep salmon scales on. Let’s take a look:

  • Any spice or sauce used when cooking the salmon won’t get through the scales, so most of your salmon will be flavorless, especially if you remove the scales after cooking.
  • You might struggle to get the salmon to be your preferred temperature. Remember, it is better to cook salmon on both sides, and if you cook it on the side with the scales on, you won’t get an even cook.
  • If you eat the scales, you could hurt your mouth or digestive system.
  • The salmon scales will be unpleasant to eat.

I’m sure there are many more reasons you should descale your salmon before cooking it. 

Is It Better To Descale Salmon Before Or After Cooking?

Whether or not you should descale salmon before or after cooking is entirely up to you. With that said, the question does cause somewhat of a debate as many people prefer one way over the other.

I prefer to descale my salmon before I cook it. It is also preferable to leave the skin on, as long as you add your spices and herbs to both sides of the salmon fillet.

With that said, unless you managed to find freshly caught salmon, the fishmonger should have already removed the scales for you. The reason behind this is that most people prefer salmon without scales.

Some fishmongers sometimes remove the entire skin, but because specific recipes like crispy skin salmon are so popular, this is becoming less common. Also, salmon skin is a source of nutrition.

What Are Salmon Scales Made Of?

I understand that this question may not seem relevant to the article, but if you are thinking about cooking salmon with the scales on or even eating the scales, I believe it is essential that you know what it is you are cooking or eating. 

So let’s take a look at what salmon scales are made of:

  • The center of the scale consists of bone. It is similar to the enamel on your teeth.
  • The outer layer, the smooth part, is made up primarily of keratin. On that note, your fingernails also contain keratin.
  • Fish scales contain calcium
  • Finally, the inner layer of fish scales contains some collagen.

Knowing that salmon is not a poisonous fish, the scales are also not toxic, and they contain a lot of what our fingernails are made of. 

So, salmon scales won’t necessarily make you ill they are just unpleasant to eat.

Final Word

Hopefully, I have answered all of those questions regarding whether or not you should cook salmon with the scales on. 

If you enjoy eating salmon and cook it a lot, it may be worth a try to cook it with its scales on to see if it is something you prefer; chances are you won’t enjoy it very much.

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