6 Tips For Selecting The Perfect Piece Of Salmon
Updated: Feb 6
If you're new to cooking fish, start with salmon. And if you're new to salmon, it's pronounced sa-mon. Now that you know what to call it, know that it's versatile nature marries well with all sorts of seasonings- and it's fatty texture helps keep the fish tender and moist when cooked. What's more, it's packed full of heart-healthy brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids and protein, so it's good for you too!
But wait, just how do you buy the right salmon? This can be a daunting task - not just with salmon but with any fish - so here's a couple of tips to picking up the perfect piece of salmon each and every time.
1. Does it smell fishy?
The most obvious way to check for freshness is by smell, if it smells funky, it's probably not fresh. That said, fish will smell like fish - what's you should be looking out for is salmon that smells salty like the ocean.
2. Look for healthy & vibrant fish
Look for salmon that is moist and not dried out, and one that is not browning or curling up - this is a good indicator of it's freshness. You can also gently poke the skin of the salmon, the flesh should spring back slightly if it's fresh. When buying whole salmon, check that the eyes are not cloudy, it should be clear and slightly bulging.
3. Say yes to fats
Salmon that has a higher fat content is better in both taste and health. Omega-3 fatty acids that aid in brain development is predominantly found in the fat of the salmon, and most often in it's belly. When cooked, fattier fish also retains it's moistness and is easier to cook.
4. Choose one that's in the 'pink' of health
Choose salmon that has a vibrant colored flesh; deep reds, vibrant corals or bright pinks - the brighter the salmon, the fresher it is. Why? The color in salmon is attributed to carotenoids, the same pigments that make carrots orange. These magical antioxidants fight the effects of free radicals - and in salmon, protect against cardiovascular diseases, inflammation, eye diseases, aging and in some cases even cancer.
5. Fresh or frozen?
If the salmon available to you is fresh and healthy, then by all means buy it. However, this is not to say that all fresh fish is better than frozen; sometimes, frozen is indeed fresher. Advancements in vacuum-packing technology has elevated the quality of frozen fish, and plenty of frozen fish are placed on ice right off the boat to preserve its freshness. So how do you tell? Follow the steps above, or go with your trusted sources (especially when buying outside its May to October season).
6. Get educated on the different varieties
In order to choose the right salmon, you must first know and understand what you're looking at. There's a wide range of price, color and taste among the six species commonly eaten - and knowing what to look out for will help you pick your perfect piece of salmon.
1. King or Chinook
The largest and most expensive of the lot, the King or Chinook salmon is vibrant red and prized for its high fat content and its soft buttery texture. This salmon is especially rich in omega-3 fatty acids and protein. Some of the most highly prized are Yukon River Kings, Columbia River Spring Kings, and Copper River Kings - so look out for these names if you're willing to pay the price!
Deep red in color, the Sockeye is an oilier fish and is also high in omega-3 fatty acids. In some instances, it's skin is light grey in color - don't worry, it's still fresh! - it only means that this variety comes from extremely cold glacial waters.
Lighter in color and milder in taste, the Coho is widely available and freezes well. If salmon is in season and you have access to fresh fish, best to go with those options first. Although still fresh when frozen, Coho need a little more time to bulk up (and build omega-3 fatty acids and flavor) than other varieties.
4. Pink and Chum
Smaller in size and flavor, Pink and Chum are most often used in canned salmon or smoking. These varieties don't free or age well and are best cooked the day it's caught.
Get acquainted with your local fish monger and know what you're buying. Remember that knowledge is key and follow these steps for your perfect piece of salmon, each and every time - you'll get better at it, I promise!