Don’t touch your salmon to get the crispiest skin

The secret to cooking salmon to get an extra-crispy skin? Don't touch it.
(Hanna Carter / For The Times)

How to Boil Water

With so many of you having to stay home and cook for the first time — ever or more than you have in a long time — we get that it can be overwhelming to have to cook all your meals from scratch. So we’re here to get you started.

Each day we’re going to post a new skill here and go in detail about how to do it — a resource for cooking basics so you can get food on the table and get through this.


A series of simple tutorials for making some basic recipes at home.

March 26, 2020

Lesson 23: Crispy-skin salmon

Fish with shatteringly crisp skin is a perfect food. But it’s not a food that sits around well, so instead of ordering it for takeout, make it yourself at home. You have my word: No smoke alarms will go off in the process.

The process is extraordinarily simple: You put the fillets skin side down in a medium-hot skillet and never touch them again until you spoon hot, nutty, caramelized bits of browned butter over the flesh to flavor it.

The fish needs to rest a few minutes, which is ample time to throw together an easy pantry-staple vinaigrette to accompany it. I toast chile flakes in a skillet to wake them up, then steep them in vinegar (any kind works) while the fish cooks. Once the fish is resting, I strain out the flakes to keep all their aromatic warmth but none of their wincing sting. In go chopped shallots, onions, scallions — whatever you’ve got in that family — and garlic, if you like, along with that browned butter you cooked the fish in.

I pour the vinaigrette around the fillets on the plate so it flavors the fish while also keeping that skin crisp — a no-contact flavor delivery, if you will.