If you don't descale your fish before you cook it, you'll have to descale your teeth after you eat it. Salmon scales have an uncanny ability to seemingly materialize between your teeth, no chewing needed, if you don't descale the skin before cooking. You can cook salmon fillets with the scales on the same way you would cook them with the scales off, but if you want to avoid a few hours of scale extraction with a handful of toothpicks after dinner, you need to cook scale-on salmon with moist heat and remove the skin in one piece before serving.
Roasting Scale-On Salmon
Take the salmon fillet out of the refrigerator about 30 minutes before you want to cook it and let it sit at room temperature on a late lined with a couple paper towels. Letting the salmon warm up makes it cook more evenly, which helps the skin come off in one piece.
Coat the salmon with olive oil or softened butter and season it to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add freshly chopped herbs, if desired.
Heat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Fill a baking pan half full of boiling water and place it on the floor of the oven. The water will create steam that makes removing the salmon skin easier.
Place the salmon skin-side down on an oiled wire rack set on top of a rimmed baking sheet and slide it in the oven.
Roast the salmon until it flakes apart easily with the tines of a fork, about 20 to 25 minutes. Take the pan out of the oven.
Slide a thin metal spatula under the salmon. Hold a plate in your other hand. Lift the salmon fillet from the wire rack and gently turn it over onto the plate, skin-side up.
Grasp a corner of the salmon skin between thumb and forefinger and peel it away. It will peel away in one piece. You can use the edge of a knife to help you loosen the tab of skin, if needed.
Slide the spatula under the salmon and gently turn it over skinned-side down on a clean serving plate. Garnish the salmon with fresh herbs and lemon juice, if desired.
Steam-Sauteing Scale-On Salmon
Take the salmon from the fridge about 30 minutes before you want to cook it and let it sit on a plate lined with paper towels at room temperature.
Coat the salmon with oil and season it to taste. Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a saute pan on the stove over medium-high heat for 2 or 3 minutes.
Place the salmon in the pan skin-side up and sear the flesh until golden brown, about 2 or 3 minutes. Lower the heat to medium-low and turn the salmon over in the pan using a spatula.
Pour about 1/4 inch of stock, water or wine in the saute pan and cover with a lid.
Steam the salmon until it flakes easily with a fork, about 5 or 6 minutes. Take the salmon out of the pan and place it skin-side up on a plate.
Grasp a corner of the skin and peel it off. Turn the salmon over onto a serving plate and garnish, if desired.
A.J. Andrews' work has appeared in Food and Wine, Fricote and "BBC Good Food." He lives in Europe where he bakes with wild yeast, milks goats for cheese and prepares for the Court of Master Sommeliers level II exam. Andrews received formal training at Le Cordon Bleu.