What To Consider When Air-Frying Salmon With The Skin On

Air-frying salmon is a fantastic way to achieve perfectly cooked fish with a delightfully crispy skin. For golden, delicious results, there are a few essential elements to consider, and the big question remains: Should the salmon be placed skin side up or skin side down?

Preheating the air fryer is critical whether you go skin up or down to ensure even cooking and crispy salmon skin. Set your device to the recommended temperature (usually around 400 degrees Fahrenheit) and allow it to rise to the proper heat. Now, the big choice. For many, placing the salmon skin side down in the basket allows for direct heat exposure while the protein cooks evenly. Cooking salmon skin side down requires less oil since the skin itself provides some natural fats that help prevent sticking and make it easier to handle and transfer the fillet without the salmon falling apart.

How about the other way? When you put the salmon skin facing up, it gets blasted directly by the hot circulating air, which maximizes crisping potential. The skin acts as a protective barrier, helping to retain moisture within the salmon fillet, resulting in juicy and succulent fish. Cooking the salmon skin side up also makes it easier to remove the skin after cooking if desired, though the skin is nutritious. Salmon skin contains omega-3 fatty acids and nutrients like protein, vitamin D, and B vitamins. Cooking skin side up allows these nutrients to be retained, contributing to a healthier meal.

Setting the salmon up for success

The first step to either approach is choosing and preparing the correct type of salmon. Opt for fresh, high-quality salmon filets with the skin still intact. For many home cooks, wild-caught salmon is the preferred choice. Next, preparing the salmon fillets is essential. Start by patting them dry with paper towels to remove excess moisture, which is crucial for maximum crispiness. Season the salmon generously before air-frying. A simple combo of salt, pepper, and herbs like dill or rosemary works well. Allow the salmon to absorb the seasoning for a few minutes to enhance the flavors.

Whether you place the skin face up or down, a light coating of high-heat oil like avocado or grapeseed oil (which you should consider cooking with more often) helps crisp the salmon skin — just be sure to brush or spray the salmon lightly before popping it in the air fryer. Avoid overcrowding the air fryer basket, as this can prevent proper air circulation and result in uneven cooking. Finally, parchment paper under the salmon might make for an easier cleanup when finished.