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Can You Eat Salmon Bones? The Ultimate Guide on What Pin Bones Are and How Safe They Are to Consume

Can You Eat Salmon Bones? The Ultimate Guide on What Pin Bones Are and How Safe They Are to Consume

Some cultures around the world eat entire fish — inclusive of the bones. For instance, in the state of Kerala in India, a popular dish is the sardine fry. People eat the entire fried sardine, bones included. But, what about salmon — can you eat salmon bones?

Contrary to popular belief, salmon pin bones are perfectly safe to eat. In some cultures, they have been eating them for centuries as a good source of nutrients.

For those who aren’t a fan of dairy then they’re a great source of calcium. In addition to this, they contain good amounts of iron too. Do note though that they can be a choking hazard. Therefore, it’s recommended to remove these, especially for children and the elderly who have a higher risk of choking. We provide great detail on how to remove them later in this article.

We cover the following items in this post:

Are Salmon Bones Edible?

A salmon skeleton. Can you eat salmon bones?

It depends.

Major bones, like the salmon’s spine, are not meant to be consumed and are removed during the fileting process. Chances are high that you’ve never actually seen a salmon bone as the companies preparing the fish remove major bones prior to distributing them to supermarkets and grocery stores.

But, then there are the pin bones.

Are Salmon Pin Bones Edible?

Yes, they are. They’re thin and easily digested by your stomach acid. They’re considered a delicacy in some countries like Japan. As we mentioned earlier, they’re also rich in calcium and iron.

However, they may cause discomfort when you’re chewing or swallowing, but other than that they shouldn’t cause a problem.

If you do experience some discomfort whilst swallowing, try one of the following recommended removal methods:

  • Cough with force
  • Take a bite out of another piece of food to dislodge the bone (e.g., bread, banana)
  • Drink some soda
  • Drink vinegar — a very small amount of it
  • Drink olive oil

However, if you experience prolonged or painful discomfort then seek the advice of a medical professional.

A Quick Overview of Pin Bones in Salmon

Pin bones poking out of a salmon filet. Can you eat salmon bones?

Pin bones are tiny, soft, flexible bones that you sometimes come across when eating a salmon fillet.

These delicate bones are often missed during the deboning process, as they’re not attached to the main skeleton. Technically speaking they aren’t even bones, but instead calcified ligaments that are found in larger species of fish like salmon.

They are also referred to as “false ribs,” and, according to NIH, not much is known today regarding how these bones are attached to salmon muscle and fat.

The reason we see them at times in our salmon is due to the fact it is difficult to find an automated way to remove these bones, and it is very manually intensive work to remove them today.

How to Remove Pin Bones from Salmon

A person removing pin bones from a salmon filet. Can you eat salmon bones?

Usually, when you buy salmon it’s already deboned. However, if you feel the need to check, or know for certain you need to remove the pin bones, follow the below guidelines.

  • What you’ll need: Needle nose pliers. You don’t need a fancy fish removal version either. A generic set of needle nose pliers will do the job. You can also use tweezers, tongs, or your fingers.
  • What you’re looking for: Thin little bones running off the side of the rib cage of the filet.
  • How to find them: Run your fingers against the grain of the filet. Do this from both sides.
  • How to remove them: Once located, grab the end of the pin bone with the pliers and pull each bone out, pulling with the grain of the salmon.
  • Final process: Run your fingers back over the filet to ensure you removed them all.

Some Additional Tips:

  • You’ll usually find more pin bones in the thicker parts of the fillet.
  • Sometimes you need to apply some pressure to find them.
  • It can help to drape the salmon fillet over an inverted bowl so that the pin bones then protrude.
  • Take care during this process to ensure you don’t tear the fillet and make the meal look less appealing. We recommend using your off-hand to gently hold the filet down so you don’t tear the meat when pulling the bones.

If you buy the salmon from a fishmonger, you can always ask them to check as well for any pin bones.

This video does a great job of explaining the process:

Final Thoughts: Can You Eat Salmon Bones?

It’s perfectly safe to consume them — as long as they’re pin bones! If you have any concerns about them, follow our guidelines above on how to remove them.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can Young Children Eat Salmon Bones?

I would recommend against it. They’re a choking hazard and it’s not worth risking your child’s safety.

Does Atlantic Salmon Have Bones?

Yes, they do.

Does Keta Salmon Have Pin Bones?

Yes, they do as well. Keta salmon, also known as chum salmon, are smaller than Atlantic salmon but have similar structures.

Do Salmon Bones Digest?

Salmon pin bones are quite easily digested by our stomach acid.