How To Marinate Salmon For The Crispiest Possible Fish

You've likely heard time and again that heart-healthy salmon is an incredible source of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and proteins. But did you know that its skin is actually its most nutritious part? That's because it has antioxidant benefits and contains the highest concentration of omega-3 fatty acids in the whole fillet. Yep, keeping the skin on your salmon preserves the fish's oils and nutrients, elevates its flavor, and makes it incredibly succulent. If done right, crispy salmon skin with tender flesh is an absolute treat with a sensational contrast of textures, the secret to which lies in the right marinade.

So, how should you marinate your salmon to get the crispiest skin ever? An oil-based marinade will keep the fillet juicy on the inside but crispy on the outside. Why does this work? The elements of an oil-based marinade (oil, acid, and flavor enhancers) slightly soften the proteins in the salmon in addition to sealing in moisture. Meanwhile, the extra fat helps the skin crisp up from within. It's that simple!

Avoid marinating your salmon for too long or with too much water

Oil is salmon's best friend, and you can use any type for your marinade depending on the flavors in your dish — coconut oil for a Vietnamese-inspired taste, olive oil for Mediterranean, etcetera. Just avoid marinades with a high water content, because too much liquid can prevent the skin from crisping up when cooked. Additionally, bear in mind that the marination time is equally crucial. Ideally, it should be no longer than 30 minutes, as the acid (like citrus juice or vinegar) can break the meat down too far and render it textureless.

Should you score the skin of your salmon before marinating it? While this may seem like a great way to let the marinade seep into the fish and prevent the skin from curling while it cooks, Sea to Table disagrees, noting that scoring the skin can actually dry out the meat. This is because the layer of fat that lies under the skin will melt into the pan, leaching out the unctuous mouthfeel along with it.

Finally, whether you decide to pan-fry, grill, or bake your salmon, always cook it skin-side down first for maximum crispiness. Just ensure that the surface of your cooking dish is preheated and coated with a good layer of cooking oil, which will keep the skin from sticking. Resist temptation to move the fish around while it browns, then flip it over to finish cooking just until the salmon reaches your desired degree of doneness.