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How to keep Salmon skin from sticking to the pan

One of the worst things to happen is to go out of your way to purchase a premium and beautiful piece of salmon only to have the skin stick to the stainless steel pan during the cook session.

Try following the tips below, and your salmon skin won't stick to your (stainless steel) pan again:

  • use fresh salmon, or thoroughly thawed pre-frozen salmon.
  • ensure your salmon is totally dry before adding it to the pan. Keep it wrapped in paper towels until then.
  • don't crowd the pan.
  • Use a fish spatula

Here's the detail:

  • When skin sticks to the pan, what is likely happening that your fish was wet/moist (or had a semi-frozen center) when it hit the pan. Moisture WILL cause your fish (and proteins) to stick. If the fish was frozen, you should thoroughly defrost your fish first, perhaps even starting the night before. If the fish core was still "slightly" frozen when you start to cook, it will continue the thawing process on the hot pan: your fish doneness won't be achieved, and the moisture will seep out causing the skin to stick. To thaw fish (or any protein), we recommend you place the fish in a plastic bag (like a zip-lock), and place the fish piece in a container with cold water. Try to maintain the water in the container at about 38-40 degree for optimal defrosting. Change the water out or even have a slow stream of water on your container to help maintain the temperature. You may consider placing the fish in your fridge overnight to continue defrosting.
  • Once your fish is totally thawed out, you'll need to make sure the skin and flesh are dry by patting it down with several paper towels. Keep patting it down until your paper towels don't look like they've absorbed any significant amount of liquid (eg. the paper doesn't look translucent because of moisture).
  • Do not crowd the pan with your fish. If you take a look at the Salmon YouTube video at about 20 seconds in, you'll notice Chef Phil placing 2 (optimally sized) salmon pieces into the pan, which are spaced evenly apart. If you put the pieces too close together, put too many pieces in, or put pieces which are "too large," this will lead to a steaming effect and less of a frying effect (since the remaining moisture can't escape as easily).
  • Finally, a fish spatula should be used (over a traditional spatula) as the added length makes a big difference in getting the fish loosened from the pan without sticking.

Tell us about your experience below, or share tips you may have!

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