Fish Skin Cracklins
Here’s one more way to make the most of what you catch. We do everything we can to maximize the yield from the animals we hunt and fish- we make stock from the bones, render any fat we can, and make full use of the “off cuts” and offal. We’ve been doing a lot of fishing this summer, mostly for snakehead and cobia, and after filleting the fish, we cut out the collars and cheeks, turn the carcass into a flavorful broth, and set aside the guts for an experiment with fish sauce. After all that, the only thing left is the skin, which we’ve started dehydrating and frying into cracklins. They make a great snack- like pork rinds, but less greasy, and not fishy at all. They’re mild and crunchy and take well to whatever you decide to season them with. You can store the dehydrated skins in an airtight container in the freezer indefinitely, so start stocking up for your next party.
Prep time: 30 minutes active, 8 hours total
Seasoning of your choice
Scale the fish before filleting. After filleting, separate the skin from the meat. Scrape the flesh side of the skin with a dull knife to remove any remaining fat and meat. Rinse in cold water to remove all slime and blood, pat dry.
If you’re working with a thin-skinned fish like flounder, perch, bass, small catfish, or snakehead, you can skip this next step. For a thicker-skinned fish like cobia, shark, mahi, tuna or salmon, you’ll need to simmer the skins first in boiling water for 60-90 seconds to tenderize. We simmered our cobia skins for 90 seconds.
Next, dehydrate at 125F until the fish skins are completely dry, 4-8 hours. We leave them in the dehydrator overnight. You can’t really over-do this step, just make sure they’re dry.
At this point, you can either store them in the freezer until you’ve got enough for a big batch of cracklins, or go straight to frying.
Heat your oil to around 375F. If you don’t have a thermometer for this, throw a kernel or two of popcorn in the oil. When they pop, it’s hot enough to fry. You want your oil hot- if it’s too cool your cracklins will be under-inflated and weird. Work in small batches. The skins should puff up almost immediately as they hit the oil. Flip once to ensure even frying. This whole process should take about 30 seconds. Once the skins stop rapidly sizzling, remove with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel lined plate or pan. Season immediately- as the cracklin cools, the seasoning won’t stick. We recommend experimenting with whatever is in your spice cabinet- Old Bay, Tony’s, chili powder & lime- you really can’t go wrong here. Just make sure you use some salt if there isn’t any in the spice blend you’re working with.