Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
Mar 24, 2004 11:46 AM

you can eat the skin!!!

  • r

i work as a server in an upscale seafood restaurant. the chef works very hard in creating beautiful and flavorful dishes, and the line cooks work just as hard to cook them to perfection each and every night. often we'll have certain types of fish on the menu that have wonderful flavor in the skin, such as striped bass or red snapper. for these types of fish, it is purposely prepared with the skin on, sauteed skin side down until crispy and then presented beautifully skin side up on the dish. more often than not, when i serve a dish like this the first thing the guest does is take his or her utensils and cut the skin off and toss it off to the side of the plate. if i can catch them early enough i try to inform them that there is a lot of flavor in the skin and it was left on purpose. they will usually thank me for letting them know and continue eating the fish and skin together. but most of the time it's too late and as i'm clearing the dish, everything is eaten except for the lonely piece of skin lying at the bottom.

my question is, how come people don't know that the skin is just as important as the flesh of the fish? is because people don't know that the skin is edible or are they just afraid of it? personally i think there is nothing better than thoughtfully crisped skin on a fish fillet so it really irks me to see people just toss it aside.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I agree that properly prepared skin is very tasty.

    Between the skin and the flesh is a layer of fat/blood.

    The blood line in some fish is offensive tasting and may have a stringy texture, and while that fat may contain omega-3s, it also contains PCBs.

    I think people who don't eat the skin have not cleaned a fish.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Alan408

      Or they have cleaned a fish and know that some fish have very fine scales that can't really be removed but that you leave on the skin for the flavor but don't eat it.

      With all of the new, innovative ways food is being prepared it is expecting too much of too many people to know what is the proper way to eat something. With some dishes you literally need instructions on how to eat it. Perhaps it is the responsibility of the restaurant, for certain dishes, to make gentle recommendations when the dish is presented on how to go about consuming it.

      1. re: muD

        I agree with all points, and I love fish skin (mmmm, salmon skin handroll!), but nobody has pointed out that fish skin contains fat and calories, and patrons may not want attention drawn to their dieting behavior if they eschew it....

        1. re: galleygirl

          One of the things we all loved about fresh smelts running up the rivers & streams from Lake Superior every Spring was that you ate the whole, cleaned, cripsy little critters - skin, fins, tails, bones & all.

          1. re: Taralli

            They are back in season again. Two smelt dinners and counting.

            1. re: Taralli

              I have family in Michigan and I love smelts. Wish I could get them more often down in Virginia.

        2. re: Alan408

          I disagree. I have cleaned many, many fish, both salt water, and fresh. I find that the skin is often not to my tastes, even when de-scaled properly. That is MY call, and I do not eat fish, hoping to get certain chemical compounds. I eat fish for the tastes. If I need additional supplements, then I just go the Healthy Habits, buy a few bottles of pills, and pop those.

          I eat for tastes, and do not care what others might like for me to ingest. It is for me, after all.


        3. I think it's the same mentality that drives people to order (or cook) boneless chicken breasts instead of a more flavorful part, or at least a bone-in breast. They seem to have the idea that somehow skin or bones are gross.

          10 Replies
          1. re: AlanH™

            Skin not often eaten for health (i.e., calories, fat) reasons.

            1. re: ghc

              Fish skin is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which makes it a great source of healthy fat. It's caloric, to be sure, but it's nowhere near as fattening as chicken skin.

              1. re: Lindsay B.

                But, does everyone like the taste?

                If they do not, and are highly deficient in some elements, can they not pop some sort of a pill to supplement that?

                Seems that most people are missing the point - if it does not taste good to them, they they should not be forced to eat it. Is this some sort of a federal edict?


              2. re: ghc

                the skin might be healthy fat, but i still don't want it. i don't really like fatty flavor, nor do i want the extra calories!

                1. re: jamieeats

                  I really, REALLY like a good salmon skin roll, but the pale, boggy, fatty skin on most grilled salmon wasn't prepared for eating, IMO. Unless the skin is crisped all the way through I'm going to leave it on my plate. And to bite down on a scale is one of the worst appetite killers on earth- like a bit of eggshell in a dish.

                  1. re: EWSflash

                    Oh, scales are awful - and you can choke on them.....

              3. re: AlanH™

                Or, they just do not like the taste, or the texture.

                I never think about "gross," but about what I like to taste.

                That is why I buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I like the taste, and do not want to de-bone, or skin the parts, when I eat.

                Is personal taste a bad thing?


                1. re: Bill Hunt

                  "Or, they just do not like the taste, or the texture."

                  That's it in a nutshell for me. I know there's flavor in there from the cooking perspective, but I'm just not a fish skin fan.

                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                    So interesting. My preference is always dark meat. White meat tastes like nothing to me. I love crispy fish skin, chicken skin, anything skin. Your taste isn't bad (even though I don't understand it). Neither is mine. I just wonder how you and I got that way.

                2. I have to admit I might be one of those people. Although ususally in a upscale place I will eat the whole thing because I know the skin tastes good when it's done right. But when I discard skin it's not becasue it's gross or I'm ignorant of why it's there (for presentation, flavor and crunch factor) but because I want to save a few calories. I would love to eat the crispy skin of a fried chicken but I would rather save a few calories and order dessert instead!

                  1. I know you mean well and are only trying to help your customers derive more enjoyment from their meal, and maybe I'm the one who's out of step here, but I have to say that I'm really uncomfortable with my server volunteering advice on how I should eat the meal that I've ordered. I expect to have my order taken, my food served properly, and my needs generally attended to as unobtrusively as possible, particularly in an "upscale" restaurant. If I ask for advice, of course, that's a different matter - but otherwise I don't want my eating practices inspected and commented upon by the waitstaff. I can't believe I'm the only one who feels this way.

                    10 Replies
                    1. re: FlyFIsh

                      there's a very fine line between educating someone and being condescending and i feel i do very good job at being careful not to be the latter. of course i'm not going to tell you how you should be eating your food, but i will try to make your experience more enjoyable by giving you suggestions. for example, we serve an appetizer of fried oysters where each oyster sits on a thin slice of preserved lemon. the oysters are meant to be eaten together with the lemon, but most people see the lemon and think it's there as a garnish (since lemons slices are not typically eaten) and end up eating just the oysters. the preserved lemon changes the whole flavor of the dish (in a good way) so i like to make sure that people don't miss out. i haven't run in to anyone who has felt threatened by my suggestions or who wasn't thankful that i actually care as to whether or not they enjoy their meal to the fullest extent.

                      1. re: reyes

                        Reyes, I normally remove fish skin. But having read your post, I'm definitely going to try some next time. Normally, I don't like waiters to comment on my eating habits, but I have a feeling that I wouldn't mind hearing that from you. You seem so sincerely excited about the deliciousness of the dish. Maybe you could avoid ruffling customers' feathers by selling the skin before they order the dish. If you play up the skin in advance "crispy trout...", people will eat it as a matter of course. I think I might only feel defensive if a waiter started pointing things out after I started eating.

                        I'm not afraid of fish skin, per se. I love BBQ salmon skin maki, and unskinned eel. I think I remove the skin more a force of habit than anything else. Fish skin tends to be the oiliest, fishiest part. If the fish isn't absolutely perfect, it can have an off taste. I'm sure your customers expect the best, but maybe they're just accustomed to removing the skin.

                        1. re: reyes
                          David in Olympia

                          One of my favorite things to do is to try new dishes, so I always welcome a server's help. I am not at all hesitant to ask, though, "How do I eat this?" I mean, if you feel shame for not knowing how to "properly" eat something, what else in your life do you feel shame about? The car you drive? The school you went to? You get my point.

                          I also really dislike it when people who worship fish or chicken skin hint that anyone who doesn't like the skin (for WHATEVER reason - as in, "Why are you so concerned about why I dislike the skin?") is ignorant or inferior.

                          I posted somewhere once (I don't know if it was here or not) about the gross goo that comes out of my pork chops while they are cooking. By the response I got from this one person, you'd have thought that I was inbred many times over. If it's gross to me, and I don't want to eat it, why should he care?

                          Anyway, I am rambling. I just meant to say that I love eating new things, and I appreciate a waiter that loves to help people.

                        2. re: FlyFIsh

                          I think timing is key. If you have already begun eating your meal, of course you don't want your waiter to come rushing to your table going "oh, no no, that's not how you do it..." I think Reyes is more tactful than that (just by what I've read). I would expect a waiter to offer advice and explanation upon serving of my meal - and indeed appreciate it so that I don't have to feel awkward asking later.

                          1. re: FlyFIsh

                            If my server was to stop by, and insist that I eat that, which I did not want to eat, I would send them packing, and instantly. Next, I would call for the owner/GM/chef, and point out how dissatisfied I was with the service. Last, I would do a review on CH, and maybe elsewhere, to express my feelings. I do not need any server telling me what they think is appropriate, or healthy. I pay my Dr's for that, and am an adult, who is more than capable of making up my own mind. If I need someone to preach to me, I will sit in Union Square with a sign reading "please tell me how I should improve my life." If I do not wear such a sign in a restaurant, then I should not be subjected to anyone's opinions, unless I very specifically ask for them. If I do not, then go elsewhere, as you proselytize. I do not wish to hear it.


                                  1. re: sandylc

                                    I don't know what all you were talking about, but I agree ...

                                1. re: FlyFIsh

                                  No, you certainly are not the only one. You were very gentle in how you worded your comment.

                                2. I personaly love crunching down on fried fish skin, but hey, different strokes for different folks.

                                  Slight digression: When I cook fish, I'll always try to get it with skin. With salmon, will slice off the skin, crisp that separately, and use the fish oil left in the pan for cooking veggies.

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: Limster

                                    If you ever poach fish, though, remove the skin first, because it clouds and slimes the resulting broth that could otherwise be reduced for a lovely sauce.

                                    1. re: Karl S.

                                      When I poach a whole salmon, I always leave the skin on until it is poached. But then, I almost always serve it cold.

                                      Pat G.

                                    2. re: Limster

                                      Exactly. Each diner has an idea (or should) of what they like, and dislike. Now, I continue to taste things, that are not at the top of my list. That is part of my nature - inquisitive. However, there ARE things that I do not like to eat, and I do not care about the molecular components, or anything else - it is 100% about MY enjoyment.

                                      As for your recipe, I discard my salmon skin, but that is just me. I would never, never fault one, who did not do, as I do. That should be THEIR decision, and I should never interfere. Same for my server.

                                      If I need to know how to eat something, and that has happened, even in the US, I will ask. I do not need someone rushing over, telling me how they think a dish should be consumed, or telling me the health benefits of doing something one way vs the other.

                                      I do not care.


                                      1. re: Limster

                                        That begs the the question- how do you crisp fish skin? I've tried that with salmon many times and never got the right degree of crispiness...

                                        1. re: EWSflash

                                          Pat the skin dry. As dry as possible. Hot pan also helps.