How to Clean Salmon Before Cooking? [Step-by-Step Guide]

Salmon is a delicious and nutritious fish that can be prepared in various ways, such as grilling, baking, or pan-searing. Before cooking salmon, it is important to properly clean and prepare it to ensure the best flavor and texture.

By following the proper cleaning techniques, you can ensure that your salmon is safe to eat and free from any unwanted flavors.

Clean Salmon Before Cooking

Why Clean Salmon Before Cooking?

When it comes to cooking seafood, cleanliness is of utmost importance. Cleaning salmon before cooking not only helps remove any impurities but also enhances the taste and presentation of the final dish.

Cleaning salmon serves multiple purposes:

  1. Firstly, it helps remove the fish’s scales, which can be tough and unpleasant to eat.
  2. Secondly, it allows you to gut the fish, removing the internal organs and any potential sources of bacteria.
  3. Lastly, cleaning the salmon helps eliminate any lingering fishy odor and ensures that the flavors of the fish shine through in the cooked dish.

Read: 7 Different Ways to Fix Rubbery Fish

Tools and Ingredients Required

Before you begin cleaning salmon, gather the necessary tools and ingredients. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Fresh salmon
  • Cutting board
  • Sharp knife
  • Tweezers or needle-nose pliers
  • Water
  • Paper towels or a clean kitchen towel

Make sure your tools and work area are clean and sanitized to maintain food safety.

Step-by-Step Guide to Cleaning Salmon

Here’s a step-by-step guide to cleaning salmon:

1. Removing Scales

Start by placing the salmon on a clean cutting board, scales facing up. Use the back of a knife or a fish scaler to scrape off the scales. Begin at the tail end and work your way towards the head. Rinse the salmon under cold water to remove any loose scales.

2. Gutting the Salmon

To gut the salmon, make an incision along the belly from the anal vent to the gills. Be careful not to cut too deep to avoid puncturing the internal organs.

Reach inside the salmon and remove the innards, including the liver, heart, and intestines. Rinse the salmon thoroughly to remove any remaining blood or debris.

3. Removing the Head and Fins

If desired, you can remove the head and fins from the salmon. Use a sharp knife to make a clean cut just behind the pectoral fins. Repeat the process on the other side.

To remove the head, make a diagonal cut behind the gills, separating it from the body.

4. Cleaning the Cavity

Inspect the cavity of the salmon and remove any remaining organs or blood clots. Rinse the cavity under cold water to ensure it is clean. Pat the salmon dry using paper towels or a clean kitchen towel.

5. Removing the Pin Bones

Pin bones are small, thin bones found in the flesh of salmon. To remove them, gently run your fingers along the flesh to locate the bones. Use tweezers or needle-nose pliers to grip the bones firmly and pull them out in the direction they are angled. Repeat this process along the entire length of the fish.

6. Rinsing and Drying

Give the salmon a final rinse under cold water to remove any loose scales, bones, or debris. Once rinsed, pat the fish dry with paper towels or a clean kitchen towel. Ensure the salmon is thoroughly dry before proceeding to cook it.


Can I skip the step of removing scales if I’m cooking salmon with the skin?

Yes, if you’re cooking salmon with the skin on, you can skip the step of removing scales. However, it is still recommended to rinse the salmon under cold water to ensure it is clean.

Are pin bones in salmon dangerous to consume?

Pin bones are not dangerous to consume, but they can be unpleasant to eat. Removing the pin bones ensures a more enjoyable dining experience.

Can I clean salmon in advance and store it in the refrigerator?

It is best to clean salmon just before cooking to maintain its freshness and flavor. However, if necessary, you can clean the salmon a few hours in advance and store it in the refrigerator, covered tightly with plastic wrap.

Can I use lemon juice or vinegar to remove the fishy odor from salmon?

Rinsing the salmon thoroughly under cold water is usually sufficient to remove any fishy odor. Lemon juice or vinegar can be used as a final rinse if desired, but it may affect the taste of the final dish.


Cleaning salmon before cooking is a crucial step in preparing a delicious and safe seafood dish. By following the step-by-step guide outlined in this article, you can ensure that your salmon is free from scales, properly gutted, and ready to be cooked to perfection.

Enjoy the flavors of fresh, clean salmon in your favorite recipes!