How to Clean Salmon Before Cooking?

Cleaning salmon is an essential step to ensure that the fish is safe and healthy to eat. Whether you are a novice cook or an experienced chef, mastering the art of cleaning salmon is crucial to make sure that your dish tastes as delicious as possible. In this article, we will guide you through the best practices for cleaning salmon before cooking. From removing scales to checking for bones, you’ll learn everything you need to know to prepare your salmon like a pro! So grab your apron and let’s get started!

Why Clean Salmon Before Cooking?

Cleaning salmon before cooking is an essential step in preparing this delicious and nutritious fish. Salmon, like any other seafood, can contain harmful bacteria or parasites that can cause foodborne illnesses if not handled properly. Therefore, it is important to clean the fish thoroughly before cooking to ensure its safety for consumption.

Aside from safety concerns, cleaning salmon also helps improve its taste and texture. By removing the scales, guts, head, and fins, you are getting rid of any unwanted flavors and odors that may affect the overall quality of your dish. A well-cleaned salmon will have a fresh and clean taste that complements its natural flavor.

Moreover, cleaning salmon allows you to inspect the fish for any signs of damage or spoilage. This includes checking for discoloration or sliminess on the skin, as well as any unusual smells or textures. If you notice anything out of the ordinary during the cleaning process, it’s best to discard the fish and opt for a fresher one.

In summary, cleaning salmon before cooking is crucial for both safety and quality reasons. It removes harmful bacteria and parasites while enhancing the taste and texture of the fish. So don’t skip this important step in your recipe preparation!

How to Clean Salmon

Cleaning salmon before cooking is an essential step to ensure that the fish is safe to eat and has a pleasant taste. When you purchase a whole salmon, it’s important to clean it properly before cooking. Here are the steps to follow:


Before cleaning a salmon, it’s important to ensure that you have all the necessary equipment and tools. This will help make the process easier and more efficient. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A sharp fillet knife
  • Cutting board
  • Tweezers or pliers (for removing pin bones)
  • Running water

Once you have all your equipment ready, it’s time to start cleaning the salmon.

The first step in preparing a salmon is to remove any scales on its skin. This can be done by holding the fish firmly by its tail and using a fish scaler or the back of a knife to scrape off the scales from tail to head.

Next, gutting the fish is necessary. To do this, make a small incision at the base of the belly and cut up towards the gills. Use your fingers or a spoon to remove all of the internal organs.

After gutting, remove the head and fins from the salmon. Cut just behind the gills and pectoral fins with your fillet knife, then pull them away from the body. You can also use kitchen shears for this step if you prefer.

Finally, wash your fish thoroughly under cold running water to remove any remaining blood or debris inside and out. Pat dry with paper towels before cooking.

By following these steps for preparation, you’ll have a clean salmon ready for cooking in no time!

Removing Scales

When it comes to cooking salmon, cleaning the fish is an important step that cannot be overlooked. One of the first things to do when cleaning a salmon is removing its scales. Scales are the small, thin, and hard plates that cover the skin of the fish. They serve as a form of protection for the fish but are not edible and can be unpleasant to eat if left on during cooking.

To remove scales from a salmon, you will need a scaling tool or scaler. A scaling tool is designed specifically for this purpose and can be found at most kitchen supply stores or online retailers. Alternatively, you can use a knife or spoon to scrape off the scales.

Begin by holding the fish firmly with one hand and using your scaler or scraping tool with the other hand. Start at the tail end of the fish and work your way towards its head in short strokes. Be sure to apply firm pressure while scraping off each scale to ensure that all of them are removed.

It’s important to note that scales can fly around during this process, so it’s recommended to do this step outside or over a sink lined with newspaper or paper towels for easy cleanup.

Once all of the scales have been removed, rinse the salmon thoroughly under cold running water to remove any remaining debris or loose scales.

Cleaning salmon may seem like an intimidating task, but once you know how it’s done, it becomes much easier. By removing scales before cooking, you’ll ensure that your dish is both visually appealing and safe to eat.

Gutting the Fish

To properly clean a whole salmon before cooking, it is important to gut the fish. Gutting the fish involves removing the internal organs, which can be done quickly and easily with the right technique.

Firstly, make sure you have a sharp knife and a clean work surface. Lay the salmon on its side and hold it steady with one hand while using the other hand to make an incision from the anus to just below the gills. Be careful not to puncture any of the internal organs.

Next, use your fingers or a spoon to gently scoop out all of the internal organs including the liver, heart, stomach and intestines. These can be discarded or used for making fish stock.

Once you have removed all of the internal organs, rinse out the cavity of the fish with cold water. Make sure to remove any remaining blood or debris.

Gutting a salmon may seem daunting at first, but with practice it becomes easier and quicker. It is an important step in preparing fresh salmon for cooking as it ensures that any bacteria or parasites are removed from inside the fish.

Remember to always handle raw fish with care and follow proper food safety guidelines when preparing seafood dishes.

Removing the Head and Fins

To remove the head and fins of a salmon, you will need a sharp knife. Start by placing the fish on a cutting board with its belly facing up. Hold the head firmly with one hand and, using the other hand, make an incision behind the gills and pectoral fin.

Next, use your knife to cut through the flesh along the backbone towards the tail. Repeat this process on both sides of the fish until you can easily remove the head and fins.

Removing the head and fins not only makes for a more visually appealing presentation but can also improve the taste of your dish. The head contains bones that can be difficult to remove after cooking, so removing it beforehand can save time and effort in preparation.

Additionally, removing the fins can help prevent injury when handling or consuming the fish. The fins are sharp and can easily puncture skin if not removed properly.

Overall, removing the head and fins is an important step in cleaning salmon before cooking. With a sharp knife and careful technique, this process can be done quickly and efficiently to ensure a delicious and safe meal.

Washing the Fish

Washing the fish is an essential step in cleaning salmon before cooking. After gutting and removing the head and fins, you need to rinse the fish thoroughly with cold water. This will help remove any remaining blood or debris that may have accumulated during the previous steps.

To wash the fish, hold it under running water and gently rub its skin with your fingers. Be sure to clean both sides of the salmon, including inside the cavity where you removed the guts. You can also use a soft-bristled brush to scrub away any stubborn dirt or scales.

It’s important to note that washing salmon under running water is not enough to kill harmful bacteria such as Salmonella or Listeria. To ensure that your salmon is safe to eat, you should cook it thoroughly to an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C) for at least 15 seconds.

In addition, if you plan on storing your salmon in the refrigerator after cleaning it, make sure to dry it thoroughly with paper towels before placing it in a sealed container. Moisture can promote bacterial growth and cause your fish to spoil faster.

Overall, washing your salmon properly is crucial for food safety and ensuring that your dish turns out perfectly cooked and delicious.

Bonus Tip: Removing Pin Bones from Salmon Fillets

Removing pin bones from salmon fillets is an important step to ensure that your dish is enjoyable and safe to eat. Pin bones are small, needle-like bones that are found in the flesh of salmon. They can be difficult to remove if you don’t know how, and they pose a choking hazard if left in the fish.

To remove pin bones from salmon fillets, you will need a pair of clean tweezers or needle-nose pliers. First, lay the fillet skin-side down on a clean work surface. Run your fingers along the flesh to locate any pin bones. They will feel like small bumps under the surface of the flesh.

Using the tweezers or pliers, grab onto the end of a pin bone and gently pull it out at a 45-degree angle. Be careful not to break the bone off or push it further into the flesh. Repeat this process for all of the pin bones in the fillet.

If you have trouble locating all of the pin bones, try shining a light over the flesh to make them more visible. Alternatively, you can run your fingers over a sheet of plastic wrap placed over the fish to help locate any remaining bones.

By taking this extra step to remove pin bones from your salmon fillets, you’ll ensure that your dish is both delicious and safe for consumption.


In conclusion, cleaning salmon before cooking is an essential step that should not be overlooked. This ensures that the fish is free from any contaminants and is safe to consume. Proper preparation, including removing scales, gutting the fish, and washing it thoroughly, is crucial for a delicious and healthy meal. Additionally, removing pin bones from salmon fillets can elevate the culinary experience even further. Remember these tips next time you cook salmon to ensure a tasty and enjoyable dish for yourself and your loved ones. Happy cooking!