Fish skins might just be the best-kept secret in seafood. And when done right, crispy skin is the most delicious part of a fish fillet.
Whether via skin-on fillets or fish skins perfectly prepared a la carte, here’s why you should consider including more fish skin in your diet.
1. Fish Skins Are Packed with Omega-3s
You’ve likely heard that many species of fish are great sources of Omega-3s. The polyunsaturated fat plays a key role in cardiovascular health and cell repair, and has been shown to reduce inflammation. Although most of the omega-3s in fish are found in the fillet, the skin contains a fair amount of the much-desired fatty acid, too. For example, our 3.5-ounce, skin-on barramundi fillets contain 1.5 grams of omega-3 (ALA, DHA, and EPA). Our 3.5-ounce, skinless barramundi fillets have 0.8 grams of omega-3. That’s 0.7 grams (almost twice as much) more Omega-3 when you eat the skin!
2. Fish Skins Are Making the Cut on Restaurant Menus
Chefs have long been privy to how delicious fish skins can be, both on a fillet and as a stand-alone ingredient. At Bar Melusine in Seattle, chef Renee Erickson serves fried salmon skins with salmon roe and aioli. At the Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong, chef Chan Yan-Tak serves lightly battered and fried fish skins with a decadent salted egg yolk sauce. At Le Bernardin in New York City, chef Eric Ripert coats the skin of a fish fillet with Chinese five spice, then bastes it into a perfectly crispy, spiced crust.
3. Fish Skins (From Responsibly Sourced Fish) Are Safe to Eat
We often get the question, “Are fish skins safe to eat?” The quick answer, yes. However, because the skin of a fish is exposed to its environment and pollution, it’s important to know where your fish is coming from. Stay away from farmed or wild fish from more polluted areas or farms that use chemicals and antibiotics. This is a good practice to follow when eating the skin or not. (Australis Barramundi is always a safe choice as it has no traceable amounts of mercury, contaminants, or PCBs.)
Safety aside, certain fish skins just don’t taste good. Avoid eating tuna skin, which is thick and tough, and skate skin, which is prickly. Swordfish and monkfish also have thick, leathery skins that you probably want to avoid. Salmon skin is delicious, as is barramundi skin—especially when cooked nice and crispy.
4. Fish Skin Will Make You Look (and Feel) Younger
Along with the scales and bones, skin from fresh of saltwater fish is used to create fish collagen, one of the more bioavailable sources of type 1 collagen. Collagen from fish is a protein that helps to keep the skin, skeletal system (bones, tendons, ligaments, joints, and muscles), blood vessels, gums, eyes, nails, and hair strong and flexible. Type 1 collagen is essential for beautiful skin and maintaining strength. As we get older, our bodies lose the ability to manufacture collagen, which makes it essential to include in our diets to slow the effects of aging.
5. Crispy Fish Skin Is Easily Achievable at Home
Although chefs are getting wildly creative with fish skin these days, a perfect, crispy skinned fillet is easy to achieve at home with the proper technique.
And, if you’d absolutely rather eat a skinless fillet, experiment with cooking fish skins separately. Coat fish skins lightly in a mixture of flour and seasoning, then gently pan-fry them in hot oil until crispy and browned.
The next time you’re shopping for fish, opt for the skin-on variety. Once you’ve mastered the art of perfectly crispy skin, you won’t want to eat your fillets any other way.