How to Clean Salmon Like A Pro

Indulging in the delicate, delectable flavors of salmon is a cherishable experience. Its delicate flavor, buttery texture, and impressive nutritional profile hold a special place in the hearts of food enthusiasts around the globe. Indulging in a beautifully cooked salmon dish is a true culinary delight, but have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes to achieve that perfect fillet? The journey begins with mastering the art of cleaning salmon, which enhances the flavor and ensures a healthy and enjoyable dining experience.

Cleaning salmon is crucial to eliminate bacteria and parasites and preserve the fish’s freshness. It also diminishes the risk of any potential contaminants. While the process may seem intimidating, you need basic knowledge of proper fish-handling techniques and a few tools to clean this delicious fish. In this blog post, we’ll walk you through the process of cleaning salmon to ensure that the fish is safe to enjoy. So, let’s dig into it.

What is Salmon?

Salmon is a ray-finned fish that lives in saltwater and migrates to freshwater rivers for spawning. This grey-colored fish with pink hues has amazing nutrition benefits. It is an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for brain development, reducing inflammation, and lowering blood pressure. Eating salmon also minimizes the risk of several types of cancer.

Due to its high nutritional value and fabulous taste, it has a high price in several regions and is considered a luxury food. Its exclusive flavor can be paired with different recipes, making it a favorite of many people.

How to Clean Salmon

You can eat salmon fresh or processed into various products such as smoked salmon, gravlax, and kippers. If you want to eat cooked or raw salmon, you will need to clean it properly. The following steps will help you clean salmon properly:

Get a Fresh Salmon

The freshness of salmon significantly affects its flavor and appearance. While purchasing salmon from the fishmonger or your local fish market, ensure it is fresh. Look for bright eyes and firm flesh without discoloration or odors. The red color of the gills is a clear indication of freshness.

If anyone is trying to sell a salmon with brown gills and cloudy eyes, avoid it, as it is not fresh. The stale smell is another indication of bad salmon.

Access The Right Tools

Cleaning salmon requires the right tools. The first step to cleaning salmon is to prepare a cutting surface. The cutting surface should be large and clean. Ensure it is close to the basin, as it will likely get wet during cleaning.

Once the cutting surface is ready, gather a sharp knife and scissors to remove scales, fins, and other unwanted parts. A fish plucker is also helpful in getting rid of scales. You also need tweezers or pliers to remove the gills and fins. Moreover, keep a bucket or bin near your work surface to dispose of unwanted parts.

Remove the Anal Fins

Before removing any other part, pay attention to the anal fins. Anal fins are located near the tail and are not edible. They get in your way while removing scales and cleaning other parts. Therefore, it is better to remove them beforehand.

Make a tiny cut behind the anal fin with the help of a sharp knife. Now, gently pull the anal fins outward by running your knife forward and removing them. Discard them in a bin or bucket.

Remove the Scales

Once you have gotten rid of the anal fins, it’s time to remove the circular scales. Unlike other types of fish, salmon don’t have hard and thick scales. Therefore, you can easily remove them using a knife or a spoon.

Removing scales is crucial to enjoying salmon without removing the skin. Never eat salmon skin with scales, as it can be quite challenging to munch on. Clearing fillets and cooking salmon become more convenient when you have removed the scales.

To remove the scales, hold the salmon firmly by the tail, or use a clean towel to improve your grip. Position your scaling knife at a slight angle, almost parallel to the fish’s skin. Scrape the scales from tail to head using short and gentle strokes, going against the grain.

Be patient and thorough, ensuring you cover the entire surface area. Dispose of the scales appropriately by scraping them into a trash bin or composting them. Clean your workspace and tools thoroughly to maintain a hygienic environment.

Cut Down the Center

Using a sharp knife, make a slit at the abdominal side of the salmon. Start cutting from the tail and make a slit along the center. You will need to cut deep enough to remove the bones and guts but be careful not to puncture the skin. Take a flexible and thin knife to make this cut.

Remove The Roe and Guts

Gently remove the roe and guts of the salmon using your fingers. Be careful to remove everything, including any blood clots or thin membranes. Dispose of the roe and guts into a bowl or bin.

Cut the Head and the Tail

Using the same knife, cut off the head and tail. Be careful to make sure that you don’t puncture the skin or bones while cutting. Hold the head of the fish with one hand. With the other hand, position the fillet knife behind the gills, angled slightly downward. Make a clean, swift cut to sever the head from the body. Be careful and use steady pressure to avoid any mishaps.

Next, hold the tail with one hand and use the other to make a clean cut at an angle behind the vent just above where the fins meet the body. Cut through the tail until it separates from the body. Dispose of the tail in the waste bin alongside the head to maintain a clean kitchen area.

Fillet the Salmon

Filleting salmon is a culinary skill that requires patience and practice. To make salmon fillets, hold the salmon skin-side down with one hand and hold a sharp fillet knife in the other. Identify the spine at the suture line and begin making an extended cut along the spine. Use a gentle sawing motion with the knife to ensure a clean cut. Continue cutting until you reach the side of the fish, and then turn it over. Make a similar cut from the other side of the spine and carefully remove the middle.

When cutting salmon fillets, it can be challenging to navigate through the ribs and bones. To make it easier, use a sharp knife slanted slightly against the bones and make gentle slices. If necessary, make a few passes through the thickest areas of the ribs.

Remove the Ribs and Pin Bones

When cooking meat or fish, it’s important to remove the ribs and pin bones to make it taste better. It might seem hard, but with some practice and the right methods, you can easily take them out and improve your dining experience. Don’t let these unwanted parts ruin your dish – learn how to remove them like a pro.

Removing ribs and pin bones from a salmon fillet may seem daunting, but it’s actually quite simple and will make your fillet cleaner and easier to cook. If you plan to cook the fillet, you can still remove the bones later. To start, position your knife next to the ribs and parallel to them. Smoothly slide the knife along the ribs to separate them from the fillet. This method ensures that you won’t lose any meat in the process.

For pin bones, use tweezers or pliers to pull out the bones. Make sure you remove the bones completely, as small pieces of bone can be hazardous if ingested.

Remove the Skin

For a delicious meal, leaving the skin on while cooking is recommended. It seals in moisture and flavor when you grill or cook salmon. You can clear the skin off after you cook the fillet. The cooking also makes the skin crispy and tasty.

However, if you want to eat raw fish, the skin needs to be removed. To do so, you should use a sharp knife and start from the tail end of the fillet, sliding the knife between the skin and flesh. Once you have separated the skin, thoroughly rinse the raw fish under cold water.

Dispose of the Fish Remains

A really big question people have about cooking fish is how long you can keep it after. Check out this quick guide to get all the answers.  After you have cleaned the fish, it is important to discard all remains properly. The bones should not be thrown in the garbage as they are sharp and can cause injury. Place the bones in a bag and throw them away with the trash. Additionally, do not flush fish remains down the toilet, as it can clog the pipes. If you have cleaned the fish on a boat, throw the remains overboard. It will provide nutrients for the seabed and other species of fish.

Can You Clean Salmon With Vinegar?

Yes, you can clean salmon with vinegar. You will need to mix equal parts of vinegar and water or a store-bought fish cleaning solution. Place the salmon in this mixture for 5 to 10 minutes. Take out the salmon from the solution, rinse it off with cold water and a paper towel. It will help remove any remaining bacteria and odors from the fish.

So What’s the Wrap-Up On Salmon?

Mastering the art of cleaning salmon not only ensures optimal flavor and texture but also promotes food safety and culinary excellence. By following the simple yet effective steps, you can confidently transform a raw fish into a delectable meal. Remember, careful handling, meticulous descaling, precise filleting, and thorough rinsing are the key pillars of a successful cleaning process.

Additionally, practicing proper sanitation, utilizing quality tools, and understanding the inherent beauty of this magnificent fish will elevate your culinary skills. So, embrace the art of cleaning salmon with passion, patience, and precision, and open the doors to a world of exquisite flavors and culinary satisfaction.


How do you wash salmon before cooking?

Clean the salmon with a damp paper towel, then rinse it under cold running water. Remove any remaining scales or other debris from the skin and flesh of the fish. Dry the salmon with a paper towel before adding spices, herbs, or marinade.

How should I clean my salmon?

To properly prepare your salmon, begin by removing any scales or debris. Rinse the fish in cold water and dry it with a paper towel. Ensure the fish is entirely dry before seasoning with spices.

Do I need to clean salmon before cooking?

It’s necessary to clean salmon before cooking to make sure it’s safe to eat. Removing any scales, dirt, or other debris from the skin and flesh of the fish will ensure that your salmon is healthy and good to go.

What is the best way to remove skin from salmon?

The most effective method for removing salmon skin is to use a sharp knife. Begin by cutting into the fish at an angle, then carefully slide the blade along the skin. This technique minimizes damage to the flesh and makes skin removal simple and efficient.

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